​​         Chinese Stories in English   

1. Who Are You? (你是谁?)
Zong Pu (宗璞)

      He returned home, walked into the bedroom and saw an unfamiliar gray-haired woman sitting in the armchair by the window drinking tea. He thought that was strange and demanded, "Who are you?"
      The woman looked at him with tears in her eyes. She was silent for a moment, then stood up and said, "I’m Verdant Dong. Don't you recognize me, Surpass Zhang?"
      Surpass sneered. "You say you’re Verdant Dong? You think I wouldn't recognize her?" He pointed to the photo on the wall and said, "That’s Verdant, me and Verdant." It was their wedding photo. Surpass had fluffy hair and a handsome face at the time, and Verdant beside him wearing a wedding dress looked like an angel. That was what he’d said back then. Now he said, "You see that? You have the gall to pretend to be her?"
      He was starving, so he went to the kitchen to get some cookies. He poured a glass of milk, too, and ate by himself. Ignoring him, Verdant opened the closet door and took out some clothes. Surpass followed her and demanded, "How dare you steal Verdant's clothes! " He picked up his cell phone and called the police, as she’d known he would. She closed the closet door and went back to the armchair to sit down.
      Presently two police officers arrived, reminding each other that this wasn’t the first time. They asked Surpass what had happened. "This woman was about to steal Verdant Dong's clothes," he replied.
      An officer chided him, "This is Verdant Dong. She cooks for you."
      Surpass pointed to another photo of Verdant on the wall, a portrait. She was as beautiful as jade in her youth. "This is Verdant Dong," he said.
      One of the policemen said: "She’s aged. Verdant Dong has gotten old."
      "Like you,” the other officer said. “You’ve gotten old, too. Look, you’re bald." Only a ring of hair was left around his head. The top was bald and shiny.
      He slapped the table. "Stop babbling! Where have you taken Verdant? I'm going to look for her!" he announced. He pushed the two officers aside, grabbed the door and went out.
      The large lawn outside the house was covered by faint moonlight. He stood on the lawn and shouted, "Verdant Dong! Verdant Dong! Where are you?"
      Verdant chased out after him. She was shouting, too. "Surpass! I’m here, Surpass!" She was out of breath from running.
      Surpass stopped in his tracks and turned his head. He looked at the wrinkled face in front of him and asked, suspiciously but sympathetically as well, "Where did you hide Verdant? Who are you?" He thought for a moment and then asked again, louder this time, "Who are you?"
      "I'm Verdant Dong," she answered, feeling aggrieved. "And you’re Surpass Zhang. Don't you know that? Let's go home." Her voice was very quiet.
      "You’re a liar!” he shouted There’re liars all over this world! I'm going to go look for Verdant.” He ran off in another direction and came to a nursing home not far away.
      Some old people were enjoying the evening coolness in the moonlight. They saw Surpass and asked him, "What’re you doing here?"
      "I'm looking for my wife,” he replied. “Her name’s Verdant Dong."
      Verdant had caught up to him. "I’m Verdant Dong. Please excuse him. He’s lost his memory,” she explained."
      An old man commented, "That’s good. Yes, it’s good to forget everything."
      Another old fellow, a gentlemanly sort, remarked, "Socrates once said.... Well, I’ve forgotten what he said."
      Still another old man smiled and said, "But don't forget to eat."
      A soft sigh or two mixed in with the guffaws.
      "Stop following me,” Surpass told Verdant. “Who are you?"
      A nursing home attendant came over. "You two get along home," he urged.
      Surpass looked at the people around him, then at Verdant. His mind seemed to clear a bit. He took Verdant's hand hesitatingly and started walking towards their home. The moonlight poured on the lawn like water and illuminated the two old people’s figures.
      They walked together across the lawn for a moment. Then Surpass stopped abruptly and shoved Verdant away. He ran ahead, shouting loudly. He wasn’t calling to Verdant this time – it was more of a probing inquiry. "Who are you? Who are you?"
      His voice floated over to Verdant and entangled her. She was very tired, but the voice pulled on her and she started to run. She also wanted to ask, "Who are you? Are you Surpass Zhang?"
      She’d run like this with Surpass many years before. She’d run in front back then, with Surpass chasing behind. It was on the Hulunbuir Prairie in Mongolia. The moon shone on the endless grassland and they seemed to be on the sea, escorted by the waves. They ran effortlessly then, but now the moonlight and the grassland and the feeling of being alive had passed on by, leaving only the memory of what they’d been, and the eternal question.
      "Who are you? Who — are you?"

