Read Rickshaw by Lao She Jean M. James Online


Rickshaw is a new translation of the twentieth-century Chinese classic Lo-t’o Hsiang Tzu, the first important study of a laborer in modern Chinese literature. While the rest of the Chinese literary world debated hotly, and for years, the value of proletarian literature, Lao She wrote the novel that the left wing insisted on but failed to produce. Published in 1938 and setRickshaw is a new translation of the twentieth-century Chinese classic Lo-t’o Hsiang Tzu, the first important study of a laborer in modern Chinese literature. While the rest of the Chinese literary world debated hotly, and for years, the value of proletarian literature, Lao She wrote the novel that the left wing insisted on but failed to produce. Published in 1938 and set in Peking, Lao She’s eighth novel is a relentless account of a worker’s struggle, failure, and utter corruption.Lao She’s depiction of the rickshaw puller Hsiang Tzu is a study in social misery compiled by an acute critic and keen observer. His character portraits are memorable; his crowd scenes are masterful; his comprehension of human motives is always profound and often unsettling.It may be said, in all fairness, that Lao She wrote eloquently rather than elegantly. His language is the language of the streets; brusque, energetic, never dull. His dialect is that of Peking, famous for its sparkle and colorful idiom. This new translation, which omits nothing and alters nothing, serves not only the orientalist but all who esteem good writing....

Title : Rickshaw
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780824806552
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 264 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Rickshaw Reviews

  • David Acevedo
    2018-10-04 12:47

    A classic of Chinese literature that protratis the simplest of quests: a rickshaw-pulling boy whose sole dream in life is as simple as owning hsi own cart. One could possibly attempt to minimize this classic as a portrait of Chinese economy at the beginning of last century. Or a gripping testimony of poverty. In China...China: so far and yet so close. And that is precisely my point: what is the difference between a boy who works and wants to own his own way of living, versus a boy who sells his body, like I did, on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in order to pay his college tuition and become better? It may seem far-fetched, but this book really helped go through the ordeal of my hustling/prostitution days. What happens int he ned is that the author ended up portraying an era and a country, much in the manner Puerto Rican writer Magali García Ramis did in her novel Felices Días, Tío Sergio. when an author is able to do that, the result is a timeless narrative that will transcends all boundaries of time and space. Rickshaw Boy is not about China. It's about Puerto Rico too. And the rest of third world. And Mississippi. And the whole Bible Belt.

  • Zak
    2018-10-02 12:12

    So tragic and moving. A searing social critique of conditions during China's chaotic war and revolutionary years. I don't care if people accuse it of being deliberately manipulative or not, this was and is a memorable read for me. It is not hard to imagine that millions faced even worse than this during those tumultuous times.Final rating: 4.5*Note: This is the latest edition translated by Howard Goldblatt, who did such an excellent job with Mo Yan's 'Sandalwood Death'. There were at least two previous translations before this, which were reportedly butchered to suit Western tastes.

