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Panda, a common typing and binding worker in State Grid for 21 years. Own a bachelor degree of Chinese Language and Literature, and a certificate of teaching Chinese. She is pursuing a Master of Chinese Classical Literature in HuBei University, and studying the novels of Ming & Qing dynasties.
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Fortress Besieged (2)    

By Panda
3850 Views | 2 Comments | 8/6/2010 1:05:11 AM

Marriage is like a fortress besieged

I introduce this novel to westerners, because we can find the different between west and orient from this book. Love and marriage are two different things in China. A man and a woman can marry without love in China. But westerners think much of love before marriage. Qian Zhongshu was not interested in pointing out social problems, publicizing -isms, teaching sb. a lesson, but depict a whole human world.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Fortress Besieged
Author Qian Zhongshu
Country China
Language Chinese
Genre(s) Novel
Original Publication date 1947
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

Fortress Besieged (Simplified Chinese: 围城; Traditional Chinese: 圍城; Pinyin: wéi chéng) was written by Qian Zhongshu, published in 1947, and is widely considered as one of the masterpieces of twentieth century Chinese literature. The novel is a humorous tale about middle-class Chinese society in the 1940s. It is also one of the most well-known contemporary Chinese novels in China, and was made into a popular television series in the early 1990s.

Origin and History

The book was begun while Qian Zhongshu and wife Yang Jiang were living in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. According to Yang Jiang, the successful production of several of her plays inspired Qian to write a full length novel.

The novel was begun in 1944, and completed in 1946. Much of the characters and plot are taken from the experiences of Qian and Yang abroad and in China. For example, the opening scene at sea reflects their journey from France to China onboard the ship Athos II.

The title is based on a French proverb: Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out.

The novel is known for its acerbic asides, such as describing one young lady in the following way:
At first, they called her "truth" because "the truth is naked". But then, she's not actually completely naked. So they amended it to "partial-truth".

The novel was published in Shanghai in 1947. The second edition was published 1948. The third edition in 1949. After the Communist Revolution, the book was not printed again in mainland China until 1980. In the mean time, it was also banned in Taiwan because of its satire of the Nationalist government.
The novel has been translated into many languages. These include the Russian version which appeared in 1979, the American English version in 1979; and the German version in 1982.

Plot summary

Set in the 1930s it follows the misadventures of Fang Hung-chien (Fang Hongjian), a bumbling everyman who wastes his time studying abroad, and secures a fake degree when learning he has run out of money and must return home to China. The first part of the novel is set on the boat home, where Fang courts two young ladies.

Fang was the son of a country gentleman. A marriage had been arranged for him while at university, but the intended wife died before he could see her. After completing a degree in Chinese literature, he went to Europe where he studied at several universities without pursuing a degree. After being pressured by his family, he bought a fake degree from an American Irishman.

The year was 1937, and Fang was returning to China from Europe along with other graduating Chinese students. One fellow traveller was Miss Su, in her late 20s. She is quite pretty in a thin and pallid style, but her choosy attitude towards men means she is still unattached and getting slightly desperate. Another young lady on board was Miss Pao, who tended towards the tanned and voluptuous. Fang pursued Miss Bao with some success during the voyage. However, when the boat reached Hong Kong, Miss Pao disembarked into the embrace of her fiancee, a middle-aged, balding doctor, and Fang realised he had been used.

Fang then became more intimate with Miss Su. However, after they disembarked at Shanghai, Fang became occupied with finding a job, and attending matchmaking sessions arranged by his parents and former in-laws. After one failed attempt, Fang decided to contact Miss Su. While visiting her he also met her cousin, Miss T'ang, and Miss Su's suitor, Chao Hsin-mei.

The second section follows his securing a teaching post at a new university - where his fake credentials are used to keep him in line, and in the third part, it centers on his disastrous marriage. The novel ends with his wife leaving him, while he listens to a clock chiming.


Since its re-publication in 1980 in mainland China, Fortress Besieged has become nationally famous. Part of its popularity grew from its popular television series adaptation of 1990 and later radio series adaptation.

Aspects of the novel have entered the Chinese idiomatic lexicon. For example, "Carleton University", from which the novel's character obtained his PhD paper, is used as an idiom meaning an illegitimate foreign degree qualification or academic institution. Likewise, the novel's title, deriving from the French proverb, has given rise to a similar proverb in Chinese.

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Categories: 1947 novels | Chinese Republican era novels | Shanghai in literature

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(Showing 1 to 2 of 2) 1
#2010-08-23 17:57:54 by simonsays123 @simonsays123

yes, marriiage and love are two different things and those on the outside thinks it's nicer being innsidde and that may well be true but for many, they are trapped. a lot of chinees women i know are trapped but they make their choicees, for security and for family and many stayed withon a loveless fortress

#2010-09-14 07:09:18 by fun4usa @fun4usa

Hi Panda,

You read many books and your have lots of knowledge regarding the Chinese cultures. Marriage can be wonderful for many people and a prison for countless others. Chinese and western people can make the choice of staying in a marriage or ending the marriage. The question that should be asked before leaving a marriage is: Are we better off with our without that lifemate????
Please take care,

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