Text at p. 1; Translated from 腾讯网
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2. Tree Blossom (桐花开)

Not A Fish* (非鱼)

      Early in the morning, when the sun has just come up and the mist hasn’t completely evaporated, dampness lays on the wheat straw and fine dewdrops hang on the tips of the grass. Occasionally one can hear the long bellow of a water buffalo or a few crisp calls of thrush, or the lazy "boom-pop" of a bellows.
      Since they’d just gone through the busy autumn harvest and replanting, the whole village was immersed in a kind of cool, leisurely silence. It was Martial’s Mother who broke this tranquility.
      Some people had just been served their sour-boiled soup, while others had already finished eating and headed for the top of the cliff, where they would squat on the stone rollers used for threshing grain and smoke cigarettes. Then Martial’s Mother came out from Back Ditch Road with the front piece of her jacket twinkling in the sunlight. She stood on the small bit of high ground beside the courtyard, patted her buttocks with her palm, opened her mouth and let out a string of curses.
      "Whoever of you is from a family cursed to have no descendants, come out and see if I don’t rip your mouths from your faces and break the legs of your family’s sow."
      One could tell from this sentence that she had no definite object for her curses, and that’s why all the men and women of all the various households felt relieved. They maintained their relaxed and happy moods as they finished off the sour-boiled soup in their bowls, cleaned their pots and washed their dishes, mixed pig food with the water used to clean the pots and fed it to the pigs, and threw another handful of corn kernels to the chickens before strolling up to the top of the cliff. There they found suitable positions, standing or squatting or sitting. The more diligent among the women also held the soles of shoes in their hands, which they would mend, so that neither their hands nor their ears would be free. Things looked pretty lively.
      Martial’s Mother was still called Tree Blossom when she’d first married into Headview Village. She’d had long pigtails as stiff as porcelain, a thin waist and a big, round face that made her look as warm and soft as white steamed buns just out of the pot. Whoever saw her said she was the most "typical-looking person" in the village.
      Martial’s Father was named Victory. He had a big, round waist and, when he walked along the top of the cliff, his feet would pound the ground, “boom, boom, boom”, and could be heard loud as life in the cave dwellings below him. He had a ton of strength which he didn't hold back when he worked. He led a simple life and was fit as a fiddle.
      The year when Martial turned three and his sister, Jujube, was still in her mother’s belly, Victory went off to work building a reservoir for the county. He was standing on a cliff taking a pee when a rock as big as a bowl crashed down on his head. He departed this world quietly, not even having the time to cry out.
      After Victory was gone, Blossom took her big belly and went to the leaders of the village, the commune and the county to make a claim for compensation. No matter who she asked, the claim was denied, and eventually Jujube was born. Once the commune and county leaders changed positions**, when Jujube was three or four years old, the claim went cold and no one paid attention to it.
      Gradually the villagers started calling Blossom "Martial’s Mother". She was no longer the snow-white, cuddly, "typical-looking person", but more like a red date left to dry out on the branch. She got thinner and thinner every day and her skin turned the color of yellowish wax, and her temperament changed along with her appearance. Where Blossom had been a laid-back sort who always smiled when she spoke, Martial’s Mother was heartless and unkind, calculating in everything she did, and never getting the worst of it.
