With this translation of the 1929 novel Rainbow ( Hong), one of China's most influential works of fiction is at last available in English.

Rainbow chronicles the political and social disruptions in China during the early years of the twentieth century. Inspired by the iconoclasm of the "May Fourth Movement," the heroine, Mei, embarks on a journey that takes her from the limitations of the traditional family to a discovery of the new, "modern" values of individualism, sexual equality, and political responsibility. The novel moves with Mei from the conservative world of China's interior provinces down the Yangtze River to Shanghai, where she discovers the turbulent political environment of China's most modern city.

Mao Dun writes with the conviction of one who has lived through the events he is describing. Rainbow provides a moving introduction to the contradictions inherent in the simultaneous quest for personal freedom and national strengthening. Vividly evocative of the period in which it was written, it is equally relevant to the China of today.


The golden rays of the rising sun pierced the light smoky mist that hung over the Yangzi River, dispersing it to reveal the blue-green of the mountain peaks on either shore. The east wind played a soft, enchanting melody. The muddy waters of the Yangzi gradually plunged through the narrow gorges, now and then producing a bevy of small whirlpools in its wake.

An indistinct growl, like the roar of a great animal, issued forth from behind the wall of mountains upstream. After a few minutes it grew into a long, proud bellow, transforming itself into a thundering echo between the cliffs on the two sides of the river. A light green steamship burst majestically through the remaining fog, sailing effortlessly downstream. In an instant, the heavy rumbling noise of its engine swelled up on the surface of the river.

It was the renowned steamship Longmao, which plied the Sichuan waters of the Yangzi River. On this day it had pulled up anchor at dawn in Kuifu and was rushing to make the journey to Yichang by two or three in the afternoon. Although it was only eight in the morning, the ship was already packed to the rails with third-class passengers who had come up for a breath of fresh air. The passageway outside the dining hall on the uppermost deck was not as crowded. In fact, there were only two women leaning against the green iron railing, looking out into the distance at the magnificent, clear view of the Wu gorges.

They stood shoulder to shoulder, facing the bow of the ship. One, her body slightly turned at the waist, her left forearm leaning on the railing, looked about twenty years old. She wore a pale-blue . . .

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