Peach Blossom Paradise

Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9781681374703
New York Review Books
Ge Fei

Ge Fei is the pen name of Liu Yong, who was born in Jiangsu Province in 1964. He graduated with a degree in Chinese from East China Normal University in Shanghai, and in 2000 received a PhD from Beijing’s Tsinghua University, where he has taught literature ever since. (Photo credit: NYRB) More about this author >

Canaan Morse

Canaan Morse is a literary translator, poet, and graduate researcher of pre-modern Chinese literature. His translations of Chinese prose and poetry have appeared in Kenyon Review, The Baffler, The Southern Review, and many other journals. More about this author >

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Translated from the Chinese


In 1898 reformist intellectuals in China persuaded the young emperor that it was time to transform his sclerotic empire into a prosperous modern state. The Hundred Days’ Reform that followed was a moment of unprecedented change and extraordinary hope—brought to an abrupt end by a bloody military coup. Dashed expectations would contribute to the revolutionary turn that Chinese history would soon take, leading in time to the deaths of millions.

Peach Blossom Paradise, set at the time of the reform, is the story of Xiumi, the daughter of a wealthy landowner and former government official who falls prey to insanity and disappears. Days later, a man with a gold cicada in his pocket turns up at his estate and is inexplicably welcomed as a relative. This mysterious man has a great vision of reforging China as an egalitarian utopia, and he will stop at nothing to make it real. It is his own plans, however, which come to nothing, and his “little sister” Xiumi is left to take up arms against a Confucian world in which women are chattel. Her campaign for change and her struggle to seize control over her own body are continually threatened by the violent whims of men who claim to be building paradise.

Judges Citation

Epic in scale yet anthropological in its attention to detail, Peach Blossom Paradise is an extraordinary account of upheaval and reform in China during the early years of the 20th century. Set in a cluster of rural villages, the family saga expands to encompass national and universal themes of utopian renewal and shifting gender roles. Canaan Morse’s translation deftly captures the tonal richness of Ge Fei’s prose, from the lofty to the earthy, all in the service of a captivating tale.


Ge Fei and Canaan Morse, 2021 NBAwards Translated Literature Finalists, read from PEACH BLOSSOM PARADISE