Health, Sports & Psychology

A reader's guide to Fortress Besieged

Updated Friday 1st August 2008

More than one charlatan in academia? Qian Zhongshu takes on pseudo-intellectualism in the era after the Sino-Japanese War.

'Marriage is like a fortress besieged; those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out' (French proverb).

Qian Zhongshu (1910-1998) was a renowned Chinese writer and scholar, whose most famous novel, 'Fortress Besieged', was published in 1947. It concerns Fang Hung-chien, a feckless young man who returns to China after several years of idleness in Europe.

The tale begins in 1937, at the onset of the Sino-Japanese war. Although there are no battle scenes, the conflict has a deep impact upon the lives of the characters.

Hung-chien is under pressure, because he is expected to satisfy his family's expectations. Having acquired a bogus degree, he accepts a teaching post in a newly established university.

Soon he realizes that he is not the only charlatan in academia, and much of the book's humour is directed against bigoted pseudo-intellectuals.

The Great Wall Of China Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: ronancrowley under CC-BY-ND licence

Hung-chien lurches from one calamity to the next, disappointing his parents and, ultimately, alienating his wife.

'Fortress Besieged' is an intricately crafted comedy of manners, satirizing courtship and marriage. After Hung-chien marries Sun Jou-chia their respective families interfere constantly, disrupting and complicating their lives and contributing to the slow, painful disintegration of their relationship.

Hung-chien is a very ordinary man, with obvious flaws and foibles, but these faults make him all the more engaging. It has been suggested that he is a representative figure, reflecting the loneliness and vulnerability of his contemporaries. Perhaps, over and beyond that, his story has a timeless and universal significance.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Business Bursts video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Business Bursts

Industry leaders discuss a variety of topics touched on in The Foods That Make Billions, ranging from Branding to Marketing to Supply Chain

Video
5 mins
Troubled waters: Join the debate Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: By marinephotobank via Flickr under Creative Commons 2.0 article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Troubled waters: Join the debate

The immediate, and horrendous, effects of the recent oil leak in the Gulf have been widely covered by the news - sea creatures smothered in toxic, treacle-like crude oil. But what are the long-term impacts to the marine ecosystem and can previous oil spills help with our predictions? Join the debate by adding your comments underneath Dr Ash's insight.

Article
The secret ingredients Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Thomas Perkins | Dreamstime.com audio icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

The secret ingredients

The Saving Species team is joined by paediatrician and diversity of nature advocate Aaron Bernstein, as they take a slice of the pie of life and explore the hidden treasures of the interdependent system that is biodiversity.

Audio
10 mins
What's your personality profile? Creative commons image Icon mosoma under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license activity icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

What's your personality profile?

 What's your personality type - and how does it compare with other people? Find out with our family-friendly personality profiler.

Activity
Paul Moody on protecting business against risk Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Paul Moody on protecting business against risk

"It's not about recovering, it's about prevention in the first place"

Video
5 mins
Having a choice: mental health services Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Wilfred Stanley Sussenbach | Dreamstime.com article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Having a choice: mental health services

Mick McCormick is Assistant Head of Department and Lecturer in Social Work. He comments on the results from the mental healthcare survey which was issued following the BBC Four programmes 'Mental: A history of the madhouse' and 'Sectioned' in May 2010

Article
Digging up Spain's dead: introduction Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Digging up Spain's dead: introduction

During Franco's dictatorship, many people who tried to stand against him were murdered and buried in unmarked graves. Over 30 years after his death in 1975, Spain is breaking its self-imposed silence - and we hear from three people, whose families were devasted when loved ones were killed by the Franco regime, as they try to find their relatives' remains.

Video
5 mins
OU on the BBC: Sound of Life - Soundings From The Future Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

OU on the BBC: Sound of Life - Soundings From The Future

As the world develops, we've come a long way from the Earth's first music. Aubrey takes soundings from the future in this programme from the BBC/OU series The Sound of Life.

Article
Beverley Bond's story Creative commons image Icon No GMOs March UK (Activism) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Beverley Bond's story

Explore the personal side of climate change with Beverley Bond's diary entry.

Article