Course:ASIA351/2021/Fu Ping by Wang Anyi

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Wang Anyi
Born March 6, 1954 (age 67)

Nanjing, Jiangsu, China

Nationality Chinese 中国
Occupation Author, Professor in Chinese Literature at Fudan University
Notable Works The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (1995), Fu Ping (2000)
Achievements Leading figure in contemporary Chinese Literature,

Vice-Chair of China Writers Association

Awards Numerous awards and trophies for her writing from

1982 through 2018

Fu Ping: A Novel by Wang Anyi
Author Wang Anyi
Country China 中国
Language Written in Chinese, translated afterwards.
Genre Fiction, History, Prose
Published 2000
Media Type Novel



Wang Anyi (born 6 March 1954) is a Chinese novelist, screenwriter, and short story author. Wang Anyi had only just graduated from junior high school in 1969 when she volunteered to go down to a commune in northern Anhui Province. It wasn’t until 1978 that she was allowed to return to Shanghai to edit the magazine Childhood. Her writing career truly began in the late 1970s when she started to publish short stories. In 1972 she found a position in the Xuzhou Song and Dance Cultural Troupe to play the cello. She was permitted to return to Shanghai in 1978 and worked as an editor of the literature magazine Childhood. In 1980 Wang became a professional writer, and that year received training from the China Writers Association at the Lu Xun Literary Institute. She married Li Zhang, the conductor of the Dance Cultural Troupe. Later in the same year, her urge of writing made her absent from work, then she went to Xuzhou and published The Destinations and received a national short stories award. In 1983, she went to Lowa City, Lowa, United States for the International Writing Program with her mother Ru Zhijuan. She published her first major work short after, the award-winning novella Baotown (1985). In 1996, she published The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, and was awarded as the Top 10 Books of the 1990s in 1999 by China Times. The literature also won the 5th Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2000. In 2004, her work of Confidences in a Hair Salon had won the 3rd Lu Xun Literary Prize. In 2012, her Scent of Heaven won the 4th Dream of the Red Chamber Award. Today, Wang Anyi lives in Shanghai and is currently the chairwoman of the Writers’ Association of Shanghai. She is a professor of Chinese literature and creative writing at Fudan University.

Literary Career

Wang Anyi has written more than 100 short stories, 40 novelettes, 10 novels, and various prose pieces and essays. Her most famous work is The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, which was adapted for television, stage, and screen. She is among the most widely read authors of the post-Mao era and is one of China’s most influential and innovative writers. She has won numerous awards including the Mao Dun Literature Award in 2000, a nomination of her novel Baotown for the Los Angeles Times’ book of the year, and a nomination in 2011 for the Man Booker International Prize.

In the early 1980s, Wang Anyi also wrote many stories about people from a variety of social groups and their attendant concerns, among which The Destination and Lapse of Time were awarded national literary prizes. It was not until Baotown was published, however, that Wang was recognized as a self-transforming, mature, and successful writer. Baotown was written after Wang had paid a four-month visit to the United States to attend an international writers’ workshop; she was shocked by the dramatic difference in cultural values between the United States and China, and this “led to the profound discovery that she was indeed Chinese and to the decision to ‘write on China’ when she returned”

In her writing of the early 1990s, Wang Anyi probes into questions regarding the intrinsic logic and technique of storytelling, as well as the nature and status of literature in contemporary China. She endorses the idea that literature, fiction in particular, is an autonomous field independent of historical reference and utilitarian function. At the same time, however, she also insists on a personal angle that links individual minds, emotions, moods, temperaments, experiences, and desires to the act of writing. Literature is, from another perspective, a purely personalized activity for Wang. Indeed, in her more than twenty-year writing career, she has constantly returned to a personal mode of writing that centers on its characters’ internal worlds and produced many autobiographically stories and novels.

Representative Works

Song of Everlasting Sorrow (1995), by the Shanghai-based writer Wang Anyi resembles City in Ruins in its depiction of a city in the shadow of the past. Wang, a prolific writer who gained critical acclaim with her rural-based “Three Loves” series from the mid-1980s, portrays Shanghai’s historical vicissitudes by following the life of Wang Qiyao from beauty queen to empty nester. Wang Anyi portrays Shanghai as a superrealistic photograph. The elements are captured in minute detail, yet the net effect is stilted as Shanghai’s historical identity is collapsed into a spatial identity with defined boundaries, oddly distanced from Shanghai’s urban dynamism in the 1990s. This effect is consistent with Wang’s preference for writing about the countryside, and her belief that urban fiction, lacking organic form, requires an analytical style.

