Small Well Lane

A Contemporary Chinese Play and Oral History
Li Longyun
Translated and Edited by Hong Jiang and Timothy Cheek
A compelling story of Mao's revolution through the eyes of a group of working class, back alley Beijing residents


Li Longyun's Small Well Lane (Xiaojing hutong) is an engaging five-act play with a cast of nearly thirty characters of different social roles and individual persona. When first published in Beijing in 1981, it was denounced both as too critical of the Chinese Communist Party and Mao's revolution and as too "community oriented" for the individualistic tastes of the contemporary Chinese cultural scene. However, the play has since emerged as an unqualified success with the Chinese people.

Running consistently for more than one hundred performances to full houses, Small Well Lane garnered great popularity because it vividly portrays how a group of working class Beijing residents living in a courtyard compound in a back alley, or hutong, named "Small Well Lane" experienced China's revolution from 1949 to 1980. It beautifully records the art of speaking and living among Beijing back-alley folk and provides a vivid contrast to the concerns and lives of China's elites.

This authoritative translation brings Li Longyun's popular play to English readers for the first time. Professors Hong Jiang, a literature specialist, and Timothy Cheek, a historian of modern China, have made a careful and fluid translation with notes and annotations to help readers not familiar with the nuances of China's modern history. The Introduction gives a clear sense of the power and significance of this controversial play, while the book's ten photographs bring to life the culture of Beijing's famous back alleys. In all, this edition of Small Well Lane provides readers with a compelling story of the human experience during Mao's revolution in China through the eyes of an individual who lived through the events firsthand in the backstreets of Beijing.

Li Longyun is currently a professional playwright with the Beijing People's Art Theater. He is the author of several plays and novels, as well as being a published essayist. His Small Well Lane was made into a national Chinese television series in 1998.

Hong Jiang is Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, Colorado College. She has been honored with several research grants from entities such as the ASIANetwork and the MacArthur Foundation and is also the author of In Search of Her Voice: The Heroine in Zhang Xinxin's Fiction.

Timothy Cheek is Associate Professor of History, Colorado College. He is the author of several works, including Mao Zedong and China's Revolutions: A Brief History with Documents and Propaganda and Culture in Mao's China: Deng Tuo and the Intelligentsia.

Praise / Awards

  • "Taken together with the informative introduction written by Hong Jiang and Timothy Cheek, Small Well Lane's rounded vision of a community provides a vivid testament to three decades of life int he PRC, and a useful source of illustrative material for Chinese history courses."
    --Julia Lovell, University of Cambridge, Pacific Affairs, Summer 2003
  • ". . . eminently readable thanks to the translation team. . . . Nicely illustrated and well produced, this inexpensive (in paper) work is a welcome addition to the meager supply of literary representations of twentieth-century Chinese social and political history."
    --World Literature Today

Look Inside

Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted June 2002.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 152pp.
  • 10 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06795-4

Add to Cart
  • $24.95 U.S.