1. Autumn Chrysanthemum is Missing (秋菊失踪了)
Yin Ru (殷茹)

      One day a certain evening newspaper published a half-page missing person announcement in a prominent position:
      “Autumn Chrysanthemum, female, twenty years old. Disappeared suddenly a few days ago and has not yet returned. Twenty thousand yuan reward to anyone who knows her whereabouts.”
       Some beauty shots of the girl were included in the upper part of the announcement beside these lines: “Dear Chrysanthemum, without you, I feel I have no air to breathe and cannot survive. Come back soon.”
      The next evening, while people were still talking about this matter, the newspaper published the announcement again. It was the same announcement, except that the reward had been increased to fifty thousand yuan.
      Some said that this Autumn Chrysanthemum must be the daughter of a rich family. Others added that the family must be from the “rich second generation”, the nouveau riche children of people who profited from the economic reforms of the 1980s. Still others thought it was a business trying to attract people’s attention, and that some sort of gimmick would probably follow.
      The announcement was there again on the third day. The difference was that some additional words in large type had been added beside the photos: My Dear Chrysanthemum, if you don’t come back, I will commit suicide!” And the reward had been increased to one hundred thousand yuan.
      The people in this town were all aboil.
      My wife was watching a talent show on TV after work that evening. She suddenly pointed at the screen to a beautiful young woman who had just walked out. “Autumn Chrysanthemum!” she shouted. "Come and look! Isn’t that Autumn Chrysanthemum?"
      I looked, and it was indeed the Autumn Chrysanthemum from the missing person announcement. I got excited, but the dark mass of spectators in front of the stage was even more excited. The screaming and shouting had been continuous since before Autumn Chrysanthemum even opened her mouth.
      The missing person announcement was gone on the fourth day. It was replaced by an entertainment news item: the super popular beauty Autumn Chrysanthemum had been crowned the overall champion in the talent show. [Story 0922]

2. Character (人品)

Liu Wufu (刘吾福)

      Two stalls in the farmer's market sell beef.
      The two sellers are both women in their forties. One is Auntie Zhang, the other is Auntie Li
      Their two stalls aren’t more than seven meters apart. Auntie Zhang’s stall is on the east side, and Auntie Li’s is on the west.
      One morning I went shopping in the market. I walked from the east towards the west and, after I’d bought some vegetables, I happened upon Auntie Zhang’s beef stall. “Auntie Zhang, cut off a pound of beef for me,” I said. “How much is it a pound?”
      “Twenty-two yuan a pound,” she replied.
      “Ai-ya-ya,” I said,” so expensive! It’s only twenty-one a pound at that lady Auntie Li’s.” In fact I didn’t have a clue how much Auntie Li was charging. I was just fibbing is all.
      Auntie Zhang immediately put her delicate little mouth close to my ear and said mysteriously, “Well, then, you just go buy from her – but you should know, it’s beef that’s been injected with water! As the saying goes, good stuff isn’t cheap!”
      After I heard that, I straight off bought a one-pound cut at Auntie Zhang’s stall.
      I went shopping again a few days later. Walking from west to east this time, I got to Auntie Li’s stall.
      “How much for a pound of beef?” I asked her.
      “Special price,” she said, “only twenty-one yuan a pound.”
      It really was twenty-one yuan a pound after all! So I pinched her beef carefully. It was sticky, and I found no signs of water. Then I told Auntie Li a fib. “At Auntie Zhang’s over there, it’s only twenty yuan a pound.
      She was speechless! Then she said, “Since hers is so cheap, go to her to buy it! I can’t reduce my price and lower!”
      I asked her, “Her beef must be injected with water, right?”
      Her face looked solemn and she said, “Oh! Don’t speak out of turn, sir! Her beef is the same as mine, and no water. We both sell beef that’s gone through inspection and quarantine by the Bureau of Industry and Commerce!”
      I believed what she said, and didn’t hesitate to buy a one-pound cut of beef at her stall.
      Later I noticed that more and more people were getting their beef rom Auntie Li’s stall! [Unnumbered Story]

3. Dinner Party (饭局)

Horizon Visitor (涯客)

