by Mark Smith and Henry Zhao
The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is the largest construction project in the history of China. These famous areas of natural beauty will have their height cut to one third by the Reservoir, which will submerge the whole area, the cradle of Chinese civilization for three millenia.
Liu’s husband, Li Lusheng, is Director of the Dam project, and is being unfaithful. Liu goes to visit him and on finding out about his infidelity flees in disgust to her old home, Liang, where protestors against the Dam persuade her to join them. There she is told the story of the crucifixion of Red Lotus, a prostitute, and a Buddhist priest, whose vilification is described in graphic detail. The book takes on the subjects of reincarnation and a spiritual quest in the face of economic development and provides a fascinating insight into the intricate details of Chinese life.
Hong Ying surpasses her previous novel, K: The Art of Love, with a novel of political and sexual tensions.
Hong Ying was born in Chingqing in 1962 into a boatman's family. She was the sixth child in a family of eight, and endured great poverty and hunger as a child during the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution. Her mother had to work as a brick labourer to feed the family, while her father was too ill to work. She later discovered that she was in fact the illegitimate daughter of a lover her mother took while her father was in prison. She began her career as a writer of both fiction and poetry in the early 1980s, and studied at the Lu Xun Creative Writing Academy and Fudan University in the late 1980s. In 1991 she came to England and settled in London. She now divides her time between Beijing and Italy.
'The Yangzte river was a malevolent presence in Hong Ying's autobiography Daughter of the River - a depository of bloated corpses and evil smells. Her fourth novel, set against the backdrop of the controversial Three Gorges dam project, also implicates the river in a trail of destruction and loss. Lui, Hong Ying's depressed narrator, is married to one of the directors of the damn project. On an impromptu visit to Liang County to find out if her husband is having an affair, she also revisits her childhood home, soon to be covered by flood waters. A novel that paints a very tangible portrait of contemporary Chinese life.' The Independent
Publication: October 2005