In And the Rain Patters On, Wang tells the story of a young and innocent woman, Wenwen, who falls in love with a young male bicycle rider when he helps her on a rainy night. Although her mother pressures her to accept a conventional view of love and consider an arranged marriage, Wenwen refuses to compromise or to relinquish the memory of the young man, who stands in her mind for hope, courage, and ideal love. Though Wang’s exploration of love shares much with that of her contemporaries in its pursuit of the poetic, personal, and idealistic, it is also distinguished by its unusual emphasis on the ordinary and nonheroic and on daily urban experience.

Drawing on historical material, legendary stories, personal imagination, and her own past experience in the countryside, Baotown creates a world that both represents a mythical and timeless China and that depicts in detail the crisis, heterogeneous voices, and fragmented state of life that contradict any claim of a homogeneous and stable Chinese tradition. Although the Confucian ideal of renyi (benevolence and righteousness) is presented as the defining characteristic of Bao village, the village is, at the same time, poverty-stricken, conservative, passive, and fatalistic.If renyi is set up at the beginning of the story as the ideal origin of Chinese civilization, this ideal is challenged by the lives of marginalized groups of people in the village and breaks down toward the end of the story, when different narratives compete with each other to appropriate the death of Dregs. Claimed as one of the most representative works of roots-seeking literature, Baotown also questions the value of traditional origin and challenges the political and cultural significations of the literary movement.[1]


Wang Anyi’s reflection on the people’s drifting in life resonate with many drifters who came to a foreigner place to seek for life. She described three stages for drifters, the first stage is to drifer for survival. It is a kind of rootless wandering, and it is impossible to predict where life is heading toward. Secondly, it is the lonely wandering of the soul, which is the doubt and confusion about the reason for human existence, the current situation and the future. Finally, the process of wandering is also the cognitive process of life, from which strength and wisdom can be drawn to achieve a certain sense of transcendence. [2]

"Song of Everlasting Regret" is Wang Anyi's masterpiece and won the Mao Dun Literature Award. It describes the story of the beautiful old-times woman Wang Qiyao and Shanghai. The novel was adapted into a movie by Hong Kong director Guan Jinpeng in 2005. The movie version of " Song of Everlasting Regret " presents the changes of half a century in just an hour or so. The film has made great artistic achievements and was successfully nominated for the Venice Film Festival.[3]

Further Reading

"Wang Anyi Phenomenon under Influence Anxiety"


"Livelihood" in Shanghai: On Wang Anyi's Novel Creation in the New Century


Literary Work: Fu Ping

Historical Background

The time background of Fu Ping is between 1964 and 1965[6]. The time is after the Great Chinese Famine and before Culture Revolution. Everything is still recovering from the war, the political revolutions, and the natural disasters. Wany Anyi may mean to avoid the involvement of politics on characters[6]. With the participation of war, politics, or natural disasters, people struggle to be alive. However, under this "peaceful time," people are more capable of making decisions for themselves. Readers can pay close attention to the characters and experience the innermost thoughts. Fu Ping is an image of immigration in 1964 Shanghai. The word is homophony of duckweed in Mandarin. Duckweeds live by the water and float with the waves. The life of "duckweed" can wander and make home everywhere at any time. As long as there is soil for survival, it will take root deeply, grow wantonly, and present its vigorous vitality to the world[7].

Synopsis/Plot Summary

Fu Ping, a young woman from Yangzhou's rural area, went to Shanghai to visit her future mother-in-law Nainai. Nainai, also a migrant from the countryside, had worked as a nanny in Shanghai's core urban area for thirty years. A hybrid of urban and rural, Nainai, having adapted to the urban life enough to qualify as an old Shanghainese, was still deeply attached to her rural hometown and arranged the marriage between Fu Ping and her adopted grandson. Fu Ping experienced a vastly different life in urban Shanghai. She was lost in the "Dragon King's Crystal Palace" of the prosperous Huaihai Road of Shanghai, amazed by the famous Great World, puzzled by the "wild" girls in the girls' middle school. Through Fu Ping's eyes, the life of various kinds of lower-class migrant residents in the city is brought alive. The daily gossips of nannies working for households in the city, the alone life of a maintenance worker, and the tragedy of a poor schoolgirl. Frustrated by the grim future of marrying into a family with many children and a calculating mother-in-law, which entails heave duties and dull life with a limited agency, Fu Ping eventually decided to break the engagement and left Nainai. Fu Ping found her long last uncle in the Zhabei district of Shanghai and lived with his family. Fu Ping's uncle was a garbage ship owner who lived in an urban ghetto in Zhabei. Finding herself more at home with people speaking her dialect, Fu Ping joined her uncle's family's life and eventually married a crippled young man by her choice.