      Big Forest, from my hometown, is the operator of the "Good Days Hotel and Restaurant".
      I got another phone call from him on Sunday asking me out to eat next Tuesday. He specifically told me to bring some of my colleagues and others from our hometown. He was very friendly in this, his third phone call to me. I was quite puzzled, because Big Forest is usually a bit stingy. It was really strange, really strange.
      Later several of the guys from my hometown called wanting my opinion something. Everyone was wondering, if Big Forest was actually going to let us eat for free, hadn't we better accept his invitation to keep from hurting his feelings – or at least to see what kind if trick he was trying to play on us!
      Once we arrived at the door of the restaurant, the greeter, a young lady, came out to welcome us with a beaming smile. Big Forest followed her over. He was nodded to express his pleasure at seeing us and walked sideways while he showed us in. A waitress led us to the first floor and, when we looked, we were dumbfounded. All the seats were already taken.
      We continued on to the second floor, and the atmosphere there was lively, too. We arrived at our table and the banquet began. We were all old compatriots who hadn't gotten together for a long time. Big Forest was busy, but we hardly noticed. We were too focused on playing drinking games and singing songs. When we'd eaten and drunk our fill and were about to leave, the waitress walked over and handed us the bill: "350" RMB.
      Big Forest was at the next table playing the gracious host. He was very near us but pretended not know what was happening. Hadn't he said that he'd treat us to a free meal? We all felt we'd been had, but to avoid any unpleasantness, we played the "let me, no let me" game for a bit, then paid the bill and left.
      It looked like there really is no such thing as a free "dinner"!
      Just as our car started, Big Forest came up and stuck his head through an open window. He smiled and asked us all if we'd had enough to eat. Then he brought out a fistful of RMB in his right hand and quietly stuffed it into the hands of our compatriot who'd just paid the bill.
      "Tonight you guys served as my cheerleaders. The competition in the hotel business is really tough – take a look, there's a string of six or seven places on both sides of this street – and everything's so expensive these days, I've been losing money every month. Times are so tough I've decided to sell the place. Two buyers were here tonight to check the place out first-hand, so I had everyone come in and put on a good show, hoping I can sell for a good price. You guys did a great job, hey!" [Story 0851]

4. The Dog (狗)

Huang Zhihao (黄志浩)

      There are dozens of dogs in the town of Fish Family Stockade. Changeable Zhang claimed he wasn’t afraid of them, but there was one dog he'd secretly feared.
      One day Changeable was selling roasted yams on a street corner in town. Just as he was getting ready to close up his stand, and was counting his money, a big black dog jumped out from an alley on the side street. It opened its mouth and bared its teeth, and bit into Changeable’s pants leg. He was so scared he picked up a roasted yam and threw it at the animal. The dog saw him do it and immediately let loose of his pants, then started eating the yam as calmly as if no humans were around. Changeable heaved a sigh of relief as he looked into the alley. Every day after that, he saved the best roasted yam to give to that dog.
      One moonlit night Changeable walked into that alley with a cigarette in his hand. The dog saw him but didn’t bark.
      Afterwards, Changeable was never again afraid of the dogs in Fish Family Stockade.
      One day at noon, a police car drove into the alley. After the time it takes to smoke a cigarette, it backed slowly out. The big black dog howled mournfully from the back seat, its tail hanging down. Changeable watched, spellbound, and almost burned the yam he was roasting!
      As he watched the police car drive off into the distance, Changeable picked up a roasted yam and began to eat it with relish.
      Another day at noon, a big black dog as skinny as Changeable’s wallet sauntered out of the alley. It looked at Changeable from a distance. Changeable smiled crookedly and picked up a roasted yam, but quickly put it back down. Suddenly he stamped his foot, and the big black dog ran off with its tail between its legs.... [Story 0371]

5. Don't Disappoint Your Friends (别跟朋友过不去)

Duan Guosheng (段国圣)

