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

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

人面桃花 (lit. Peach-Blossom Beauty)

Novel by Ge Fei.

Beauty (Renmian Taohua), first published in September 2004 and set during the early years of the Chinese Communist Revolution, recounts the coming-of-age story of a young woman from the countryside, Xiumi. For Xiumi, the revolutionary Zhang Jiyuan symbolizes all that is wonderful and mysterious about the world. For Zhang Jiyuan, the very existence of this beautiful young woman—and his hidden desire for her—shakes his belief in revolution itself. Their relationship develops, only to be cut short by the downfall of the Revolutionary Party and Zhang Jiyuan’s sudden death. Xiumi’s wedding sedan is ambushed by bandits on the road to her new home and she is kidnapped and imprisoned on an island at the center of a lake. During her confinement, she reads Zhang Jiyuan’s diary and learns the real reasons behind the Revolutionary Party’s search for a brave new world. Eventually, Xiumi’s own revolutionary blueprint integrates her father’s utopian dreams with Zhang Jiyuan’s hopes for this brave new world.

The language of the novel is simple and concise; the storyline is tied from the very beginning to one of China’s most famous tales, the story of the Peach Blossom Spring. The Jin author Tao Yuanming (Tao Qian) once wrote of a traveler who came upon a utopian village in a clearing at the foot of a mountain. After spending several joy-filled days in the village, he departed with a request from the villagers that he never tell the outside world of their existence. He was unable to keep the secret however, and led the curious in search of the Shangri-la that he had come upon during his travels. Sure enough, the village had disappeared and his dreams of utopia were gone forever. Xiumi’s father has a copy of a map drawn by the famous Tang writer and philosopher Han Yu, or Han Changli. The map, of course, holds the key to the location of the Peach Blossom Spring, and to the utopia hidden there. It is this map that drives her father to insanity – this is where Ge Fei’s story begins.

Complete Chinese text also available on-line at SOHU.com.