Zeng Pu published a scholarly work on the later Han Dynasty in 1895. He later enrolled in the College of Foreign Languages in Beijing to learn the French language. Zeng Pu returned to Jiangsu in 1898 and built a school. In 1903 he began a business in Shanghai, which failed. He returned to his focus in literature. Zeng Pu was a Francophile.
The language in Zeng Pu's novels borrowed allusions and images from classical Chinese literature and Zeng Pu used symbolism in his novels. Therefore, his works appealed to readers who had a classical education and were considered sophisticated in their society.
Zeng Pu knew the French language. David Der-wei Wang, author of Fin-de-siècle Splendor: Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911, wrote that Zeng Pu was "probably" the sole late Qing novelist who knew a foreign language. David Wang explained that since Zeng Pu knew French he had "direct access to European literature without the mediation of distorted translations."
Jin Tianhe (Jin Songcen) started A Flower in a Sinful Sea as a political novel criticizing Russian advances into China. Zeng Pu, writing under the pseudonym "Sick man of Asia", took control of the novel in 1904. He completed it as a historical novel.
- Doleželová-Velingerová, Milena. "Chapter 38: Fiction from the End of the Empire to the Beginning of the Republic (1897-1916)" in: Mair, Victor H. (editor). The Columbia History of Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, August 13, 2013. p. 697-731. ISBN 0231528515, 9780231528511.
- Idema, Wilt L. "Prosimetric and verse narrative." p. 343-214. In: Kang-i Sun Chang and Stephen Owen (editors). The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature: From 1375. Cambridge University Press, 2010. ISBN 0521855594, 9780521855594.
- McDougall, Bonnie S. and Kam Louie. The Literature of China in the Twentieth Century. Columbia University Press, 1997. ISBN 0231110855, 9780231110853.
- Wang, David Der-wei. Fin-de-siècle Splendor: Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911. Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0804728453, 9780804728454.
- Idema, p. 387.
- McDougall and Louie, p. 90. "This was also the year when China was defeated in the War against Japan, an event which had a tremendous effect on Zeng Pu. Moving away from classical learning, he enrolled in the College of Foreign Languages in Beijing to learn French"
- Doleželová-Velingerová, p. 724.
- Wang, Dewei, p. 103.
- "Zeng Pu's "Niehai Hua" as a political novel--a world genre in a Chinese form" (database listing with abstract) (Archive) The University of Hong Kong Libraries. Retrieved on October 26, 2013.
- Rojas, Carlos (6 April 2015). "Chapter 2: Rebellion". Homesickness. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674286979.