Main Characters

Main Character Development in Fu Ping is primarily through following Wang Anyi’s characters from an omniscient perspective. The main characters that are mainly developed in high detail are single women attempting to make a life in Shanghai, China, in whichever way is appropriate for them. While the book is named after the main character Fu Ping, the book opens by following Nainai (奶奶: grandmother). Nainai is the primary influence on Fu Ping’s character and progression, eventually becoming an antagonist to Fu Ping, and to that of the story.

Wang Anyi creates many characters maintaining similar traits and qualities about their lives to showcase that even those in similar situations have widely differing opportunities which create varying levels of disparity. Of these women they all are of lower-socioeconomic status, seeking new lives and opportunities in Shanghai as single, unmarried women, and employed as caretakers for more well-to-do families. [8]

The Theme(s) of the work

Wang Anyi has written many influential works, however, Fu Ping is arguably one of the most well known. One of the reasons why is because of the many themes presented through the lives of these women in Shanghai. These themes embrace the difficulties that women would have had at this time in Shanghai, as well as, as “unwanted women” who were single or widowed.

The themes in Fu Ping include the stereotypes of working-class women, the lives and difficulties faced by single women, what it means to be an independent woman, and various themes of how class structure and hierarchy maintain such importance in urban settings such as that of Shanghai during this time but continuing until today. The themes generally all overlap as they have importance and influence on one another, such as that of how single women typically would have to be independent and fend for themselves as they would have no husband to care for them, but also, as lower-working-class women their families did not have the financial means to maintain to support them from home and as such they would have to seek opportunities elsewhere. This is the major defining theme of the characters of Wang Anyi’s Fu Ping, they are all seeking new opportunities out of necessity and their paths all cross in Shanghai. [8]


The wandering life of immigrants in the city of Shanghai made connections to millions of immigrants who experienced the same in Shanghai. In the novel, the urban immigrants such as Fu Ping, Nainai, Lu Fengxian, Auntie A Ju, Tao Xueping, Master Qi, Sun Daliang, Mrs. Ning Bo, and the mother and son of disabled young people all experienced the feeling of rootless wandering on the edge of the city. The complexity of the characters provide resonance to a vast community which made her work spread faraway. Wang Anyi once said she wanted her literature to be a connection to the lonely battlefield, to provide news to people what they are not alone. People can know the entire human race is behind them, so they can seek power and wisdom to win their inner war. That’s the purpose for her novels. [9]

Further Reading

"Review: ‘Fu Ping’ BY Wang Anyi", book review by A Universe in Words.[10]

"Fu Ping", review by Asymptote Journal.[11]


A picture of Suzhou river
Suzhou River
A picture of Shanghai's alleyway
Shanghai alleyway


  1. Denton, Kirk A., et al. The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature. Columbia University Press, 2012.
  2. 王欣妮. "王安忆新世纪小说漂泊主题研究." 聊城大学学报:社会科学版, no. 2, 2011, pp. 55-56.
  3. 肖露莹. "情节叙事——王安忆小说《长恨歌》与其改编电影对比分析." 大众文艺:学术版, no. 6, 2010, pp. 67-67, doi:10.3969/j.issn.1007-5828.2010.06.053.
  4. 郭小红. 影响焦虑下的"王安忆现象". Diss. 四川师范大学, 2013.
  5. 林翠萍. "上海“生计”——论王安忆新世纪小说创作." 长春教育学院学报, no. 24, 2014, pp. 3-4.
  6. 6.0 6.1 LI, Qingxi (February). "卑微人生的破茧之旅——王安忆小说《富萍》阅读笔记". 读书. 02: 109–115 – via CNKI. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. Li, Xiao (Winter 2008). "城市中的漂泊人生——评王安忆小说《富萍》中的女性形象". 中华女子学院学报. 05: 87–90 – via CNKI.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Enebral, Elena Martin. "Fu Ping Review". MCLC Resource Center.
  9. 王欣妮. "王安忆新世纪小说漂泊主题研究." 聊城大学学报:社会科学版, no. 2, 2011, pp. 55-56.
  10. "Review: 'Fu Ping' BY Wang Anyi". A Universe in Words. September 2019.
  11. "Fu Ping". Asymptote. March 2021.