Ordinary World (novel)

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Ordinary World (Chinese: 平凡的世界; pinyin: Píngfán de Shìjiè) is a novel by Chinese author Lu Yao. It consists of three volumes with a total of 1.1 million Chinese characters. In 1991, it won the Mao Dun Literature Prize and was honored with the title "a bright pearl of the Mao Dun Literature Prize crown".


The first volume[edit]

The story begins in the autumn of 1975, a year before the end of the Cultural Revolution in Shanxi province in China(the author’s hometown).. An ordinary teenager going into adulthood in a distant village located on the Loess Plateau in northern Shanxi, northwestern China, Shaoping Sun goes to the county of YuanXi to complete his high school. His humble descent makes him shy and diffident. He falls in love with his classmate Hongmei Hao, a girl of upper class descent, which is notorious during the Cultural Revolution. However, this relationship is revealed by their classmate Yuying Hou, and the abashed Hao have no choice but to end this relationship. Hao then quickly begins another relationship with her monitor, Yangmin Gu, a young man whose family is relatively much better than Sun's. After Sun's graduation from high school, he went back home and becomes a teacher in the local village school and then becomes friend with Xiaoxia Tian, daughter of Fujun Tian, the vice president of the county's revolutionary committee.

Sun's elder brother Shao'an, who has been working in the field after his graduation from primary school, falls in love with his childhood friend Runye Tian, daughter of Fujun's brother Futang, who harshly disdained this relationship. Shao'an's aunt arranges for him to meet Xiulian, the daughter of one of her very distant cousins. The two quickly starts to seeing each other and goes back to Shao'an's native village to prepare for the wedding. Runye then obeys his father to marry Xiangqian Li.

Runye's father is the leader of their village. However, in the year of 1975, his village faces great difficulty in agricultural production and his applications are all proved useless.

The second volume[edit]

After the Chinese eleventh CPC Central Committee Third Plenary Session in 1976, the CPC decided to end the Cultural Revolution that was first established in 1966 and modified many concepts that are called Maoism, attributed the Chinese Communism leader Mao Zedong, during the Cultural Revolution. The new governor of the province proposed a new Household Contract Responsibility System, which contradict the central belief of Maoism. Futang, a loyal fan of Maoism, however, opposes to operate under the new system but fails; he is depressed by the great turning point of the nation. Shao'an then establishes a factory to fabricate brick in the city and becomes the wealthiest person in the village. Shaoping goes to a near city to find opportunity and finally become a miner in a nearby mine. He then starts to see Xiaoxia, who becomes a journalist after her graduation from the local normal university. Runye's life after marriage with Xiangqian is not happy. She bluntly rejects several of Xiangqian's attempt to show affection. She eventually warms up with him after Xianqian lost both of his legs in a traffic accident. Shaoping's younger sister Lanxiang manages to be enrolled in the Astronomy program of the Northern University of Industry.

The third volume[edit]

Shaoping is promoted in the mine but his girlfriend Xiaoxia dies when she is reporting a flood within the province. Shao'an's factory is ruined by a fake technician and he desperately finds himself in debt. However, with the assistance of his friends, he manages to re-establish the factory and becomes the most productive person in the whole region. Xiaoxia was killed when reporting a flood. Shaoping is wounded and disfigured in an accident in the mine. When he is recovering in the capital of the province, his friend's sister and his sister's friend Xiu Jin expresses her feeling to him and her desire to start a relationship with him. After careful consideration, Shaoping decides that he, a disfigured miner, should not marry Xiu, a university student who has great expectations in the future.

[1] In a survey conducted during 2003-04 in seven universities in China, the novel was considered one of the most influential books.[2]


The stories chronicled in this novel between 1975 and 1985 reflect the drastic political and economic changes taking place in China from nearing the end of the Cultural Revolution to the early period of Reform and opening policies championed by then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. The characters involved in this novel encompass a broad range of socioeconomic spectrum, involved with one another in different ways. While the protagonists of the novel, the Suns, represent the changing life situation of common people in the underdeveloped countryside, the readers also gets a personal glimpse of high-level decision-making process and personal struggles of higher officials through the experience of Fujun, Futang's younger brother. This setting enables the novel to present the viewers with a panoramic and comprehensive picture at a personal level of the reforms and changes taking place at the time.