Years of Red Dust Stories of Shanghai

Qiu Xiaolong

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

240 Pages



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Published originally in the pages of Le Monde, this collection of linked short stories by Qiu Xiaolong has already been a major bestseller in France (Cite de la Poussiere Rouge) and Germany (Das Tor zur Roten Gasse), where it and the author was the subject of a major television documentary. The stories in Years of Red Dust trace the changes in modern China over fifty years—from the early days of the Communist revolution in 1949 to the modernization movement of the late nineties—all from the perspective of one small street in Shanghai, Red Dust Lane. From the early optimism at the end of the Chinese Civil War, through the brutality and upheaval of the Cultural Revolution, to the death of Mao, the pro-democracy movement and the riots in Tiananmen Square—history, on both an epic and personal scale, unfolds through the bulletins posted and the lives lived in this one lane, this one corner of Shanghai.


Praise for Years of Red Dust

"[Years of Red Dust shows] what continues to be lost to modernization. [The book] depicts the struggles of the inhabitants of one small lane in Shanghai, Red Dust Lane, from the rise of Mao to capitalism's rehabilitation. The reader glimpses traditional Shanghai life—which Qiu himself had witnessed while growing up on a nearby lane—from housing-assignment politics to cricket fighting, from tofu making to crab cooking. As in all of Qiu's books, food plays a primary role. 'It is a tradition of Chinese culture to place importance on food,' he says, 'which should be enjoyed at leisure. "To eat first," says Confucius.' We also see aspects of the Cultural Revolution and how the capricious Communists made and destroyed peopl—a history that has been lost in large part on Chinese youth. 'In Chinese textbooks much of the past has been omitted,' Qiu says, 'so young people are ignorant of the Cultural Revolution,' when an estimated 20 million Chinese died through starvation, persecution and imprisonment . . . 'I am trying to keep alive the history from 1949 to the present, to write a different kind of history book,' Qiu says. A number of universities [in the United States] have already adopted Years of Red Dust for Chinese studies . . . Qiu, in his work, seems always to be contemplating home."—Rick Skwiot, Washington Magazine

"Wonderfully accessible . . . His best book yet."—Time Magazine

"Witty, evocative . . . [Xiaolong has] a sharp eye and portrays the ordinary man adrift."—The Washington Post

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Read an Excerpt

Welcome to Red Dust Lane
Now, as your would-be landlord—to be exact, your second landlord, nifangdong—I've lived in this lane for twenty years by the end of 1949. For a new college student not yet familiar with Shanghai, looking...

Read the full excerpt


  • Qiu Xiaolong

  • Qui Xiaolong is a poet and author of several previous novels featuring Inspector Chen as well as Years of Red Dust. Born and raised in Shanghai, where he was a renowned poet and translator, Qiu lives with his family in St. Louis, Missouri.

  • Qiu Xiaolong