Fortress Besieged

Fortress Besieged

infobox Book |
name = Fortress Besieged
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Qian Zhongshu
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = China
language = Chinese
series =
genre = Novel
publisher =
release_date = 1947
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages =
isbn = [ 9901549507]
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Fortress Besieged" (Simplified Chinese: 围城; Traditional Chinese: 圍城; Pinyin: wéi chéng) was written by Qian Zhongshu, published in 1947, and is widely considered as one of the masterpieces of twentieth century Chinese literature. The novel is a humorous tale about middle-class Chinese society in the 1940s. It is also one of the most well-known contemporary Chinese novels in China, and was made into a popular television series in the early 1990s.

Origin and History

The book was begun while Qian Zhongshu and wife Yang Jiang were living in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation. According to Yang Jiang, the successful production of several of her plays inspired Qian to write a full length novel.

The novel was begun in 1944, and completed in 1946. Much of the characters and plot are taken from the experiences of Qian and Yang abroad and in China. For example, the opening scene at sea reflects their journey from France to China onboard the ship Athos II.

The title is based on a French proverb:

:"Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out. "

The novel is known for its acerbic asides, such as describing one young lady in the following way:

:"At first, they called her "truth" because "the truth is naked". But then, she's not actually completely naked. So they amended it to "partial-truth"."

The novel was published in Shanghai in 1947. The second edition was published 1948. The third edition in 1949. After the Communist Revolution, the book was not printed again in mainland China until 1980. In the mean time, it was also banned in Taiwan because of its satire of the Nationalist government.

The novel has been translated into many languages. These include the Russian version which appeared in 1979, the American English version in 1979; and the German version in 1982.

Plot Summary


Since its re-publication in 1980 in mainland China, "Fortress Besieged" has become nationally famous. Part of its popularity grew from its popular television series adaptation of 1990 and later radio series adaptation.

Aspects of the novel have entered the Chinese idiomatic lexicon. For example, "Carleton University", from which the novel's character obtained his PhD paper, is used as an idiom meaning an illegitimate degree qualification or academic institution. Likewise, the novel's title, deriving from the French proverb, has given rise to a similar proverb in Chinese.

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