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

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

[When a Baby is Born] (lit. When a Baby is Born)

Novel by Cheng Naishan.

This fascinating novel by one of contemporary China's most prolific writers offers insight into a chaotic period in modern Chinese history.

The early sixties of the last century saw the exodus of Shanghai's educated youth to the wilderness of Northwestern China. They were mainly engaged in farming there, working in appalling conditions. Tang Dawei, a high school student from a wealthy family, volunteers to go in order to flee the merciless criticism and unbearable social pressure that follow an "incident." Dawei settles down in the Gobi Desert, where he goes through countless hardships and ordeals to transform himself into a "tough guy." However, China's open door policy, of the early eighties, brings about dramatic changes in his life. After achieving academic success and professional recognition, he is eventually vindicated.

His dramatic life experience is interwoven with three relationships he gets involved in. The first relationship is with his first love, Xiaomei, who is a pretty but rather dependent girl destined to lead a comfortable but dull life; the second one is with his wife, Spring Flower, who is a peasant girl struggling alongside him with incredible courage, tenacity, and love; and the third one is with Xiao'an, a young engineer who, under his guidance, breaks loose from the shackles imposed on her and embarks on a new independent life.

Translations:

When a Baby is Born

Translated by Benjamin Chang

Publications

When a Baby is Born Better Link Press, Shanghai Press and Publishing Development Company Oct. 2010 Mainland China