Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Shanghai Express

Shanghai Express: A Thirties Novel

Zhang Henshui
Translated from the Chinese by William A. Lyell
Copyright Date: 1997
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Shanghai Express
    Book Description:

    In this suspenseful tale of seduction and deception, a wealthy banker is smitten by an alluring young woman while traveling aboard the express train from Beijing to Shanghai. A consummate storyteller and one of the most popular novelists of his day, Zhang Henshui sweeps us on board with them and takes us through train stations and back and forth between first, second, and third class cars, evoking the smells of this microcosm of the urban world. We see what various travelers wear; we hear their conversations; we feel the chill or the warmth of each car; we detect a trace of perfume in one, pickled vegetables and greasy meats in another. Here is popular Chinese fiction at its best. Shanghai Express was considered "entertainment" fiction and was enormously popular in the 1930s. William Lyell’s sparkling translation at last allows an English-reading audience to share in the fun. Fiction from Modern China.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6426-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[ix])
  3. [Map]
    (pp. [x]-[x])
  4. 1 Off in a Corner All Alone
    (pp. 1-18)

    If you were ever to work in a train station and had a bit of slack time, then when you saw a train pull into the station, you’d be bound to wonder, “Where are all these people coming from?” And if you saw one packed with passengers leave the station, you’d wonder, “Where are all these people going to?” What’s more, there never seems to be any end to the coming and going of the trains and no end to the stream of passengers crowding in and out of them either.

    Now, this is a curious state of affairs because...

  5. 2 Relatives Met by Chance
    (pp. 19-39)

    When a man and woman eat, drink, or go sight-seeing together, it’s always the man who pays the bill. This seems to have become a basic and unalterable principle. If it’s reversed and the woman offers to pay, then the man will be in one of those binds expressed in the saying,Refuse and you’ll be downright rude; accept and you’ll be in a guilty mood. And so it was that when the young woman insisted on paying the bill for Ziyun and his friend’s coffee, Ziyun didn’t know what to do. Ordinarily, of course, he could have repaid the...

  6. 3 Bewitched
    (pp. 40-56)

    In pursuing a woman, nine out of ten men adopt the strategy of incremental attack. Polite, respectful behavior signals the first stage. If the woman doesn’t repel the attack with a definite refusal, then the second stage follows. This consists of demonstrations of great sympathy, going along with the woman’s every whim, and comforting her at every turn. Consequently, a sense of intimacy and familiarity develops. If this stage of the battle plan proceeds smoothly, then the third stage swiftly follows. This begins with lighthearted double entendres that combine frivolity and understanding.

    If the woman fails to immediately parry this...

  7. 4 A Typical Passenger in the Second-Class Sleeper
    (pp. 57-71)

    Since Hu Ziyun was on pins and needles for fear the young woman named Liu Xichun would move out of his compartment, everything he saw or heard suggested that this was in fact the case. Finally, when he heard talk in the corridor indicating that she really and trulywasgoing to leave, he immediately thrust his head out the compartment door to see what was going on. It turned out that what was going to be moved was not a person but rather two sacks of fruit resting against the steam pipes, where they were sure to be ruined...

  8. 5 Some Confusion with Regard to Status
    (pp. 72-85)

    In the second-class sleeper, if you run into a friend and take him back to your compartment for a chat, you’re bound to disturb your fellow passengers. Your best alternative, then, is to ask your friend to the dining car. But now, when Mrs. Yu issued an invitation to do just that, Ziyun remained silent and didn’t respond to it one way or another. For some reason that even he couldn’t put his finger on, Li Chengfu was made uncomfortable by Ziyun’s silence.

    As a woman from a well-to-do family who was rather skilled in the social graces, Mrs. Yu,...

  9. 6 Middle of the Night in Third Class
    (pp. 86-103)

    As the present writer has previously said, the war of aggression that man wages against woman is carried out in a three-stage campaign. In the space of these few short hours, Ziyun’s attack against Miss Xichun had already reached stage 3. His time was as good as the train’s—an express train at that! Such an achievement, of course, is not to be sneezed at. On the other hand, however, if you put any single man and any single woman together in a room not much larger than a bushel basket where they are as snug as bugs in a...

  10. 7 Everyone Ill at Ease
    (pp. 104-122)

    In the full depth of night, there was nothing worth recording either inside or outside the Shanghai Express. Even in describing the compartment occupied by Hu Ziyun and Miss Liu we can come up with only a single sentence:Nary was heard so much as a word. By sunrise, they were already on the Yellow River Bridge. Ziyun looked out the window and saw the mighty waters of the Yellow River surging eastward. The dikes on both banks of the river were tall as mountains. Many boats were moored by the muddy bank on the south side. They had flat,...

