Literature and War Readalong Februay 28 2013: The Flowers of War – Jingling Shisan Chai by Geling Yan

The Flowers of War

It has been a while since I’ve last read a Chinese novel. Over the years it has become a literature I have learned to appreciate a lot and it was about time to return to it. Geling Yan is a well-known novelist in China. She has written short stories, scripts, essays and novels. Many of her books have been made into movies. The Flowers of War – Jingling Shisan Chai is no exception. The Flowers of War is based on one of the most horrible events which have taken place during war-time – the notorious Nanking/Nanjing Massacre in which Japanese troops slaughtered Chinese civilians. It has been estimated that 250.000 to 300.000 people have been killed. It is sometimes also called The Rape of Nanking. The story of this book is narrated from the point of view of Shujuan a 13 year-old schoolgirl. Together with a group of other girls she hides in the compound of an American church.

Here are the first sentences

Shujuan woke with a start. The next thing she knew, she was standing beside her bed. At first she thought it was the absence of gunfire that had woken her. The artillery that had been thundering for days had suddenly fallen silent.

For those who can’t get the book or do prefer to watch the movie, feel free to review the film starring Christian Bale.


The discussion starts on Thursday, 28 February 2013.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2013, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

38 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong Februay 28 2013: The Flowers of War – Jingling Shisan Chai by Geling Yan

    • Yes, that happens. And the movie isn’t for you either?
      I’m quite interested to see how she treats this difficult topic. I’ve seen the one or the other movie. A very horrific event.

  1. This looks like quite an interesting book, Caroline. Will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. It is really sad what happened in Nanjing. I have read about it in books on Chinese history and when I went to Nanjing I went to the museums too. It is really tragic. It is a sign of human resilience that inspite of this horror-filled event, the city has recovered back and is a thriving place of culture and business today.

    • It should be an interesting book, yes.
      A horrible event. I hadn’t heard of it before I watched a movie on it a few years ago.
      How interesting that you were there. I’ve only been in Hong Kong but would like to revisit China.
      It’s true, humans are resilient. When you read how many were killed, it’s just so hard to believe.

  2. By coincidence, as I’ve just noted on my blog, I tried watching The Flowers of War the other day (Zhang Yimou is one of my favourite directors) but found it a bit dull; and was generally annoyed by the central American character. Nice use of colour though, as usual.

    • After watching the trailer I had a similar feeling. I wonder how the American charcater will play out in the book. I suppose that during that time an American/foreigner was the only person who could help.

  3. Yay, I have this book with me and will definitely read it. I heard they say the movie is horrifying…I’m wondering if I should watch it. But looking that it’s directed by Zhang Yimou, I think I will reserve it. Review coming on 3rd week of Feb!

    • I’m glad you will join us. It’s such a horrific event and still not all hat widely known.
      I’m very intersted to find out how she will treat such difficult material.

  4. I had not heard of this book but it sounds like an important book. A few yaers ago I read The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang and it may have been one of the top three most disturbing books that I have ever read.

  5. I’ve been wanting to start this book but as it isn’t too terribly long I thought I had better wait until we get a little closer to when you’ll be posting. And I, too, have been in the mood to read something set in that part of the world. I’ve never read anything about the Rape of Nanking–am hoping it won’t be too devastating to read about, but the book sounds really good in any case.

    • I hope the same. It’s impossible to tell from what little is on the cover.
      It’s not that long and I am also still waiting before I will start. I think it will be a quick read.

  6. Pingback: The Flowers of War – 金陵十三钗 (Jīnlíng Shísān Chāi) | Polychrome Interest

  7. Pingback: The Flowers of War by Geling Yan | JoV's Book Pyramid

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