      Zhang Three was taken out drinking by his superior from work, Li Place, and some of Li’s friends. The atmosphere was rather warm. After they'd eaten a meal and had some drinks, Li poked Zhang in the ribs and suggested they go upstairs to a private room for some karaoke. Zhang said no, he had something to do at home and couldn't go. Li was quite unhappy and said that Zhang wasn't friendly enough. Zhang hesitated a moment before saying okay, let's go.
      The group rushed upstairs in excitement. It was hot in the private room, so Zhang took off his shirt. Li's friends yelled for the wait staff to bring in some girls.
      When the girls came, one of them sat down beside Li and attached herself to him, and Li casually put his arms around her. Each of the other guys also took a girl and embraced her. The scene made Zhang uncomfortable, but he was especially surprised by Li's behavior, and he didn't feel like sticking around. He pushed the girl beside him away and stood up. He apologized to the group, then said good night to each of them and left.
      He got all the way outside before he remembered he'd left his shirt lying on the sofa. He turned around to go back and get it. When he went in the room he said over and over for everyone to keep on enjoying themselves, he'd just come for his shirt. At the moment Li was hugging a girl and feeling her up. Zhang laughed, got his shirt and beat a hasty retreat.
      He hadn't gone far when he realized that he didn't have his cell phone with him. He was certain he'd dropped it in the private room, so he had no choice but to go back again. Li was mystified by Zhang's returning for a second time. Zhang apologized again and bowed his way out of the room.
      But now Zhang Three has had to come back a third time because he'd lost his key, maybe also in the private room. This time he didn't leave. He said, very simply, that he just wanted to have a good time with his buddies. [Story 0619]

6. End of an Affair (绝情)

Qing Fu (青夫)

      He turned on her computer to check out her blog and her QQ chat record, but didn’t find any clues.
      He talked to her about the Internet’s rapid dissemination of Wild Climbing Rose’s essay – "Behind the Scenes Collusion with State-Run Enterprises".
      She’d looked surprised on the surface. Actually she was pleased but didn’t show it.
      "Here’s the passbook, the bank card and the key to Fog Mountain Villa. You take them." While he was speaking, he also handed her a flash drive and various important materials. He urged her repeatedly to make sure everything was kept secure.
      "These are important documents. You should hide them at home."
      "If something goes wrong, they’ll search my place and confiscate them!"
      "Don’t worry. In the unlikely event that something does go wrong, I’ll protect you whatever it costs. And once we get through this, I’ll take you with me to live abroad."
      He knelt down and asked her to marry him, and kissed her feet.
      She was his closest confidante. She’d helped him plan his strategy and had been willing to sacrifice herself for him. With her help he’d defeated many competitors, and he’d become rich. He’d promised many times to divorce his wife and marry her, and give her lots of valuable things. But it was all lies. She’d had enough of being deceived and being heart-broken.
      She forced herself to smile. "You'll be fine!"
      "I hope so." Then the two hugged and kissed goodbye.
      She handled the real estate transfer successfully and transferred the funds with aplomb.
      “I’ll send him to jail, whatever it costs,” she thought as she sent an e-mail to the “Mayor's Mailbox”.
      He hid at the ends of the earth, but still the police caught him and took him away.
      She played around with a miniature vid-cam and played back some marvelous scenes; she took the flash drive and the related documents and wrapped them up, sealed the package tightly, and hid it carefully in the Villa’s basement.
      She sat down in front of the computer, smiling and humming a folk song, with her hair swishing across her shoulders. She went online, opened the "Wild Climbing Rose" blog and enjoyed her masterpiece.... [Story 0973]

7. Getting Into It (入戏)

Master of Green Dragon Pavillion (青龙阁主)

      A certain director, a great one, had been retired for many years when he suddenly returned to make an epic masterpiece. More than a hundred candidates for the female lead emerged from the preselection process, and from them a slightly famous model named Red Yao showed her talent and was chosen.
      The male lead, Dragon Long, sought out Red before the shooting began to have a little talk with her about some of the passionate scenes in the movie. Dragon was a no-name bit player who’d never gotten his feet wet in entertainment circles. Red felt he was beneath her and wouldn’t give him the time of day.
      After the shooting began, Dragon got into his role in no time, but Red couldn’t perform up to standard for anything – especially when they came to the scene where they were to kiss. She kept moving her head from side to side and wasn’t willing to do it. The great director got mad and cursed at her right there on the set. He said if she couldn’t get into the play, he’d find someone else.
      That night, Red dressed especially well and "paid a visit" on the great director at his home. She couldn’t believe it when the great director fiercely rejected her entreaties. She couldn’t figure it out but, just before leaving, she noticed a photograph placed at the head of his bed and came to a realization.
      The next day they shot the scene with the kiss again. Red completely changed her personality and played it for all she was worth. She gave Dragon a kiss as hot as fire. The great director was pleased to no end and praised her performance as just right.
      Before the film’s release, an entertainment journalist got a first-hand tip that the male and female leads had real feelings for one another. They’d fallen in love. Red held Dragon’s hand sweetly at a news conference, giving tacit acknowledgement to the report. Half a year later, when the film was released, the box office was great. Dragon Meng and Red Yao were a hot item in entertainment circles because of that.
      Not long afterward, the great director got sick and died. On the way to the funeral, Dragon told Red a secret that he’d kept hidden for a long time. He was actually the great director’s illegitimate child.
      It seems that the great director had a wife at home back then when he and Dragon’s mother fell in love, so they had kept their relationship hidden from the world. A year ago, the great director learned that he would die soon from his illness, so he had decided to make a comeback and shoot a movie to introduce Dragon into the entertainment business.
      Red listened and then laughed. She said she’d known about that secret for a long time. “Otherwise, how could I have gotten into the play so well that day? Or later on gotten into a country bumpkin like you?”
      Dragon stared at her in amazement, dumbstruck, as she said that. [Story 1942]