      Martial and Jujube played together. If they bumped into someone and got knocked down or fell, Martial’s Mother would take the children to the top of the cliff, where she would stand and curse for a long time. For a stick of firewood, she could raise enough hell to drive Xiyao’s sister-in-law home to her mother in tears***. People in the village initially let it go, remembering that it wasn’t easy for a widow to raise two children, although some of the older women did chide her. Later she became more insolent, cursing at every little triviality. She constantly found new curses to yell and became harder to listen to, but the villagers considered it entertainment and went along with it.
      This morning Martial’s Mother sat down on the ground, stretched her legs, and even chanted her curses. Starting with Victory’s death, she mentioned everyone who’d bullied her orphan children and their widowed mother. She grabbed onto an autumn cucumber from her cliff-top garden while she talked about people with ruthless hearts and rotten guts; she held pumpkin sprouts in front of her in her cupped hands while she talked about someone who’d let her pig loose.
      "When you didn’t have enough to eat, you ate my cucumbers. You guys with rotten hearts and rotten guts... don’t let me find out who you are. If I do, I’ll dig out the rotten flesh from your faces and rip your mouths to pieces."
      That’s when the blacksmith came.
      He’d moved down to the village from a place up in the mountains not long before. His wife had gotten sick and died, so he’d brought his six or seven-year-old girl with him. He’d found himself a kiln in Back Ditch and settled down there, earning a living by making shovels, rice ladles and other stuff.
      The blacksmith was a lot like Victory. Both were big men with purple faces, neither liked to talk, and both had strong bodies.
      His little girl had heard the yelling and wanted to check out the excitement. The blacksmith, unaware of what was happening, led her toward the courtyard, but he heard Martial's Mother swearing while they were still some distance away and quicky pulled her back toward home. The little girl had seen the crowd, though, and insisted on staying. She kept on squeezing into the crowd with the blacksmith right behind. Soon they’d squeezed right up in front of Martial's mother.
      The spittle was still flying from Martial’s Mother like little starlets, but she stopped cold as soon as she saw the blacksmith. He looked just like Victory! She shuddered and her voice dropped.
      The blacksmith glanced at her and smiled as a matter of courtesy to another villager. Martial’s Mother shuddered again. Victory had been unpretentious like that, too. He’d grin, he’d smile, then quickly wipe the smile from his face as if he’d made a faux pas.
      Jujube was pulling her mother’s sleeve. "Mom, I'm hungry.”
      Martial’s Mother took another look at the blacksmith, stood up and patted the dirt from her bottom. Her eyes flushed as she pulled Jujube and said, "Come on home."
      She had no intention of cooking for Martial or Jujube when they got home. She lay sobbing on the
kang, crying and cursing him. She didn't know how her life had turned out like this, how she’d become the village’s laughingstock.
      The villagers had seen the blacksmith and Martial’s Mother together. It seems it only then occurred to them that he had no wife, and she had no man.
      Not too many days passed before a matchmaker, Gu Five, went to the blacksmith's house first, and then to Martial’s house. She succeeded in making the match after she’d run back and forth between the two houses three or four times.
      According to Gu Five, the blacksmith just made one comment: "Only a woman with no one to rely on will risk sticking her neck out."
      Martial’s Mother also made a comment: "Since Victory’s been gone, I’ve turned myself from a person into a demon."
      So the two families blended into one. As the three children were having fun playing with each other in the courtyard, the blacksmith looked at Martial’s Mother sitting on the edge of the kang and asked, "What should I call you from now on?"
      She melted into a lump of soft clay and two lines of tears dripped down her face. "I’m Blossom. Tree Blossom."

*  The author’s pen name is presumably from a saying attributed to the philosopher Zhuangzi: “Since I’m not a fish, how could I know what makes a fish happy? (子非鱼安知鱼之乐).
** Party and government leaders rotate positions every three years or so.
***Your translator has been unable to identify this reference.

