Original title, Sheng si Chang, this is a short novel written by Xiao Hong in 1934 and nominally dealing with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The author had written the book shortly after the events had taken place, and she was a first hand witness to the invasion of Manchuria and the subsequent atrocities.
Despite the fact that Xiao Hong was involved with leftist political circles and that communist writer Lu Xun helped make this book famous, the book is not a patriotic book or a piece of propaganda. The book instead, focuses on the normal lives of Chinese peasents, and not in a very favorable way. Xiao Hong's feminist tendancies arguably shape the book more then anything else, as she describes in stark detail the cruel lives of the women in the village.
Even before the gory details of the Japanese invasion enter the book, it has already ran over some rather uncomfortable ground, describing several instances of death, disease and hunger. The descriptions of the depressing drudgery that the peasents live in and their inability to cope effectivly with the illness that surrounds them makes a stronger impression then even a horrible war story could.
One of the biggest influences of this book for me was that it kind of put a dent in my contrived cultural chauvinism. I have always chosen to see the Chiense people as intelligent, proud and practical people. This book presents them as malnourished, ignorant, beat down people who are powerless to do anything about the world that surrounds them. A view that would anger me if it came from a European, but that has to be listened to when it comes from a Zhongguoren.