  • James Nicolay
    2018-10-02 17:07

    Having begun his literary career in his five-year stay in England and even modeling his portrayal of Beiping from Charles Dickens’ novels, Lao She achieves a literary feat in “Camel Xiangzi” where the Chinese novel features an authentic Chinese character which seems to be relatable even with Western readers as the prose has limited third person point of view and even Aritotelian unities, and where the main character, Xiangzi, is an embodiment of a very Western ideology, individualism. However, the social realism in the novel “Camel Xiangzi” is evident and palpable in the author’s gripping study of the lives of the poor, working class and the failure of individualism when juxtaposed with the Chinese culture and community. In the harsh words of the author himself in Chapter Thirteen, describing and foreshadowing the fate of the titular protagonist, “respectability, ambition, loyalty, and integrity had failed him. Why? Because he led a dog’s life.” While the novel defends and criticizes Xiangzi by bestowing upon him a most miserable life, the recipient of Lao She’s sharp attack is the society which reduced Xiangzi to the camel that he has become.Without question, Xiangzi is among the most pitiful literary characters ever written. Despite being blessed with natural gifts and positive attributes, his youth and his strength, his determination and integrity, Xiangzi is defenseless as the society hurls him into a downward spiral path just because he is a member of the lowest class in his society, uneducated and alone, with no family or any permanent ties to another member of the community. If Xiangzi were a character in a Western work of fiction, more specifically American literature, he would probably be viewed as an outcast or unwilling hero who will eventually face challenges and become master of his own fate, triumphing over enemies or personal crises, and eventually, probably, dying or transcending his self in the end, inspiring other people. Unfortunately, Xiangzi is a Chinese character. Lao She explained at one part of the novel that Xiangzi’s ill-gotten luck is due to his being in the wrong place and at the wrong time. This is definitely the tragedy that doomed Xiangzi’s fate. Being an individualist, a man who works hard to get money for himself, the way his goal has always been directed towards himself, whether he’s saving up for a new rickshaw or avoiding having anything to do with his abominable wife Huniu, Xiangzi’s self-serving ways are frowned upon by the Chinese society who regards communal or social welfare as the most important goal which every person or Chinese citizen should strive for. His motivations, which eventually became his attachments:the first rickshaw that he bought, the money he obtained from selling the camels, his affection for Fuzi and admiration for Mr. Cao: all of these, while giving him a sense of security, led him to his downfall. Lao She’s sadistic plots might seem too harsh for some readers who might cry foul over his unmerciful plot devices, such as Xiangzi’s encounter with the spy hunting Mr Cao or his unfortunate wedding with Huniu, but these events all support the message that the author tries to impress upon the readers: the likes of Xiangzi can never succeed in a Chinese community because he is the antithesis of Confucian philosophy and values. But this does not necessarily mean the Lao She promotes Taoism either: otherwise why would Xiangzi of the last few chapters, while having abandoned everything and all the rules of the society, can still be seen as a tragic figure who is reduced to nothing more than an animal?Arguably, the success of Xiangzi, though not very evident, is his unwavering spirit that just lives on. In Chapter Twenty-Two, Lao She writes, “The soldiers who’d seized his rickshaw; Mrs. Yang, who’d withheld food from her servants; Huniu, who’d deceived and oppressed him; Fourth Master, who’d been contemptuous of him; Detective Sun, who’d swindled him out of his money; Granny Chen, who’d made a fool of him; Mrs. Xia, who’d tried to seduce him... They would die, all of them, while faithful, honest Xiangzi would live on forever!” While Xiangzi is arguably the victor in this strange tale of a man’s downfall, the cause of his undoing lies heavily on the society. The discrimination is obviously seen in the first chapter where the discussion of the classes of rickshaw pullers were categorized; this means that even in the lowest rungs of the society, people still marginalize other people. When Fourth Master celebrates his birthday and entertains the idea how repulsive it would be to have Xiangzi as a foster son or a son-in-law because of his low class, he does so because the society has dictated upon him that a man can be judged according to his class. In Xiangzi’s society, it is unfortunate that the social class is a more reliable basis in judging another person than his natural strengths, talents and abilities. And while the Taoist way of life can also be seen as the better alternative, the society frowns upon these rebels and regards the Taoist proponents as outcasts and degenerates as also seen in the character of Ruan Ming and the “respectable, ambitious, self-serving, individualistic, robust, and mighty Xiangzi” who has become a “degenerate, selfish, and hapless product of a sick society.”Perhaps, this is one of Lao She’s thrusts in writing the novel: by exposing how the so-called traditional virtues or values of the Chinese, both Confucian and Taoist, can still contribute to the degradation of human integrity through the piteous events that happened in Xiangzi’s life, the Chinese or perhaps any society should continuously question the relevance of these so-called time-tested, rich, cultural social virtues and traditions in the advancing modern world. Do these values and traditions still make us more human or do they reduce us to nothing more than emotionless, unthinking beasts?

  • Jim
    2018-09-29 12:58

    The Grapes of Wrath set in Beijing, but without the stratospheric commentary from Steinbeck's godlike narrator. Rickshaw is, as the forward points out, the social realist work the Socialists of the 1930s wanted to write but never did. It's a stark and muscular read as well as a great introduction to Chinese culture and literature of the Republic between the two world wars. (If I were to teach economics, I'd have my class read this and Mildred Pierce as clearheaded rebuttals to the dismal science.) Be sure to pick up this translation and not the earlier one which changes the ending to something more palatable for us running dog capitalists.