Text at p. 4; Translated from 就爱文摘网. Also at:
3. Tomorrow, That Most Beautiful Word (明天是世界上最美丽的词)

He Liwei (何立伟)

      This is a story I heard over the dinner table——
      A girl named First Leaf fell in love with a thin boy who liked to write poetry and had a unique temperament. He stammered a little if he got excited while he was talking, but this unexpectedly made him even more lovable. His narrow face wore a touching innocence. Every day she read his posts on Weibo, a microblogging site similar to Twitter, but she never left him a message.
      He and Leaf worked in the same office building but for different companies.
      They often encountered each other in the elevator, and a few times only the two of them were in the car. They each politely nodded a gentle “hi” to the other before lowering their heads, which they did even when not looking at their phones. If Leaf raised her head, Thin Boy would, too. They’d glance at each other with lightning speed, then look away equally fast. Leaf’s heart burned with excitement, but she didn't know if he felt that way as well.
      She heard his colleague say his name in the elevator after work one day, so she looked him up on Weibo and saw poems he’d written.
      They also saw each other occasionally in the fast-food restaurant downstairs. A few times she got in line behind him and noticed that the collar of his white shirt was quite clean.
      She liked clean boys.
      He always ordered sweet and sour ribs and scrambled eggs with tomato whenever she saw him. She felt a wave of liking for him while she watched secretly, so she thought, I want to learn to cook those two things.
      At night she’d sit on her bed with her tablet on her lap and read his Weibo posts. He wrote something every day, and she read it every night.
      He wrote poems as well as a daily journal with photos.
      To be honest, she didn't really understand his poetry. She just found it interesting. His journal showed information about his day-to-day work and doings. He led a full life. He was cuter in his photos than in life, often making faces and scissors with his fingers. His narrow face was particularly animated, something that didn’t come out in the elevator.
      There was one night when she gently kissed the face he was making on the screen.
      “Naughty imp!” she said.
      She knew she had a crush on this guy who liked sweet and sour ribs and scrambled eggs with tomato.
      This crush, once it was born, grew like the devil’s ivy she had growing in a pot on her windowsill.
      She couldn't quite help herself and was eager to find a chance to get to know him. For example, if they met in the elevator alone, she wanted to lay it all out for him.
      She had the impulse, sure enough, but not the courage.
      She slowly built up her courage like she collected nickels (a hobby she’d had since childhood, with several mute cans to show for it). She knew that one day (a day not too far away), she’d speak up.
      But before that day came, he went away. He left their city and went to Shanghai.
      She saw it on his Weibo page. He’d posted a photo of his ticket that day.
      And there was a photo of his going-away party. A bunch of his young colleagues surrounded him with glasses of red wine held high in their hands. He was talking, probably stuttering a little.
      She cried. She didn't make a sound, but the tears flowed. They made her pillow cold.
      She hated herself for her lack of courage. She’d never love again.
      She pounded her leg hard. It still hurt a little two days later, as did her heart.
      But she still kept track of him on Weibo. It had become her opium, and she couldn't quit.
      She knew he’d answered a help wanted ad from an American company and been hired. She’d seen his office in a photo. It was clean, just like his white shirt collar. His colleagues’ faces were full of vim and vinegar, just like his.
      As for his poems, she still didn't quite understand them, but found them as interesting as ever.
      And his photos at
Peace Hotel on the Bund, and at the Oriental Pearl Tower, and feeding the pigeons at People’s Square, how could they be so charming?
      He still liked to make faces and scissors gestures with his fingers.
      There was one photo of just him standing by the
Waibaidu Bridge with a girl who was laughing and showing her braces. The expression on his narrow face was rather circumspect.
      He wrote a poem that was quite difficult to understand on the day that photo appeared, but she was clear about one thing. It was a love poem! Yes, yes, it was a love poem!
      Her heart was burning with excitement again. But this wasn’t the kind of excitement she’d felt in the elevator. It was the kind that set one’s soul afire, the kind that made one’s soul sting.
      Leaf lost sleep over this.
      Further, his journal entry the next day said: “Yesterday's chance encounter is today's heartbeat.”
      Oh, she understood. He’d encountered Braces Girl by chance at Waibaidu Bridge, and there he’d also chanced to encounter love.