8. Golden Boy and Jade Girl (金童和玉女)

Xie Fengrong (谢丰荣)

      When she got home, the woman stood in the doorway and calmed her nerves. She thought the man would have a nice dinner ready and must be waiting anxiously for her. He loved her that much, and she loved him that much, too! In other people's eyes, they were the Golden Boy and Jade Girl – that's what people call a couple who are perfect match for each other, both attractive and affectionate. They didn't have much money, but they didn't lack for love.
      She sniffed her skirt and was a bit upset that it smelled strongly of alcohol. She pushed open the door and the room smelled of cigarette smoke. She turned on the light and took a look. There was no food on the table and the man was lying on the sofa. He seemed to be asleep but wasn't.
      Booze and cigarettes. Their home had never smelled like this before.
      What a mess! Could he possibly know? He would really raise hell!
      The woman felt bad. She took a second to sort out what had happened in the leader's home. He wasn't her leader – she didn't have one because for the time being she couldn't find a suitable job. It was just that, he was the man's leader and he was always looking her over and joking with her. She'd hesitated for a long time, but then went with him. But she'd been very secretive about it. The man couldn't possibly know!
      The woman thought, there was a real chance that the man's promotion would come through now! She'd gone ahead and paid for it.
      She would always keep what had happened today buried in her heart. She couldn't let the man know, couldn't let anyone know!
      She smiled with difficulty and said, "A friend had a problem, that's why I'm late getting home. Are you…. Are you sick or something?"
      The man didn't answer. He'd been feeling guilty for quite some time. Today he'd finally agreed to a request by one of his company's managers and spent a crazy afternoon with her, and in the evening.... that old lady manager could give the woman a good job. She disgusted him, but he'd told himself, it's only this once!
      He would always keep what had happened today buried in his heart. He couldn't let the woman know, couldn't let anyone know!
      The man and the woman both thought, naively, that their family had always been strapped for cash, but things were finally looking up. [Story 0722]

9. Iron Crutch Li and Li Iron Crutch (铁拐李李铁拐)

Wu Hongpeng (吴宏鹏)

