Renditions no. 49 (Spring 1998)​

Features Zhang Kangkang’s ‘Cruelty’, a story of the Cultural Revolution; poems by Bai Juyi; takes of concubines from Li Yu and Guan Hanqing, and a fable, Supplement to Jiang Zong’s Biography of a White Ape.

156 pages


Table of Contents

Editor’s Page 4
Guan Hanqing A Sister Courtesan Comes to the Rescue
Translated by George Kao
Bai Juyi Seventeen Poems
Translated by Burton Watson
Anonymous A Supplement to Jiang Zong’s Biography of A White Ape
Translated by Jue Chen
Li Yu Wife and Concubine Remarry / Maid-concubine Remians Constant
Translated by Paul Or
Zhang Kangkang Cruelty
Translated by Richard King
Book Notices 123
Notes on Authors 153
Notes on Contributors 154
Books Received 156

Sample Reading

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Cruelty: excerpts
By Zhang Kangkang
Translated by Richard King


Niu Ben had been dead for twenty years, and as the anniversary of his death approached, Ma Rong was the only one of his urban youth contemporaries to mark the occasion. Perhaps it was coincidence that caused him to remember. He had received an urgent telegram telling him that a consignment of Turkish furs had been delivered to a small town up near the border. The goods were high quality, and the price was reasonable. The telegram requested him to be there by a particular date, with either a cheque or cash. As he stared at the telegram, he felt that there was something oddly familiar about that date, as if it had some special significance for him.

Later it occurred to him that it was the anniversary of Niu Ben’s death.

For the first few years after his return to the city, Ma Rong would always lay out an extra pair of chopsticks and a flask of liquor on that day; he would light incense, face the Northern sky and offer a toast to Niu Ben. Later he couldn’t be bothered any more, but he didn’t think Niu Ben would mind.

He had always thought that he would like to go back there one more time. He had not been back since he left the place.

Since now he happened to be going in that direction, since he was the only one involved with Niu Ben’s death to have made it back to the city, and since this was the twentieth anniversary, he felt that he should go back to the spot where Niu Ben was buried, to visit his buddy from the old days.

The place was a long way away, far to the north. Any further and it would be Russia, or the Soviet Union as it had been in those days.

Ma Rong was a businessman, a small-scale boss, not rich but doing quite well. And he was a bachelor, which made it easy for him to pick up and leave. Once he had bought his ticket he was ready to go.

Just before he died, Niu Ben had made a request to the Brigade: there was no need to return his body to the city, he said, he just wanted to be buried out there on the grassland, with the grave dug deep and earth flattened over it. No mound was to be raised over it, and no gravestone erected. When the fresh grass grew the next year, it would be as if he had never existed.

Then he added: do you know about Genghis Khan? Even today, nobody has been able to find the Mongol emperor’s final resting place, because he’s lying in a tree trunk that was split apart and hollowed out, then fastened with three gold hoops. Finally he was buried deep in the earth, and a herd of horses was driven over the spot to trample it flat, to make it look as if nothing had ever happened there.