      She decided not to read his Weibo posts any more.
      Also, she’d never learn to cook sweet and sour pork ribs and scrambled eggs with tomato.
      The devil’s ivy on the window sill, well, why was it so thoughtlessly luxuriant?
      But she couldn't quit that drug. She opened his Weibo page on her tablet once again after only three days.
      He’d posted a photo that day. It was a pair of beautiful woolen gloves with alternating red and white stripes.
      The caption read, “I want to put them on her myself tomorrow. Tomorrow is the most beautiful word in the world.”
      Tomorrow, that is, the day after he’d written this post. She turned on her computer that evening and went directly to his Weibo page again, hurrying as though she’d miss it if she didn’t look right away. She was tense, worried, curious, disconsolate.... The mass of emotions was wadded up into a ball. She didn't realize that her hands were shaking slightly.
      On his tomorrow – Braces Girl flew away, back to her city, Chengdu. That was the city where she worked and lived. She’d come to Shanghai alone only for her annual vacation.
      Those gloves, he hadn't been able to give them to her. That pair of red and white woolen gloves.
      He took a picture of himself covering his face. He wrote: “Joyful Zhang, you are 1,964 kilometers away from me!”
      Miss Leaf’s face was reflected in the light from the computer screen. She was deathly pale but smiling.
      “Keep those gloves to give to me,” she muttered softly.
      She knew she’d be watching the Weibo pages of two people starting the next day – Educated Zheng (as his colleagues had called him) and Joyful Zhang (as he’d called Braces Girl).
      She saw a new poem Educated had written. She didn't understand it, but she caught the moodiness and sadness. This skinny kid had written, “At work my colleague mentioned that I was a little distracted when he was talking to me about something. That won't do. I need to cheer up.”
      But the next day he went on to write, “Fuzhou Road outside my window, the street scene hasn’t changed, but my mood has. Romance came on the wind and I got a little messed up.
      She felt a vague ache in her heart.
      Well, what about Joyful Zhang?
      She found her Weibo page and noted that Braces Girl had also fallen into an endless miasma.
      The young girl's language was somewhat abstract, but Leaf knew from her feminine intuition that her ennui also came from love. She was a little nervous. She felt that there was only a paper window between Braces Girl and Thin Boy, and she was afraid that whichever of them was brave enough would poke it with a finger.
      She didn't even dare to watch, let alone think about it.
      But she kept watching. Curiosity killed the cat.
      Thin Boy didn’t write in his journal for several days. She was really worried.
      Braces Girl updated her Weibo page every day. Leaf kept looking at it to keep an eye on her ennui, and suddenly she understood. Braces Girl was in love with someone else!
      The "him" mentioned by Braces Girl in her posts was a boy who wore glasses.
      Braces Girl wrote that he had changed his glasses. The lenses were thicker, probably 20/400 to 20/600. But he was still handsome as ever.
      Her heart skipped a beat and she let out a long breath. Then she laughed, and her ashen reflection on the screen also laughed.
      She guessed that Glasses Boy probably worked with Braces Girl. The term “office romance” came to mind.
      She could see that Braces Girl, like her, was in the throes of a crush and hadn’t had the courage to confess her love. It seemed that Glasses Boy was also being kept in the dark, like her relationship with Thin Boy.
      When Braces Girl was in Shanghai, she’d purchased an exquisite glazed ceramic ram for Glasses Boy in the
Xintiandi shopping district. She’d guessed he’d been born in the year of the ram.
      When Braces Girl gave the ceramic ram to him, it was the perfect opportunity for her to confess her love. She didn’t say anything, though. Afterwards she’d written, “How could I have just stood there dumb? I hate myself!
      “You weren’t dumb. You just didn’t have the guts!” Leaf said to the computer screen.
      One evening Braces Girl got up the courage to write: “Tomorrow, tomorrow, I must say those three little words.
      But tomorrow never came.
      Because the next day Braces Girl only wrote one line on Weibo: “He’s gone. He didn’t even say goodbye. Of course I didn't know anything about it beforehand. He went to the US to study for an MBA. Will he ever come back?”
      Because she’d been in the same boat, she suddenly felt a bit of empathy for the girl. After a long while she whispered, “Fate, that’s what it is.”
      She wanted to say something else, but for the moment nothing came out.
      Thin Boy appeared on his Weibo page again. The devil!
      What Thin Boy wrote was: “I’ve finally got some vacation time. I’m going to Chengdu tomorrow. I have to go. To put those gloves on.”

