Lo To Hsiang-Tzu by Lao She

Lao She, pseudonym of Shu Qingchun, was the author of numerous satirical novels, dramas, fictions and short stories.  He was one of the most influential writers in the 20th century Chinese literature.  He was born on 2/3/1899 to the Red Banner Clan Group, part of the Manchurian ethnicity, in Beijing, China.  Lao She grew up in a poor and fatherless household; when he was little, his father was killed in a street fight during the Boxer uprising. At one point in time, Lao She had to quit school because he couldn’t afford to pay his tuition.  Over the course of his life, he published more than 143 books and a few of his works were translated into more than 20 languages.

Lao She’s best known, landmark work, is Lo To Hsiang-Tzu, (Lo To means camel; or, Rickshaw Boy – the title of English translation) published in 1936.  It depicts a young, tall, strong, honest, and conscientious peasant, who is drawn to Beijing and tries to make a living.  The main character, camel Hsiang –Tzu, firmly believes that through all of his hard work, he will someday marry a good country girl, have a nice family life and own his own rickshaw.  Regardless of his good character and hard work, the urban environment ends up both degrading and ruining him in only 5 years. 

Lao She’s crafty, vivid description and keen observation not only brings to us a panoramic view of the hardships and laborious lives of urban rickshaw pullers, but also a story about the horrifying social miseries in early modern China.  Read this book if you would like to find out what went wrong with camel Hsiang-Tzu and the world that he encountered.  And if you’d like to read other literature in Chinese or other languages, feel free to pay a visit to our Glenwood Branch’s foreign language collection.

(Belinda Lam, Information Services)

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