  • Petra
    2018-10-18 14:55

    Throughout this reading, The Jungle kept cropping up in my mind. This is the Chinese equivalent but it's so much more, as well. I was not fond of The Jungle but Rickshaw Boy tells the story from a Communist & Chinese point of view that shows the sorrow and futility of individualism during those times. The concept of living for the society, the whole is ever present in this book. Xiangzi is an individualist. He wants to work honestly and hard and for himself. He wants nothing more than to buy his own rickshaw so that he is self-sustainable. He works hard, he saves, he doesn't fraternize with others, etc. He's a loner. Chinese society of the 30s seems to frown upon these traits and Xiangzi's attempts to better himself are thwarted again and again. Lao She seems to side with his society's idea of success: work for the community, with the workers, stay in your place, etc. Although Xiangzi cannot live against society, this is still a good, enjoyable read. This is an interesting story set against 1930s Communist society and tells a story of the times. I will look into other books by Lao She.

  • Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
    2018-10-07 18:57

    I first encountered the world of rickshaw pullers when I read The City of Joy. "Camel" Xiangzi, like the main character in that book, is one of China's poorest: an illiterate orphan, he goes to Beiping seeking work, but finds that heavy labour as a coolie is not for him. Having no other saleable skills, he becomes a rickshaw puller. His entire ambition in life is to own a rickshaw--if not two. At first he is single-minded, depriving himself of treats and rest in his drive to achieve that goal. He sees himself as the original Hard-Luck Harry; every time he gets within striking distance, something goes wrong and he's back where he started. And yet for a large part of the novel, he (like many people) doesn't seem to recognise his lucky breaks when they come by: there always seems to be someone to provide an option, a chance--and Camel just goes with the flow. Eventually, though, his self-centredness catches up with him, and he misses a golden opportunity.Political events are mentioned almost in passing, but inform the text to a great degree. I usually leave Introductions, Prologues and Forewords until after I've read the text, as they tend to be full of spoilers (or gratuitous self-aggrandizement for the person writing them), but in this case I'm glad I read it first. The author's disillusionment with his own life choices is reflected in the text, but in a highly readable way. The ending was a total surprise, and I wasn't sure it fit, but it did make sense in the course of the character's transformation, a sort of Pilgrim's Progress in reverse.Not my usual sort of read, but I feel I got a lot out of it. Thanks to my Goodreads pals who put me onto this one. Even today, life for the poorest of the poor is not a pretty thing; not even in "first world" countries. And yes, there are many people there too who are just scraping by--not all of them are "lazy", or "choose" destitution, either.Side note: I've been re-reading The Children of Sánchez, and Camel reminded me first of Roberto, the dreamer, and later of self-serving, self-pitying Manuel. But that's just by the way.

  • Cecília Visconti
    2018-09-28 18:42

    O Garoto do Riquixá é um romance do autor chinês Lao She (pseudônimo de Shu Qingchun), publicado originalmente em 1937. No Brasil, a obra foi publicada pela editora Estação Liberdade em 2017.O livro nos traz a história de Xiangzi, um humilde, honesto e ingênuo puxador de riquixá que sai do campo para tentar a vida na cidade de Beijing durante as décadas de 20 e 30.Otimista e determinado, Xiangzi possui um único sonho: conseguir economizar alguns yuans (dinheiro chinês) para comprar o seu próprio riquixá, mesmo que para isso tenha que trabalhar dia e noite sem descanso.Embora Xiangzi seja um dos melhores em sua profissão, uma série de complicações surge ao longo de sua vida, desiludindo-o aos poucos e mostrando-lhe que às vezes não basta ser bom e correto para ter sorte e alcançar seus sonhos.A obra retrata com nitidez as aspirações, frustações e decadência do homem. A degradação de Xiangzi é gradual, à medida que sofre com as intempéries da vida. Ao mesmo tempo, o livro vai pincelando histórias de personagens secundários que, somando-se às tragédias vividas pelo personagem principal, formam um quadro de uma China miserável.As descrições extremamente detalhadas da obra são um ponto forte. É quase possível ver as paisagens, ruas e templos diante dos seus olhos, bem como sentir os aromas das comidas e bebidas asiáticas.O Garoto do Riquixá não é uma história bela ou de superação, mas, sim, uma história sobre pobreza extrema e sobrevivência. É um daqueles livros que te fará pensar durante horas sobre as atitudes humanas.Na minha experiência, O Garoto do Riquixá fugiu completamente do que eu estou acostumada a ler, mas conseguiu prender a minha atenção e me fez torcer até o fim por Xiangzi.Recomendo a leitura, principalmente para aqueles que gostam de conhecer obras literárias do mundo inteiro. Um viva à literatura asiática!