Text on p. 7, Translated from 文章吧
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4. Selling Green Onions (卖葱)

Hou Deyun (侯德云)

      At a banquet, my friend Old Liu started telling a story about selling green onions. When I laughed at the beginning of his tale, he glared at me and asked, “What’s so funny?”
      “I thought about selling green onions in ‘Cell Phone,’” I answered.
      He was taken aback. “You sell green onions on your cell phone? E-commerce?”
      “No,” I said. “The writer
Liu Zhenyun wrote a novel called "Cell Phone" that included a story about selling green onions.”
      He didn't ask how green onions were sold in "Cell Phone", but I had to say, “That was what we were talking about, right? In ‘Cell Phone,’ the protagonist is called Protect One Yan. Hey, it was made into a movie that was also called ‘Cell Phone’. Haven't you seen it, Old Liu?”
      He shook his head. I looked around the table at the others and they were all shaking their heads. Jeez, what kind of people do you think these guys were....
      I went on to tell them about selling green onions.
      “Protect One’s father was Old Yan. He sold green onions with someone (who’s name I’ve forgotten). Old Yan was the kind of person who never said more than three sentences a day, but when he sold green onions with this guy, he always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips, and he’d even tell jokes, too. His transformation made Protect One feel like there was nothing in the world better than selling green onions. The only thing was, when Old Yan settled accounts with his partner at the end of the year, the guy cooked the books. He called Old Yan a stupid c*nt behind his back but Old Yan heard him. Such anger! He never sold green onions after that. He felt wronged. He said, “For the first time in his life the guy came across someone who could talk, and he calls me stupid.”
      Old Liu smiled. "The story from ‘Cell Phone’ isn’t as good my story about selling green onions,” he said.
      I tucked in my chin in surprise. “Tell us! Tell us,” I said. Some of the guys next to me also chimed in, “Yes, tell us.”
      What follows is Old Liu’s tale of selling green onions.