      I’ve got a game leg. No sickness or injury, just gimpy. Wouldn’t you say that’s odd?
      It was half a year ago. One night when I came home from work, I opened the car door and got out, and before I’d taken two steps I felt like my left leg wouldn’t do what I told it to do. Then I remembered I hadn’t brought my crutch. But then, on second thought, that wasn’t right – that leg of mine ought to be able to walk without a crutch.
      I went to see a doctor, who said the leg muscles had perhaps deteriorated. That was the only explanation the doctor could come up with.
      Man, my left leg’s depended on a crutch for a really long time now. Must be ten years, I guess. Ten years ago, back when Iron Crutch Li was the hottest singer in the hemisphere – he took his name from
one of the Eight Immortals, you know, the one that walked with a staff and carried a gourd of medicine.
      Anyway, I really liked his songs and imitated him all the time. I sang and sang his songs until I sounded so much like him that you couldn’t tell which one of us was the real deal and which one was the fake. Not only that, even my movements and expressions were just like his. So I bought a crutch and gave myself a stage name, Li Iron Crutch, and looked for song and dance troupes to hook up with. My specialty was imitating Iron Crutch Li.
      Before I knew it, my act got so popular with people that even the album I recorded, "Li Iron Crutch’s Music”, was selling like hotcakes. Sales were better than "Iron Crutch Li’s Music”, but my album was priced a lot cheaper than his, of course. Since I invested so much time imitating him, I got used to having a crutch with me all the time. This left leg didn’t get any use for long stretches.
      Then something strange happened while I was feeling depressed about my leg going lame. Iron Crutch Li actually came to my door to talk about a deal.
      He said he was willing to pay for the plastic surgery to make me into a real Iron Crutch Li, but I’d have to do all the singing gigs and stuff for him. The earnings would be divided evenly. I said he’d have to explain his reasons to me clearly, otherwise, mightn’t this just possibly be some kind of trap? He said all would naturally become clear after the plastic surgery, but for reasons of personal privacy, he could not let me know in advance. It was up to me whether to do it or not. I thought, I’d just be giving up a leg for him is all, so go for it!
      He came to see me the third day after I got discharged from the hospital. As soon as he came through the door and saw me, he did something that left me speechless. He turned around and threw his crutch out the door with all his strength. Then he ran back to me and hugged me tightly.
      “Thank you! Thanks! Now I can finally live a normal life!” [Story 0987]

10. The Iron General (铁将军)

Secluded Spring in Bridge Arbor (梁园幽泉)

      The hassles started after Little White and those guys repeated as champions. They’d expected to sign autographs and do group photos, but they never thought they’d have to give lectures to people.
      But there was nothing for it. The invitations came from organizations they dared not offend, so they had to go. Besides, lecturing was good for Chinese football’s surge out of Asia and into the world. The club leaders wanted Little White to answer the call. So, okay, he’d go speak.
      "Greetings, friends! I’m a defender, and my job is to protect our goal.
      "I’ll talk about this from three sides: First is the need to pay serious attention in your thinking; I won’t expound on the relationship with time. Second is the need to be correct in your attitude. We always wear an arrogant expression of cold indifference on our faces. You can stare and sneer, but be sure never to speak out, just in case someone has a tape recorder under their shirt.
      "Let the other side know that this goal won't be easy to get into, that their legs and arms could get broken if they make a mistake. This will shake up the opponent in terms of attitude.
      "Ordinarily everyone needs to do fitness exercises and be a muscleman. Think about it. What is the intimidating effect when you're standing in front of the goal with your chest, arm and thigh muscles yo-yoing around? This is in reference to attitude, and the next discussion is in reference to action.
      "I'll put out three words to sum up: stable, accurate and ruthless. He waivers and you don't, and you can't get faked out. It doesn't matter whether they're pathetic or not, you ignore their junk. You have to put your feet right where they want to hurt you and protect every inch. And the other thing is be ruthless. Regardless of the situation, when the ball comes to you and you want to do a somersault kick, the farther you kick it the better."
      After he'd said a lot of things like this, Little White started to feel that something wasn't quite right.
      At that time he took a close look at the people down in the audience attending the lecture. Given their apparel and behavior, it didn't seem like they were engaged in competitive sports. Then Little White thought of something. That morning before the lecture started, he'd stood in the doorway of the lecture hall and looked at the license plates on the cars. He'd noticed that most of them were government (Complaints Section) plates. He had to ask a fat guy who'd just got out of one of the cars, "You here for the lecture?"
      "May I ask, are you into football?"
      "Why would I want to tell you?" the fat guy said. [Story 0622]
[Fannyi guesses that the point of this story is, Why would the government's Complaints Department schedule a lecture by a famously ruthless defender?]

11. Perceptions of Azure Heart Lake (心旅碧心湖)

Fu Haoyong (符浩勇)

