Most people associate Chinese literature with the sweeping landscapes of the classic novels, like Journey to the West and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. However, in modern China, another type of book rules the sales racks: romance novels.
Born in 1972 in Taiwan, Xi Juan (席绢) is one of the most prolific and popular writers in modern China. Although her works may not end up in any Chinese literature curricula, she continues to be one of the most influential Chinese writers of her time.
Xi Juan’s works are classic romance novels. Often centering on a threesome – usually a girl and two guys – Xi Juan’s writing practically invented the formulaic styles that flood the shelves of romance books in China today. Most of Xi Juan’s novels – of which there are dozens – incorporate some type of mix up that creates a type of humor not terribly unlike the Western version of a romantic comedy. It is because of this lighthearted tone that Xi Juan’s works are often referred to in Chinese as “ice cream” lit.
Xi Juan’s Chinese romance novels were first published in 1993 and, since then, she has published between three and seven books a year. 1994 was her most prolific year, while 1995 saw the publication of one of her most famous books, 上错花轿嫁对郎 (Wrong Bridal Sedan But Right Bridegroom). This farcical story follows two brides heading to their wedding day together when a rainstorm hits. After taking cover, they re-board each other’s sedans by mistake and end up marrying different men. The story was made into a hit Chinese TV series by the same name.
Now, at the age of 40, Xi Juan has publish more than 70 books since she got her start in the early 1990s. She is easily one of the most prolific authors in Chinese history and her books are read my millions each year.
Xi Juan (席绢) is actually a pen name. The writer’s real name is Wu Zhen Ying, but she began using the pen name when she started writing. The name Xi Juan is made up. She chose Xi (席) in tribute to her favorite poet, Xi Murong (席慕蓉), a famous Chinese artist and poet in Taiwan. Juan (绢) is a type of silk, a symbol the writer liked.
Chinese publishers have likened Xi Juan’s stories more to the Anne of Green Gables series, rather than to the steamy, sexual romance novels that are popular in the West. The stories feature heavily a sweet, almost naive idea of romance and love, which makes them popular especially among women readers in China.
The following is an except of the first episode of Wrong Bridal Sedan But Right Bridegroom, Xi Juan’s popular 1995 novel, which was made into a TV series by the same name.