      “It’s been a long time, now, almost seventeen or eighteen years. Money was still money back then. Not like now, when you just take out a hundred-yuan bill and, swish, it’s gone! I remember my salary at the time was only eight hundred or a thousand yuan a month.
      “There was this couple in their forties who came to the East Mountain Morning Market to sell green onions every day. Nothing else, only green onions. They had a flatbed trike with the onions piled up on it. They weren’t usually sold out when the market closed down at noon. Most of the time they had some left.
      “These two looked strangely interesting. The man was slender but the woman was thick as a gate pillar. It wasn’t only the man’s body that was slender – his head was long and thin, too. And it wasn’t only the women’s body that was thick – her head was a block without a neck. She looked like a millstone with a pumpkin on top....”
      At this point in his story, Old Liu spread out his arms and gestured with both hands. "A millstone with a pumpkin on it. You guys know what a pumpkin is?” The guys all nodded. Who wouldn't know? A tubby gourd that was squished kind of flat. Old Liu was relieved when he saw us nodding and continued, “That woman's head, it was like the millstone and pumpkin had been placed directly on top of an upside-down magic gourd, the kind of gourd in the old folk tales that can grant your every wish.
      “In the same way, the couple’s feet were strongly contrasting, too. The man’s were thin and long, three to five shoes wide and four to five shoes in length; the woman’s were wide and shorter, four to five shoes wide and three to five shoes in length. The two looked really comical if you put them side-by-side.
      “Their trike was funny, too. One of the wheels was definitely from a wheelbarrow, and another was just as definitely a bicycle wheel. I don't know how they were affixed. A tricycle seat is normally six springs covered by a layer of leather, but not theirs. It was three springs wrapped in a few plastic bags, transparent ones. And the trike didn’t even have brakes. A long piece of rubber tied to the frame served as a brake. The rubber dragged on the ground and when he needed to stop, the man would stomp on it with his right foot. He did that every day, so a trough was worn through the front half of the sole on his shoe.
      “All in all, these two people and their trike were awkwardly embarrassing. It hurt to look at them.
      “I often went to them to buy their green onions because they were cheaper than other places, and I got familiar with them as time went by. Sometimes we’d exchange idle chit-chat. When Sunday came around, I’d stand by the onion stalls for a while if I wasn’t busy and watch them busy selling their green onions. I found them very interesting.
      “One day I was late getting there and they were already sold out. It was the middle of July and hot as a barbeque, but the two weren’t in any hurry to leave. The woman was counting the money they’d got for selling green onions and the man was watching. Both of them were smiling broadly.
      “I watched, too, from off to the side. I was looking at the couple but they weren't looking at me.
      “When the woman finished counting, she told the man they hadn’t done bad that day – they’d cleared ¥36.15. She broke into a big smile and laughed soundlessly. The man also grinned and smiled silently.
      “The woman looked at the man and said, ‘We’ll use twenty yuan to buy something for our father.’ The man looked at her, nodded, and grunted his agreement.
      “‘Ten yuan to buy a dress for our daughter,’ she continued. Once more the man nodded and grunted his agreement. But then all of a sudden he said, ‘Since she’ll have a skirt, you should get her a blouse, too.’”
      “‘No,’ she said. ‘I won't buy her a blouse. I have some she can wear. Better to buy a schoolbag for her. Hers is too old.’ The man nodded and grunted.
      “‘I’ll give you six yuan for two packs of cigarettes and a bottle of booze,’ she said. ‘You can drink a little in the evenings.’ The man puckered his lips and blew her a kiss.
      “Then he grinned and asked, ‘What about you? You’re not buying anything for yourself?’
      “‘There’s fifteen cents left. I’ll buy a popsicle to suck on. That’ll do.’ She looked a little embarrassed, her face like a blooming dahlia.
      “I watched while the man suddenly stooped over. He was struck dumb and the rims of his eyes gradually turned red.
      “I couldn't bear to watch any longer. I turned around and walked a few quick steps to look around the other vegetable stalls.
      “By the time I looked back, the couple had already got on their trike and it looked like they were ready to head out. I waved at them. The man had his back toward me and didn't see. The woman saw and waved back. She seemed to say something to the man, and he turned to look at me and smiled.
      “I stayed where I was and watched them until they were out of sight.


      At first, Old Liu’s story about selling green onions occasioned a burst of laughter around the banquet table. Some people pounded on the table while they laughed, some laughed so hard they couldn’t breathe, and still others kept interjecting their own comments. But eventually the laughter became more scattered, until at the end the room grew silent.
      Although his story was finished, Old Liu continued speaking.
      “One day,” he said, I was thinking about a lot of things, things that weren’t to my liking, until finally it occurred to me: Why shouldn’t I use another person's experience to light up my own life?”
      The words were hardly out of his mouth before applause broke out around the table. Old Liu's face flushed.