      After the PEN* Essayists Conference in Azure Heart Lake, a bunch of travel essays traversed the desk of the city newspaper’s Manager Liang. He had been there and had written “Exploring Azure Heart Lake". He had hoped to find an essay of unique perception in the trash heap of manuscripts, but he was still shaking his head after he’d read more than half of them: How could the composition, physical descriptions and literary expressions all be stuck in the same rut? Could this be a blind alley for travel essays? Or could it be that Yu Qiuyu’s “Notes on Mountain Living" was a monarch never to be equaled?....
      Manager Liang decided to take a moment to reorganize both his state of mind and the manuscripts he had not yet read. Suddenly his attention was enticed by one entitled "Perceptions of Azure Heart Lake" which was laid out tersely on the page:
      “The wild geese and the solitary ducks fly in unison; the autumn waters and the eternal sky are of one color.
      “The azure lake fuses with the high mountains, the canyons, the lakeside berths, the primitive forest and the native atmosphere into one unified body, a vast expanse stretching and meandering for miles; the distinctive configuration of landforms is nature inchoate. As I approach, the ridges and peaks compare favorably in beauty; the rainforest is a powerful emerald; the rippling waves don’t frighten; and the fishing boats pass by one another.
      “Looking into the distance from a high place, or from amidst the unbroken chain of islands, there is always the fervent blending of the abnormally precipitous and the peacefully beautiful. There are the odd shapes of the craggy ancient boulders that are difficult to distinguish one from another; there are the unrestrained echoes that reverberate through the canyons from waterfalls as they drop onto the beaches; there is the cool, refreshing moisture of the heavenly waters and the dragon’s pools striking one’s face; and there are the
Miao villages inspiring one to daydream....
      “The waters made charming by the heights of the densely packed peaks, the mountains made to loom over the limpid green of the waters….
      “After writing of the scenery and the shapes of things, there is a unique feeling that is even more rarely attained, something that the average tourist absolutely cannot experience or describe. And things particularly difficult to express in words and expressions are those which would let the reader really feel most vividly. Of a sudden, a flash of inspiration brushes across his heart.”
      When he finished reading, Manager Liang sighed over and over. Then he reached for the phone and dialed the author’s number.
      The call went through after a brief moment. “Your Perceptions of Azure Heart Lake is truly deep,” he said. “Can you write a discussion of your creative process?” His face froze suddenly at what he heard from the other end of the line:
      “Truth is, I’ve really never been to Azure Heart Lake. I had a cold on the day of the conference and didn’t go.” [Story 0343]
*[The International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists]

12. Seeking a Teacher (求师)

Feng Weishan (冯伟山)

      Old Man Dai is a famous contemporary pen calligrapher. Rumor has it that he creates something valuable whenever he puts pen to paper, even when he writes casually.
      Young Zhang, on the other hand, is an undistinguished fellow. He’s long admired Old Man Dai, or even worshiped him in the extreme. Over the past few years, Young Zhang's greatest wish has been to possess a work of pen calligraphy by Old Man Dai. Constrained by his status and economic situation, however, his wish has never been realized.
      One day Young Zhang happened to mention this when he was chatting with friends. His friends laughed when they heard that. “That’s easy,” they said. “Send a letter to the old man expressing your admiration, as well as your desire that the great master find it in his heart to condescend to be your teacher. Old Man Dai will certainly send you a reply, so you’ll have some of his pen calligraphy written in his own hand.”
      Young Zhang clapped his hands when he heard that. Later he wrote the letter, and his true feelings toward the old man showed clearly in every word and line. It was quite moving.
      He did indeed get a reply from Old Man Dai more than ten days later. The strange thing was, there were only two lines on the stationery:
            “If a success you really want to be,
            “You must hurry up and bring it to me.”
More importantly, the characters on both the envelope and the stationary had been printed out by a computer printer.
      Xiao Zhang was puzzled, so he wrote another letter to the old man. In addition to expressing the same feelings as before, he added a few more words: “For your student’s sake, please write a reply by pen. It’s more convenient and affordable, so why waste your labor on a computer?”
      Not too many days later, Zhang received Old Man Dai’s reply. He opened it hurriedly and saw that once again the characters on both the stationary and the envelope had been printed out by computer. Moreover, the stationary again had two lines on it:
            “If the tuition doesn’t come in,
            “How can calligraphy go out?”
      Young Zhang finally got it. [Story 0599]

13. Taking Tests (应考)

Cai Zhongfeng (蔡中锋)

