“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

15 Years Later, an Unexpurgated Edition of White Deer Plain

On the coattails of the 2011 release of the film White Deer Plain, People's Literature Publishing House has re-released the book in a new edition, restoring extensive deletions made in the late 90s so that the book could be eligible for a prestigious domestic prize.

White Deer Plain, first published in 1993, is the only major novel by author Chen Zhongshi, who spent more than a decade researching the history and customs of his native Shaanxi province. The novel was an enormous success, going on to sell nearly a million and half copies. But when the book came under consideration for the 4th Mao Dun Literary Prize in 1997, Chen was requested to make the book more "acceptable" with certain edits.

The story of two clans in the Wei River Plains of Shaanxi, White Deer Plain was objectionable for its sexual content – it opens with an extended sex scene, and doesn't let up as the story goes on – as well as political. Spanning the end of the Qing dynasty, the Republican Period, the Japanese invasion, and the early years of the new Communist China, the novel portrays this succession of governments as a little too similar in their corruption and violence for the liking of PRC censors.

The "cleansed" version continued to be published right up until this year, when People's Literature Publishing House restored the original text.

The French translation of the book, Au pays du cerf blanc, was published by Éditions du Seuil earlier this year: a translation made from the original, unexpurgated text. Éditions du Seuil currently holds all foreign language rights to the book.