In this week's writings from China, we'll introduce you to the book The Bloody Falling Sun by Lin Hepin. Written three years ago, it's a suspense story centered around Lord Tao, his five wives and two sons, an ancient well, some hidden treasure and many, many conspiracies.
As China's feudal era comes to a close, a very bizarre thing happens to a wealthy southern family in Lin Hepin's The Bloody Falling Sun. The ancient well in the backyard of their residence, which has claimed the lives of many unruly relatives and servants, suddenly emits a burst of blood-flecked green water. This inauspicious sign throws the whole family into a highly uneasy state. Then, with impeccable timing, a letter arrives to announce that Lord Tao will return home to celebrate his sixtieth birthday, having been away for six years doing business in Shanghai. Anxiety draws close to hysteria. The four wives of Lord Tao and his adopted son all have their own dark secrets: they have embezzled parts of the family fortune, and engaged in extra-marital affairs. If discovered, either of these sins could send a person to the bottom of the yard's ancient, terrible well. After all, Lord Tao is a merciless family leader, whose cruelty is well-established. In this electrically charged atmosphere, a beautiful young woman named Yiping appears, alongside an unidentifiable dead body. She claims to be the fifth wife of Lord Tao, who now lays dead before their eyes, having been murdered by bandits on the route home. To prove her identity, Yiping informs the first wife about the dark secrets of each and every family member. Subsequently, the plot thickens, and bloody boils, as relative plots against relative, and more lives are thrown into the yawning, bottomless well.
Lin Heping, author of The Bloody Falling Sun says that through this story, he wanted to expose the evil nature of the feudal family system.
"What I wanted to express was the twisted souls of people under those special social conditions of feudalism and clanship. At first, the characters in my book all appear to be full of natural vice. Gradually though, readers find that this vice is not innate, but rather has grown from the clan system and the depressed social atmosphere, just as poisonous mushrooms need a certain temperature and soil in which to flourish. The moldy stench of a secluded feudal courtyard, which has been the home to five wives for so many years, gives every person a twisted psychology. Within this half-dead atmosphere, they can only conspire vicious plots again others, either for self-protection or for further living space. This story does not describe the vice of any single person but rather the vice created by that evil feudal system."
The suffocating air of Lord Tao's grand-looking courtyard produces love, hatred, envy, greed and lust. Everyone longs to leave, and escape to pastures new. However when the chance presents itself, each person chooses to stay on and seek an unknown hidden treasure, which will actually bring destruction rather than gain. Lin Heping gives his analysis of their seemingly peculiar behavior.
"This book is also about human nature, about how the shining qualities of humankind can be replaced by evil, and how human souls can be twisted, as well as their struggles between desire and conscience. Human desire can be a driving force in stimulating a person's creativity. However, it can also be a trap. In the society depicted by my book, normal desires cannot be satisfied, so every character has to strive too hard in order to realize their ambition. In doing so, once they've passed the boundaries of decency, there's no turning back. Then, to cover up their sins and evil deeds, they can only commit new sins and evil deeds."
A central figure in the book is the self-claimed fifth wife Yiping. A cool-headed young woman, she comes to the Tao family in order to avenge her mother, a servant, who was thrown into the ancient well, following the plotting of the three older wives. Behind Yiping's deceit, there's also the black hand of another rich man in town, who wants to take his own revenge against the Tao family, to steal their wealth and their property. However, during her mission of vengeance, Yiping is stricken by conscience and comes to realize that using evil to fight evil can only create more evil. She tries to escape her sinister backer's control, and rescue the willing victims of the Tao household. Unfortunately, the rigidity of feudalism is unbendable, leaving Li Yiping only with the opportunity to save her own skin.
Another noteworthy figure in the book is Lord Tao, who appears alive later in the novel. Though there's not much ink dedicated to exposing the inner world of this family head, he is still a fascinating character, as Lin Heping explains.
"Lord Tao is a very interesting figure. The reason for his not coming back home for six years is due to a disheartenment towards this family of his own creation. He knows that every one of them hides some kind of sin. However, on his return, he finds that the evils are even more prevalent than he'd envisioned. Despair then turns to hatred. The irony is that it was he who created the environment to nurture such evil. Nonetheless, he tries to destroy all of his family members, even his own children. When this wish is fulfilled he finds no reason to continue living, and so drops himself into the ancient well, now packed with so many lives."
And as the sun goes down on our description, we wish to read a scene from this book The Bloody Falling Sun. A typical example of intrigue and in-fighting, what follows is a conversation between a maid, the second wife and third wife, with the latter currently in control of the Tao family.
2nd wife: "Third sister, now the young master hates me to the bones. He and the fourth wife are conspiring to plot against me. As the person who's responsible for keeping order in this family, you should do something to protect me.
3rd wife: Of course. But second sister, if you haven't done anything that cannot be said freely in public and under the sun, why should you be afraid of them?
2nd wife: What have I done that cannot be said out loud! Tell me, what have I done?
3rd wife: My second sister, if you've never done anything improper, then you should not be afraid of them. If you've done nothing that violated our family rules, no one will dare to touch a single hair on your head. I think you must know the saying, that a straight foot is not afraid of a crooked shoe .
2nd wife: Of course I know, I'm not a kid. Third sister, I've told you about my problems, the solution is for you to discover. It's up to you whether the Tao family can remain in order. I believe that losing control of propriety won't profit anyone. If people wish to, they can always find skeletons in old closets. Who in this courtyard does not know something that should not be readily proclaimed?
3rd wife: Now I simply don't understand what you mean my second sister.
2nd wife: My third sister, you're such a smart woman, how can you not understand my words? Well, if you really don't understand, I have nothing more to say. Good day to you.
Maid: "Mistress, do you really need to make Second Mistress so angry?
"Hmph! I'm just not willing to see her content. Let them fight. The harder they fight each other, the more stable my position is as the guardian of family order."
That was an excerpt from the book The Bloody Falling Sun, as written by author Lin Heping.