  • Bucket
    2018-09-25 14:53

    "The life of a poor man…was like the pit of a date, pointed on both ends and round in the middle. You're lucky to get through childhood without dying of hunger, and can hardly avoid starving to death when you're old. Only during your middle years, when you're strong and unafraid of either hunger or hard work, can you live like a human being." This is the essence of Lao She's Chinese classic novel Rickshaw Boy. Xiangzi is an impoverished rickshaw puller in his twenties who is ambitious enough to make sacrifices and save up to improve his lot in life, only to have his hopes and dreams dashed over and over again. The moment things are going right for Xiangzi, another misadventure befalls him. Despite this endless tragedy, Lao She's story is comical, if painfully so. The sheer unfairness of the ups and downs and the matter-of-fact tone of the writing force the reader to laugh with a grimace. The city of Beiping (now known as Beijing) plays a critical role in the book. As a rickshaw man, Xiangzi knows every nook and cranny. Despite the poverty and lack of opportunity he faces, Xiangzi never has a negative thought about his city. In fact, "Xiangzi had but one friend: this ancient city." He can't imagine ever leaving it, even if leaving might improve his situation. Beiping is home for Xiangzi in the fullest sense of the word. Ultimately, Rickshaw Boy is the story of the hopelessness that results from extreme poverty. Without the slightest chance to ever live comfortably, Lao She makes clear that a rickshaw man has little reason to work any harder than he must to survive the day: "Sloth is the natural result of unrewarded hard work among the poor, reason enough for them to be prickly." He also has little reason to even think about the future. After all, any gains he makes will be taken from him: "Experience had taught him that tomorrow was but an extension of today, a continuation of the current wrongs and abuses." Rickshaw Boy is a quick and fairly easy read, with a very overt message. What I enjoyed most about it reading it was the fact that it took me well outside the usual realm of literary classics from America and Great Britain. Rickshaw Boy is a Chinese story and a successful portal into 1930s China. But it’s also a universal story of the hopelessness that extreme economic disparity breeds; this is a very relevant message in our world today.

  • Emily
    2018-10-16 18:49

    The story of Hsiang Tzu in Rickshaw depicted the hard way of life in Peking during the 1930’s. The story opened my eyes to how harsh life was for the average person in China during these times. Rickshaw demonstrated several themes of naturalistic literature, and I think Lao She did an excellent job of exploring these themes. Hsiang Tzu surrenders himself to fate and believes he has no control over his own life. The harder life gets for Hsiang Tzu the more he gives himself to fate. This is an example of determinism, one of the themes of naturalism in the novel. In several of the modern Chinese novels I've read, determinism seems to be a big theme. The novel is often times frustrating because Hsiang Tzu was a good character and such a hard worker, but his surrender to fate leads him down many unfortunate roads (pun intended).

  • Deborah Pickstone
    2018-09-29 15:43

    Xiangzi wants to swim upstream and be a self-sustaining individualist in a culture based on the collective. Or a Capitalist in a Socialist environment? It is, of course, hopeless unless you are a salmon. The parable that this book is actually sides with the collective. We read it in translation with the mindset that the individual is supreme but of course it was written from the other perspective and is a critique of the philosophy of individualism. Thus, Xiangzi is in the wrong and should be striving to work for the community, not to better himself. Eventually he gives in to the cultural imperative.This aside, it is a very interesting look at life as it was for the poor in China in the 1930s.

  • Matej Laš
    2018-09-29 19:01

    Najdivnejšia ľavicová agitka, akú som kedy čítal. Ak ma malo toto prinútiť postaviť sa po boku Maoa a šíriť svetlejšie zajtrajšky, tak je to dosť smutné. Na vine nešťastia hlavnej postavy nebola spoločnosť, ale jeho absencia kontaktu s mozgom. O sile kultúrnej revolúcii vás to presvedčí asi tak, ako Sulíkove blogy o pravicovom racionalizme.

