Lao She: Wikis


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Lao She (Chinese: 老舍pinyin: Lǎo Shě, February 3, 1899 – August 24, 1966) was a notable Chinese writer. A novelist and dramatist, he was one of the most significant figures of 20th century Chinese literature, and is perhaps best known for his novel Rickshaw Boy and the play Teahouse (茶館). He was of Manchu ethnicity.




Early life

Lao She's original name was Shū Qìngchūn (舒庆春)(Sumuru in Manchu). He was born in Beijing, to a poor family of the Sūmuru clan belonging to the Red Banner. His father, who was a guard soldier, died in a street battle with the Eight-Power Allied Forces in the course of the Boxer Rebellion events in 1901. "During my childhood," Lao She later recalled, "I didn't need to hear stories about evil ogres eating children and so forth; the foreign devils my mother told me about were more barbaric and cruel than any fairy tale ogre with a huge mouth and great fangs. And fairy tales are only fairy tales, whereas my mother's stories were 100 percent factual, and they directly affected our whole family." [1]. In 1913, he was admitted to the Beijing Normal Third High School (currently Beijing Third High School), but had to leave after several months because of financial difficulties. In the same year, he was accepted into the Beijing Institute for Education, where he graduated in 1918.

Teaching and Writing Career

Between 1918 and 1924, Lao She was involved as administrator and faculty member at a number of primary and secondary schools in Beijing and Tianjin. He was highly influenced by the May Fourth Movement (1919). He stated, "[The] May Fourth [Movement] gave me a new spirit and a new literary language. I am grateful to [The] May Fourth [Movement], as it allowed me to become a writer."

He went on to serve as lecturer in the Chinese section of the (then) School of Oriental Studies (now the School of Oriental and African Studies) at the University of London from 1924 to 1929. During his time in London, he absorbed a great deal of English literature and began his own writing. His later novel 二马 (Ma and Son) drew on these experiences.

In the summer of 1929, he left Britain for Singapore, teaching at the Chinese High School. Between his return to China in the spring of 1930 until 1937, he taught at several universities, including Cheeloo University and Shandong University (Qingdao).

Life in the People's Republic of China

Like thousands of other intellectuals in China, he experienced mistreatment in the Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s. Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution had attacked him as a counterrevolutionary. They paraded him through the streets and beat him in public. Greatly humiliated both mentally and physically, he committed suicide by drowning himself in a Beijing lake in 1966. His relatives were accused of implication in his "crimes" but continued to rescue his manuscripts after his death, hiding them in coal piles and a chimney and moving them from house to house.

He was married to Hu Jieqing and they had four children, one son and three daughters.


Lao She's most famous works are Rickshaw Boy (1936) and Teahouse ((茶馆), Cha Guan, 1957). He published many other stories and novels during a prolific career.

Rickshaw Boy

His first important novel, Rickshaw Boy, also known in the West as "Camel Xiangzi" or "Rickshaw"), was published in 1936. It describes the tragic life of a rickshaw puller in Beijing of the 1920s and is considered to be a classic of modern Chinese literature. The English version Rickshaw Boy became a US bestseller in 1945; it was an unauthorized translation that added a bowdlerized happy ending to the story. In 1982, the original version was made into a film of the same title.


Other Works by Lao She

Among Lao She's most famous stories is 'Crescent Moon' (月芽儿, Yuè Yár), written in the early stage of his creative life. It depicts the miserable life of a mother and daughter and their deterioration into prostitution. "I used to picture an ideal life, and it would be like a dream," the daughter thinks. "But then, as cruel reality again closed in on me, the dream would quickly pass, and I would feel worse than ever. This world is no dream - it's a living hell. " (from 'Crescent Moon')

His other important works include Si Shi Tong Tang (四世同堂, abridged translation The Yellow Storm, directly translated into "Four Generations under One Roof" 1944–1950), a novel describing the life of the Chinese people during the Japanese Occupation; Cat Country (猫城记) a satire which is sometimes seen as the first important Chinese science fiction novel, and Lao Zhang de Zhexue (老张的哲学, "The Philosophy of Old Zhang"), his first published novel, written in London (1926).

Lao She's role in China's Literary Establishment

His last novel, The Drum Singers (1952), was first published in English in the United States.


Since the fall of Jiang Qing, guiding hand of the Cultural Revolution, in 1971, Lao She's works have been republished. In 1979, he was posthumously "rehabilitated" by the Communist Party. Several of his stories have been made into films, including This Life of Mine (1950, dir. by Shi Hui), Dragon Beard Ditch (1952, dir. by Xian Qun), Rickshaw Boy (1982, dir. by Ling Zifeng), The Teahouse (1982, dir. by Xie Tian), The Crescent Moon (1986, dir. by Huo Zhuang), The Drum Singers (1987, dir. by Tian Zhuangzhuang), and The Divorce. Tian Zhuangzhuang's adaptation of The Drum Singers, also known as Street Players, was mostly shot on location in Sichuan.

The Laoshe Tea House, a popular tourist attraction in Beijing that opened in 1988 and features regular performances of traditional music, is named for Lao She, but features primarily tourist-oriented attractions, and nothing related to Lao She.[1]

External links


  1. ^ Lao Shê in Modern Chinese Writers, ed. by Helmut Martin and Jeffrey Kinkley, 1992


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