The Rice Sprout Song

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The Rice Sprout Song
RiceSproutSong Cover.JPG
First edition
Author Eileen Chang
Cover artist Jeanyee Wong
Country Hong Kong (China)
Language English
Publisher Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 182
LC Class 55-7292 (1st Edition)

The Rice Sprout Song is a 1955 novel by Eileen Chang, the first novel she wrote in English.[1] Detailing the hardships a peasant family faces in China, Chang elegantly describes how the bonds of family and kinship weather the forces of a food shortage.


In 1949, Communist forces in China captured Shanghai, where Eileen Chang was living at the time. Three years later, in 1952, she moved to Hong Kong, which at the time was governed by the British. There in Hong Kong Eileen wrote The Rice Sprout Song.

In the preface, Eileen Chang notes an incident published in the People's Literature, a Communist publication which motivated her novel. It involved a writer recounting the events in northern China during the spring famine of 1950. The peasants, desperate for food, stormed the granary, but the Party members defended it by opening fire, killing and wounding the villagers. Feeling disillusioned by the failure of the Party, the writer published the story, which caused him much criticism, and under pressure, he severely criticized himself for doubting the Party.


The novel tells the story of a peasant family and their struggle for basic sustenance while the government does little to help, and in fact, demands more goods from the peasants as they cope with the harsh weather and a food shortage. The book begins with the wedding of Gold Flower T'an, the sister of Gold Root T'an. In this part of the book, Chang shares with the reader Chinese family traditions and the bonds between family members. For example, a bride would be escorted by her family to the groom's house in a carriage where there would later be a wedding banquet hosted by the groom's family. For now, Gold Root T'an is living with his daughter, Beckon while his wife is working in the city to provide for her family.


Gold Root T'an: One of the main protagonists of the story, the story details the struggles he and his family face.

Moon Scent T'an: One of the main protagonists of the story, the wife of Gold Root.

Beckon T'an: The daughter of Gold Root and Moon Scent, they named her Ah Chao, or Beckon, short for "Beckon for Brother, in the hope that a boy would follow in her wake."[2]

References or Allusions[edit]

References to actual history, geography and current science[edit]

The novel takes place in communist China, not too long after the communists instituted land reform, so it is likely to have taken place in the early 1950s, which is around the time Eileen Chang wrote the book.


  1. ^ Chang, Eileen. The Rice Sprout Song. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955.
  2. ^ Chang, Eileen. The Rice Sprout Song. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955. page 10