  • Ala'a
    2018-10-05 15:55

    هذة ليست تجربتي الأولى مع الأدب الصيني ولذلك كان يجب أن أكون مستعدة لما سوف أواجه!ولكن في حالة " الأرض الطيبة" كان عزائي بأن الأب لم يقم ببيع ابنته الصغيرة تحت اي ظرف. لندع هذا جانباً الآن وننتقل إلى رواية " لاو شو" " فتى عربة الركشة". تدور الأحداث حول "الفتى السعيد" الذي يرحل عن قريته بالتوجه إلى بكين رغبة بإقتناء عربة ركشة خاصة به وجمع أموال كثيرة تمكنه من العودة لقريته وإنتقاء فتاة صالحة لتصبح زوجة ومعاونة له بأمور الحياة. ولكن تجري الرياح بما لاتشتهي السفن، وهذا هو ابن القرية الساذج يحاول النجاة في هذة المدينة التي يتضور أهلها جوعاً وفقراً ويعم الفساد ارجائها. انني حقاً لا أجد متعة في القراءة عن آلام و مصائب الناس؛ فها هو ذا الأب "الصنديد" يبيع إبنته "المحظوظة الصغيرة" لضابط شرطة بثمن بخس ثم لاتجد الأم طعماً للراحة بعد فقدان ابنتها فتدخل في عراك مع زوجها وينتهي الأمر بطفليها الصغيرين يبكيان بجانب جثتها. ثم تعود "المحظوظة الصغيرة" بعد ان غادر الضابط المدينة ولم يعد يحتاجها، الى المنزل لتجد اخويها يمسكان بيديها وقد اغرورقت اعينهم بالدموع. أخيراً سوف يحصلان على شخص يمسك محل الأم. أما الأب، لم يفرح بعودتها ولم يرى فيها غير زيادة للأفواه الجائعة. حينها يطلب منها أن تبيع جسدها اذا كانت لاتريد لأخويها ان يموتا من الجوع. ثم يعاملها أمام الناس كقطعة نفاية ليس لديها ذرة كبرياء ويأخذ ماتحصل عليه من نقود ليشتري الخمر والسجائر. أكتشفت انني أعشق الأدب الروسي وكذلك الفرنسي بشكل عام، أشعر بالحماس عندما أغوص بأعماق النفس البشرية مع بودلير او دوستويفسكي! لا يهم، عودة لروايتنا، أكثر ما أثار اشمئزازي هو غياب الرحمة بين الناس في ذلك الوقت. على سبيل المثال لا الحصر، ها هي "الفتاة النمرة" تنتقل للعيش بمبنى للفقراء حيث كان الباعة المتجولين يعرضون أطعمتهم من بقايا الكرنب وما التصق على العظم من اللحم. أما الآن وقد سكنت فتاة تملك المال فقد اتى من يصرخ بأطيب انواع الأطعمة فتذهب "الفتاة النمرة" لتشتري مالذ وطاب وتشعر بالفخر والعلو وهي تمشي بين جيرانها الفقراء ثم تقفل الباب. واقعية هذ الرواية حازت على إعجابي. جميع الشخصيات تبرر لنفسها ولاترى اي ضير فيما تفعله بينما في نفس الوقت تعي كل شيء وحقيقة وضعها اكثر من اي شخص آخر. كما أنه هناك الكثير من الوصف لحوذية الركشة وطبيعة حياتهم. جميعنا نعلم أن هذة الوظيفة المرهقة غريبة على مجتمعنا لذلك كان الممتع التعرف على أسرار هذة المهنة. أرى أن النهاية بها بصيص من الأمل، "طبقة الطلاب القوية" قادمة ولسوف تتغير الأحوال إلى حال أفضل مادام الشعب واعي بحقوقة وينتفض ضد الفساد يداً واحدة. وما اروع مثال العجوز بجانب ساحة الإعدام. فأن الأطفال يقبضون على الجرادة ويربطون خيطاً بقدميها أذا قفزت عالياً وتسنى لهم رؤيتها، والأهم، اذا كانت وحيدة. أما الحال فيختلف تمام الإختلاف مع سرب من الجراد! الفتى السعيد ايها الفتى الأحمق، May the odds be ever in your favor.

  • Melaslithos
    2018-10-06 18:03

    There is a little bit of Zola in Lao She. The later is giving us here a dark and accusing tale where despite all his good will, the main character, Xiangzi, will never manage to escape his condition as a rickshaw boy, one of the lowest in the society of that time.Xingzi is introduced at first as a young, strong man, honest and hard-working, albeit a bit naive. All that he whishes for is to make a correct living thanks to his hard work. Unfortunately, despite all his hard-working, he will never make it, all the contrary. Be it the political events taking place in China at that time or just plain humain cupidity, Xiangzi will only go from desillusion to desillusion. We assist, powerless, to his slow fall. From a young, innocent man, the society makes a desenchented, amoral, wreak of a man, ready to everything in order to get a few coins.Lao She is presenting here a bleak society and a fierce criticism of the Chinese society of his time.