      Shortly after I graduated from college, a certain department in the county government announced a test to recruit civil servants. I took the test, and my score on the written exam was far and away the best in the county. Everyone congratulated me, but I just smiled and didn’t say anything. When the interview results came out, I’d gotten a zero. Everyone thought that was strange and felt bad for me. As before, I smiled and said nothing.
      A little over two months later, a certain department in the city government announced a test to recruit civil servants. I took this test, too. Once again, my written test results were far and away better than the other candidates in the city. Everybody congratulated me. I smiled but didn’t say anything. When the interview results came out, I’d gotten another zero. Everyone felt that was even stranger and felt even more sorry for me. I still smiled and didn’t speak.
      Another couple of months went by, and a certain department in the provincial government announced a test to recruit some servants. Once again I took the test and scored far and away higher than anyone else on the written exam. Everyone congratulated me and urged me to give it my all on the interview this time! I smiled and didn’t say a word.
      At the provincial level, the interviews are broadcast live throughout the entire province and the scoring is done on the spot. When the time came for my interview, I responded calmly in accordance with the examination questions. I gave careful and detailed analyses. I showed initiative, adaptability, bearing and an ability to synthesize. I came up with a continuous string of witticisms and had the whole house cheering! Every judge gave me the highest score!
      I’d long since become the focus of the province's civil service recruiters because I’d scored number one on my first two written exams but zero on the interviews, so this time, as soon as the judges’ scores lit up, a reporter rushed over to interview me right away. "Congratulations, but I’ve heard that you scored zero on both the county and the city interviews. Why were you able to perform so well this time?"
      As before, I smiled and didn’t speak.
      In fact, in those closed meetings, which weren’t open to the public, what good would it have done even if this farmer's son had answered well? [Story 0340]

14. Wonderful World (精彩的世界)

Potency of Zhongshan [Jiang Xiaohui] (中山黑威 [蒋晓辉])

      After he graduated from Teachers College, Zhao Ziyu was assigned to teach in an elementary school in his rural hometown. He was an excellent teacher and was always evaluated highly by his students and their parents.
      His wife was aging and his child was growing up. He’d heard about the outside world from workers who’d left the area to find jobs but had now returned home, and it piqued his interest.
      When you talk about an opportunity, one will come. Little Hero, a student in his home room class, took the township-wide test and came in tenth, a good score, so the Education Department gave him a Talented Student award. Zhao was too excited for words and couldn’t control his excitement: tomorrow he’d be going to the city for the Awards Ceremony!
      After the ceremony, after the awards were handed out and they ate dinner and some music was played, it was already thoroughly dark outside. The city was filled with red lanterns and new wine, a world of temptations. How could anyone come to such a wonderland and return without experiencing it?
      He strolled along the neon-lit street, rubbing his overly full stomach. Suddenly he saw something he’d often seen TV: a dozen or so scantily clad young women sitting or standing along the wall of a room lit with dimly flashing red lights, laughing and looking out the door. As Zhao approached, one of the women beckoned to him.
      He made a show of reluctance but went inside. The girl had come in with him and he heard her ask, "Why did you pick me?"
      He thought, “Why should there be any ‘why’. I was blinded by all those dazzling white breasts.” To humor her, he said, "You look familiar.”
      “Oh,” she said. “Do you want safe, or do you want everything?”
      Zhao didn’t dare make a sound. Of course he wanted to do everything, but he was startled by this half-naked girl. How could she be so direct?
      “Well, then, everything it is,” she said, and then reached out to take off his shirt. Zhao was a man, after all, and when he understood what the girl was doing, he stopped thinking of anything else….
      Zhao felt like he’d died and gone to heaven, and when he came back to earth, he took out his wallet. “How much?” he asked.
      The girl laughed, showing a row of straight white teeth. “I wouldn't have the nerve! No charge.”
      He was dumbfounded. How could that be? He took the girl’s hand: “Don’t you need to give something to the madam?”
      Her voice got even lower and she whispered, “You really don’t recognize me, do you, Teacher?” [Story 0603]

Translated from 万俊华的新浪博客 at


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10. Iron General
11. Perceptions of a Lake
12. Seeking a Teacher
13. Taking Tests
14. Wonderful World

6. End of an Affair
7. Getting Into It
8. Golden Boy and Jade Girl
9. Iron Crutch Li

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Mini-Stories: Gravitas (Page 4)
All stories were originally published in Flash Fiction Monthly (小小说月刊) and were republished in Wan Junhua's Blog

1. Autumn is Missing
2. Character
3. Dinner Party
4. Dog
5. Don't Disappoint Friends