Text at p. 11; Translated from 侯德云品书录的博客
Also at
Bonus Selection
5. I Offer You Flowers (献你一束花)

Feng Jicai (冯骥才)

      “By all rights, fresh flowers should be presented to a triumphant hero. Do you really want to give flowers to this dismal loser, too?”
      She kept her head down. Four days ago, when she was doing a twist on the balance beam and tumbled onto the mat, she’d let her beautiful and dignified head droop. Now she was returning to China and, as she walked into the lobby of the Capital Airport, her head was practically hidden in the neckline of her blouse. She was afraid of meeting the people coming forward to welcome them, afraid of what the reporters would ask, afraid of her sister and brother-in-law coming to pick her up, even afraid of seeing the airport’s enthusiastic attendants – every time she came through here on her way overseas, her admirers all came running up to help her with her bags… how could she have the temerity to face them now, coming home in defeat!
      She’d been absolutely sure to ascend to the throne of "queen" of the balance beams and uneven bars in this world-wide competition. Chinese and foreign experts had all counted on it. Her performance, however, had turned off the lights of any such hopes.
      She’d gone abroad for a competition for the first time two years previously. She’d been stuck in the middle of a bunch of girls who were famous overseas, so she hadn’t been noticed. Without the pressure, she’d unexpectedly won the championship in two events. When she returned home through this airport lobby, she was greeted with unprecedented warmth. Many hands stretched out towards her and many cameras focused on her. A reporter wearing glasses had glommed onto her and asked:
      "What did you like best?" She hadn't known how to answer, but when she looked up she saw lots of flowers. She said, "Flowers!" so dozens of bouquets had been thrust at her, too many for her to hold.
      She’d been abroad for many competitions over the past two years and had returned with numerous shiny medals hanging on her chest. She’d been greeted by smiling faces and flowers and the blinding flash of cameras. Had this increased the pressure on her? The more she won, the more she became afraid of losing. The burden of accomplishment is heavier than the burden of failure. Spirit can overcome pains of the body, but the body cannot dispel pressure on the spirit.
      This time she’d felt slightly unstable on the balance beam. She immediately became flustered and unable to control herself. She failed, and then collapsed in a complete shambles in the other events that followed....
      She was walking behind the team, afraid of seeing anyone, but when she noticed that few people greeted her and the photographers seemed to avoid her, she felt snubbed. This aggravated the depression and shame she felt. Even if she could make it through this situation, it would be difficult to get over it for a while. She was at a loss. Yeah, who’d want to stand together with a loser?
      All of a sudden she saw a pair of feet stopped right in front of her. Who was it? She lifted her eyes a little bit and saw dark blue clothing, long legs, copper buttons, and a pure white, demure face under a beanie. It turned out to be an airport attendant holding her hands behind her back. The girl smiled and said to her, "I saw your match on TV. I knew you were coming back today, so I came specially to greet you."
      She hung her head again right away. "I really messed up!"
      "No, you put all your sweat and strength into it like always."
      "I’m a loser."
      "No one can avoid failure. I believe that. Failure and victory are equally important to you, but put failure behind you and let the future hold victory." The attendant's voice was both soft and positive.
      She looked up again when she heard that. The attendant brought out her hands from behind her back and held a large bunch of colorful flowers in front of her. Their rich scent seemed to turn into a strange force that infused her body. She burst into tears.
      “What’s this? Flowers should be presented to a triumphant hero. Do you really want to offer them to a dismal loser?”

Translated from 无忧无虑中学语文网 at


3. Tomorrow
4. Selling Green Onions

Raindrops (Page 03)
Unless otherwise noted, stories are from Chinese Mini-Stories 2018 《中国年度小小说》任晓燕 秦俑 赵建宁 选编
Text at page noted after story; translated from the webpages cited below.

Bonus Selection
5. I Offer You Flowers

1. Who Are You?
2. Princess-Tree Blossom