  11. 8 Those Who Ask for Help Are Also Willing to Give It
    (pp. 123-139)

    A woman’s heart is difficult to fathom. Sometimes she is cruel, sometimes kind. That same vicious mother-in-law so fond of disciplining her daughter-in-law is the same woman who can often be heard piously invoking the name of Amida Buddha; and that same prostitute who will lead an honest youth down the primrose path to destruction until he has utterly squandered the family fortune is the very same woman who will on another occasion stuff bills into the hands of some pauper on the street whom she has never met before.

    Xichun sat inside the compartment and saw how Hu Ziyun...

  12. 9 Honeyed Words
    (pp. 140-156)

    The girl’s father, who wasn’t seated too far from them, overheard every word of this and immediately looked in their direction. A slight smile played across his face, and there was just a hint of movement on his lips, as though he were about to open his mouth and ask Ziming for that half fare. At precisely this juncture, however, the ticket taker, leading the porter behind him, came once more to where the country people were sitting. The ticket taker fixed them with a stare and said, “Well, we’re coming to the station. Are you going to buy a...

  13. 10 A Bit High
    (pp. 157-174)

    A popular saying goes,It’s the sore lump that gets the bump. The idea is that any bruise or swelling you have is bound to be the very spot you bump accidentally. That’s not really true, of course, but people think it is. For instance, how about all those places on the body thataren’tbruised? Don’ttheyknock up against things every day as well? Sure they do. But the thing is, when places that aren’t bruised or swollen get bumped, they don’t hurt all that much, and people don’t mind.

    Xichun was not free from such “a sore...

  14. 11 While Crossing the River at Pookow
    (pp. 175-188)

    In Hu Ziyun’s compartment, besides the addition of a woman, there was now the further addition of a bottle of brandy. On a long and lonely journey, the company of either a woman or a bottle of brandy is enough to keep a man pleasantly stimulated. And now, havingboththese forms of stimulation available, Ziyun, of course, was no longer the least bit lonely. After they passed Bengboo, he was palpably tipsy and went to sleep.

    By the time he had slept it off and woke up again, the electric lights in his compartment had long since come on....

  15. 12 Wine, Women, and Song
    (pp. 189-202)

    In the past, no matter whether you traveled by boat or by bus, if a passenger had something important to take care of before boarding and was a bit late in getting there, they’d simply wait for that passenger. But nowadays, when it comes to steamboats or trains, you’re dealing with very large numbers of people, and they’re not going to be held up for just one or two passengers. As far as Hu Ziyun was concerned, however, it would by no means be excessive if this particular train waited a whole hour for thisparticularpassenger—Miss Liu. Nonetheless,...

  16. 13 So, She Was a Crook!
    (pp. 203-218)

    During his night of wine, women, and song, Hu Ziyun fulfilled his wanderlust while lying in a comfortable berth—surely one of the most felicitous experiences that life can offer. It was a pleasure he would be able to enjoy all the way from Nanking to Shanghai. As happy as a man can be, he completely forgot his surroundings and drifted off into a restful and pleasurable sleep. At precisely this moment, however, the porter came in and roused him from his slumber with the shocking news that Miss Liu had gotten off the train in Soochow! He sat up,...

  17. 14 Soochow Again
    (pp. 219-238)

    It goes without saying that at this late hour the third-class passengers had long since dropped off to sleep. Even those among them who had, with aching backs, managed to sit up until this hour had finally reached the end of their ropes. The seats themselves were wrapped in a soporific fog of dim yellow light emanating in weak golden rays from a few round bulbs inside nipple-shaped glass covers set into the high ceiling of the car. Bareheaded, Ziyun had not changed into his pajamas back at Hsiakuan. Hence, he was still wearing the same silk robe he had...

  18. Translator’s Afterword
    (pp. 239-258)

    Redeeming social value—

    It has none;

    But everybody reads it

    And it’s fun.

    On hearing the name Zhang Henshui, most Chinese will make the immediate association “Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School” or perhaps “SaturdaySchool.” Both tags referred to popular literature of the kind scorned by serious writers of the period. The “Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School” was so called because some popular writers of the 1910s larded their works with these traditional symbols of pairs of romantic lovers. The “SaturdaySchool” was named after the magazineSaturday (Libai liu), which appeared on the newsstands every Saturday morning “for one...

  19. A Note on the Translation
    (pp. 259-260)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-261)