  • Devyn
    2018-10-08 19:11

    A surprisingly enjoyable classic. It was interesting to read of what China must have been like so long ago and how rickshaw boys made a living.I'm not sure some of the parts I found funny were meant to be, or if my American sense of humor found amusement in it, but some parts of the book was just downright hilarious!I even liked the ending!I expected something far more bitter than the happy, so I was pleasantly surprised.

  • Rosemarie
    2018-10-02 13:59

    I really wanted to like this book, but the book is depressing and I couldn't relate to any of the characters. There is not one glimmer of hope in this book for anyone that is poor- you were poor, you work yourself to death, and you die poor. On the other hand, if you were born in the middle class or upper classes....

  • Dylan Suher
    2018-10-17 13:54

    Review here:

  • Stephen Douglas Rowland
    2018-09-27 20:11

    I am thinking I will probably edit this review in the future, when I have learned more about Chinese society. On one hand, this novel is brilliant, brutal, and relentless, with a somewhat hypnotic writing style that offers no comparison. It is surely the most depressing novel I've ever read, which says quite a lot if you know me and my penchant for hopelessness (as well as my 5-year foray into Japanese literature). Yet the ultimate, anti-individualist message still confuses me. The author criticizes individualism in the same breath as his horrific portrayal of collectivism (crowds mindlessly lining the streets to witness an execution). While I understand the collectivist nature of most Asian societies, I have never seen anything so blatant in even pre-WWII Japanese literature. I'm sure the comparison is not a fair one, but it's all I have to go on. As one of the first works of Chinese social realism (the first, maybe), "Rickshaw Boy" is without doubt important and shockingly effective.

  • Dree
    2018-10-05 14:10

    Xiangzi is a country boy who moves to Beiping (Beijing). He works as a rickshaw puller, and through hard work, saving, clean living, and honesty, he plans to save until he can buy his own rickshaw and eventually own a rickshaw stand. Despite his best efforts, he is thwarted every time he starts to get ahead, through no fault of his own, and eventually gives up his grand dreams, and then his basic dreams as well.An easy read, but fairly repetitive and obvious once you catch on to the pattern. Also sad and predictable.——————This novel has been very popular in China, and is an indictment of the philosophy of individualism (per the back cover)--one man, working hard alone, is unlikely or unable to move ahead given a lack of safety net or family/friend network.

  • Jason
    2018-10-06 13:00

    In the introduction to this edition, the translator claims that Lao She was influenced by Dickens. For me, that provides a way into this often inscrutable narrative. It is very Dickensian in its bleakness, its concerns for the trials of the underclass, and, surprisingly, its humor. The book's dust jacket describes Rickshaw Boy as "darkly comic". I'm not so sure about that, but it is sometimes funny. Sure, its humor tends to be uncomfortably misogynist, but it's still humor. The book is also described as "a searing indictment of the philosophy of individualism". I'll have to take the writer's word for that; protagonist rickshaw man Xiangzi seems equally screwed whether he's out for himself or connected with family and community.Despite all of this, it's often a very good book. On strictly narrative terms, it is successful, and as a description of 1930s Beijing it is excellent. Reporting the life of those suffering in the margins of society, the book's pathos works well too. It's easy to root for Xiangzi to finally buy his own damned rickshaw even though it becomes apparent pretty quickly that universal forces will continually align to negate his Sisyphean efforts. There's not much in the way of dialogue, but the omniscient narration gives us access to Xiangzi's internal state and allows us to witness him fluctuate wildly between optimism and total defeat. Other characters are interesting, especially Xiangzi's strong willed wife Hunui, who serves mainly as a reductive stereotype of a shrewish wife, and her father, Xiangzi's mentor/antagonist.The issue for me that I run into a lot in Chinese literature is one of tone. Here, Xiangzi is full of outrage over socioeconomic inequality, which may actually be the book's critique of individualism (capitalism?), but both the character and the narrator are pretty morally relative when it comes to domestic horror. Women and children are bought and sold, forced into prostitution, beaten and killed by their drunken fathers and husbands, and all of this is reported as objectively as a heat wave or rain storm. It's possible that this objectivity is meant to show the grim reality of the poorest people in Beijing, but it's jarring and, for me at least, it's what keeps me from ever completely immersing myself in the world of Rickshaw Boy.

