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Original title, Sheng si Chang, this is a short novel written by Xiao Hong in 1934 and nominally dealing with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The author had written the book shortly after the events had taken place, and she was a first hand witness to the invasion of Manchuria and the subsequent atrocities.

Despite the fact that Xiao Hong was involved with leftist political circles and that communist writer Lu Xun helped make this book famous, the book is not a patriotic book or a piece of propaganda. The book instead, focuses on the normal lives of Chinese peasents, and not in a very favorable way. Xiao Hong's feminist tendancies arguably shape the book more then anything else, as she describes in stark detail the cruel lives of the women in the village.

Even before the gory details of the Japanese invasion enter the book, it has already ran over some rather uncomfortable ground, describing several instances of death, disease and hunger. The descriptions of the depressing drudgery that the peasents live in and their inability to cope effectivly with the illness that surrounds them makes a stronger impression then even a horrible war story could.

One of the biggest influences of this book for me was that it kind of put a dent in my contrived cultural chauvinism. I have always chosen to see the Chiense people as intelligent, proud and practical people. This book presents them as malnourished, ignorant, beat down people who are powerless to do anything about the world that surrounds them. A view that would anger me if it came from a European, but that has to be listened to when it comes from a Zhongguoren.

In the Path of the Speeding Horse

A man stands motionless in a field. He wears simple clothes: jeans, a work shirt. What is he waiting for? We assume he is waiting. Perhaps not. Perhaps he is just looking. Gazing, one might say. Gazing into the haze of a warm autumn day in a field.

The field is not only of grass. The field is everywhere. It contains the ground, the sky, beneath the ground, and above the sky. It is the man, outside and inside. It is all movement, and all stillness. The field is everything.

The man gazes into the distance, in the direction of a boy on a horse galloping towards him. The man does not move. Is he fearless, or just in a trance? Maybe he is watching himself as a boy. Maybe his life has spiraled in on itself, like a Möbius strip, and he is meeting himself coming from the opposite direction.

The boy on the horse is almost upon him. The man does not move aside. Is he transfixed? Or does he not care? Or, does he merely accept what is? Can one accept what is, without accepting what is to be?

Let's ask him. Because the horse's collision course was interrupted when, just before trammeling the man who stood in its path, the horse vaulted over him, landed behind the man and continued its frenzied gallop through the autumn field.

The man continued to stand there without moving. How long would he remain there? This momentous thing had just occurred. He had stood in Death’s path, not moving, and Death had skirted him.

Moments pass, each like the previous one. Everything can remain the same, unless a memory intrudes; unless a thought from the future spirals into the field, like an airborne seed from a neighboring farm.

Everything remains the same. Unless a cell in the man's body decays and then dies. Everything remains the same…unless that pain in his foot comes back. Everything remains the same, except that it doesn't.

The whorls and vortices of the field will not let everything remain the same. And yet, there will always be this field, and this man. The man who stands in the path of the speeding horse.

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