Paper Republic: Chinese Literature Matters

上海宝贝 (lit. Shanghai Baby)

Novel by Wei Hui.


Shanghai Baby

Translated by Bruce Humes, June, 2001

First championed by the state media as a rising star of her generation, Wei Hui is now dubbed 'decadent, debauched and a slave of foreign culture'. Shanghai Baby was banned by the authorities in April 2000 and 40,000 copies were publicly burned, serving only to fan the flames of the author's cult status.

The novel's narrator and main character, supposedly a semi-fictionalised version of the author, is a 25-year-old Shanghainese woman named Nikki, or Coco to her friends, a waitress in a Shanghai cafe. Coco is trying to write a first novel after previous success publishing a collection of sexually frank short stories. At the cafe, Coco meets a young man, Tian Tian, for whom she feels extreme tenderness and love. However, Tian Tian – an artist – is reclusive, impotent and an increasing frequent user of drugs. Despite parental objections, Coco moves in with him, leaves her job and throws herself into writing.

Shortly afterwards Coco meets Mark, a married German expatriate businessman living in Shanghai. The two are uncontrollably attracted to one another and begin a highly charged, physical affair. Torn between her two lovers, and tormented by her deceit, her unfinished novel and the conflicting feelings involved in love, lust and betrayal, Coco tries to understand who she is and what she wants from life.

Read a review of Shanghai Baby by Christine Loh, CEO of Hong Kong's Civic Exchange.


Shanghai Baby Constable and Robinson Feb. 2003 UK

Original Publications:

上海宝贝 (Mainland China)