  • James
    2018-09-26 18:03

    Lao She is one of the most celebrated modern Chinese authors, and with Rickshaw Boy, he confirmed his status as one of China's best novelists and storytellers. Telling the story of Xiangzi, a man of simple needs but with great ambition, who despite all his best efforts is constantly thwarted by the cruel vicissitudes of life. At every turn, life and its cruel disinterest tears down every shred of happiness and success Xiangzi has. Ultimately, after suffering so long, Xiangzi accepts his fate on the margins of society, no longer caring to improve or change himself - because what would be the point?This novel is one of the representative works of Chinese Social Realism, drawing attention to the everyday conditions of the working classes and the poor while highlighting the conditions that restrain or hinder their improvements. In Rickshaw Boy, it is Xiangzi's own deluded optimism and his steadfast individualism that constantly held him back. It is a scathing critique of self-reliance and individualism so foreign to traditional Chinese society; throughout the novel, Xiangzi has many opportunities to socialise, to make friends and allies yet scorns them in his pursuit of his own improvement. It portrays the physical and moral decline of an upright man in a deeply unjust society, and yet also shows a solution: collective action.Rickshaw Boy is a powerful and moving portrayal of Beijing (then called Beiping) during the Republican Era and yet it is also deeply depressing. The reader empathises with Xiangzi - we want him to succeed - and yet the reader sees him at every turn being beaten down and defeated, resorting to alcohol and denigration. This power that Lao She has in writing proves him to be one of China's best authors and Rickshaw Boy his crowning achievement.

  • b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb
    2018-09-30 11:43

    What a cynical, hateful book. As soon as any positive trait or event is dangled out in the story you can place sure money the author will soon get busy trampling it down to ruin. This happens so often and consistently that it's hard not to suspect the author of taking a kind of bitter, gleeful pleasure in grinding everything good down into misery and failure. Nor is this the somber bleakness of a Joyce Carol Oates novel, which at least have a measure of dignity and consistency to their gloom. In a crowning touch of jaded irony the author has chosen to name the main character "Happy Boy"/"Lucky Lad". Great. The attempt to reverse the negative tone of the entire book with three positive sentences at the end is hardly convincing. It merely leaves one expecting yet another chapter in which the lingering positivity is quickly struck down in debasement. (CORRECTION - the happy ending was an unauthorized change by the translators in the first edition. Well, at least the original stayed true to form up to the end...)Let's top this off with a quote from the end of the first chapter. (what else can you expect with this kind of foreshadowing?)"But most bright hopes come to strange and bitter endings, and Happy Boy's were no exception to the rule."Sure, it's capably written. But to what end if it's so unpleasant, not just in material, but in the spirit of how the story is told? Ugh.(From Wikipedia)In an afterword dated September, 1954, included in the Foreign Languages Press edition of Rickshaw Boy, Lao She said that he had edited the manuscript ("taken out some of the coarser language and some unnecessary descriptions") and he expressed regret for the lack of hope expressed in the original edition.Right-o. A bit late or that.

  • Sonia
    2018-10-06 18:01

    I wish I could read Chinese so I could read what the author actually wrote. This translation seemed so dull - at first it was like reading a newspaper article or a primer (see Jane run). But then, there were whole pages spent describing a sunset or a rainstorm. It's hard to tell whether this uneven writing was the translator trying to pad the story or if it was originally written this way by the author. There are a lot of modern expressions used which seemed out of place. If it was written seventy years ago, did people then say "mixing it up" when they meant fighting? Indeed, the translator even, in his introduction, said "I have opted for contemporary relevance over period prose" and saw "no reason to be quaint". Maybe a little "quaint" would have improved the story and been more in line with what the author wanted to say.The story is about the downward spiral of a rickshaw puller which parallels the demoralizing troubles many people suffer these days. The ending was stunning, though abrupt.I honestly hated the book throughout most of my reading and felt I had wasted my money buying it. However, I gave it three stars because it is such a powerful story.

  • Gisela Hafezparast
    2018-10-13 11:49

    This is the story of an underdog in China. A young man who comes to town from the country to try and make a life from himself with the only thing he has good, a strong body. No education, no family, no connection. The book describes what was before the Chinese revolution a typical tale of a rickshaw man and what must have happened (and possibly happens) to them in the millions. Of course, people like that where and are not only in China and it is once again, a good depiction why desperate people are swepped up in revolutions, political unrest or these days false religious leaders.The book describes small town China before the Revolution from the eyes of a rickshaw man and it is very well done. The characters are very vivid and whilst you feel for them deeply, it is not sentimental.I would recommend this book to anyone interested both in China and early 19 century period, before the wars and revolutions.

  • Azhar
    2018-10-18 14:51

    A bleak glimpse into the miserable existence of the poorest in pre-revolution China. The continuous tides of hope, effort and disappointment simultaneously offers the reader an insight into the harsh realities of representing the society's lowest rungs, as well as exhibiting the author's revulsion towards the existing social structure.Going through the translation, however, is a tedious affair at times. It can be imagined that much of the linguistic richness is lost in the process.

  • Kathy Chung
    2018-09-27 13:02

    I find that the main character is very naive and innocent. at times I felt like whacking his head.what I like about this book is it pretty much describe the era real well. what I didn't like was that it concentrate too much on the main character. felt a bit bired at times

  • Cathy
    2018-09-28 15:06

    I thought this book was a great window into a very different and interesting culture. I felt empathy for Xiangzi in his unlucky turn of events. The book started to drag toward the end, but I very much enjoyed reading it... I found myself putting it down and picking it back up again.

  • Ruth
    2018-09-26 11:50

    Beware: extremely depressing.. do not read if you are feeling depressed already. But this book is AMAZING and one cannot come away from it without a clear picture of oppression.

  • Lemar
    2018-10-14 19:51

    I read this book years ago and the protagonist and many scenes remain. Highly recommended.

  • Ben
    2018-10-05 14:47

    Rickshaw Boy (1937) is the most beloved work by Lao She, one of Beijing's, and China's, most beloved writers. I've been aware of Lao She ever since I went to have a look at his former courtyard residence after spotting it on a map just down the road from my hotel in Beijing a few years ago.Rickshaw Boy tells the story of Xiangzi, a poor puller of rented rickshaws who dreams of one day saving up enough money to buy his own rickshaw, and his natural gifts of youth, strength and optimism seem sufficient to pull off such a modest-seeming aim.Lao She spent some of the 1920s living in London (his novel, Mr Ma and Son, is based on the experience) and during that time he got into British fiction, especially nineteenth-century British fiction. You can see the influence of Dickens here in the descriptions of the labyrinthine and ancient city of Beijing.However, Xiangzi's tragic plight is quintessentially Hardyesque. Like Jude or Tess, he is a good person whose simple hopes are thwarted again and again by a malevolent fate.Although sometimes darkly humorous, Rickshaw Boy unflinchingly depicts crushing poverty. This isn't a happy read. There's no real way out for these men and women, even if they achieve their modest ambitions. Ultimately, it's a damming indictment of a harsh and uncaring society and a compassionate tribute to the destitute and hopeless who inhabit the margins of Lao She's beloved home town.

  • Brian Trinh
    2018-10-18 15:49

    Wow. Heartbreaking. Everything that's wrong with Capitalist society and the ideologies that keep the ruling class in power. Rickshaw Boy is a harrowing critique of Individualism seen through the eyes of Xiangzi: an illiterate, countrified, young working class man who struggles relentlessly to become a self-made individual. It is a myth we celebrate in U.S culture. It is the rags-to-riches story; the pursuit of individual happiness. His sole ambition in life is to earn enough money to buy his own rickshaw so he can be self-sustaining, and yet his attempts are thwarted over and over again. A series of really unfortunate events hammer Xiangzi so that "time and again he'd reached up only to be thrown back, as by a ghostly apparition that forever eluded his grasp (238). We learn very quickly that his idealism has no solution, no way out, and no future because his life and experiences are a product of a fucked up society. Capitalism blames the poor and homeless for being responsible for their lot in life. If only they worked harder. If only they were smarter. Rickshaw Boy dispels these myths:"Experience is the soil of life; it determines what a man will become. A peony will not grow in the desert," Lao She writes (259).One last quote that stuck with me: "Mankind had managed to rise above wild animals, only to arrive at the point where people banished their fellow-men right back into the animal kingdom" (281).