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China’s Republican government is rocked by unrest and occupation. In this turbulent environment, The Elm Tree explores the conflicting social and political pressures faced by a prominent Beijing household. This intricately-crafted novel is both an epic family saga and a fascinating account of a pivotal time in China’s recent history.
Will the newest branch of a decaying house be bent or broken by these uncertain times?
It has been six years since China threw off imperial rule, yet Beijing seems largely unchanged. The city is a chaotic, roiling sea of humanity inhabited by merchants, hawkers and street urchins.
In the midst of it all, Qi Yuexuan, the sole scion of a distinguished family, lives a life of indolence. But change is coming. Forces from within and without are becoming increasingly influential, while the new ideas they bring are shaking the foundations of the nation. Reappraising his entrenched values, Qi is torn between tradition and the new order.
The Elm Tree paints an intimate, yet vivid picture of an extraordinary cast of characters associated with the Qi household. It documents a forgotten way of life before it was swept away by the turmoil of foreign occupation and civil war…
Ma Pinglai was born in Beijing in 1953. On leaving school aged 16, his education was truncated by the Cultural Revolution and he spent six years in the military in Inner Mongolia. He returned to Beijing in 1975, where he worked in a factory and then took on various teaching jobs before setting up his own business in the mid-1980s after China had launched its reform and opening-up policy. In 2003 he devoted himself to writing, as the author of the novels Their Hometown's Moon is Not Round and The Elm Tree. In 2014, he won Lao She Literary Award for Outstanding Long-form Novels and, two years later, The Elm Tree won the inaugural Haoran Literature Prize. Sometimes referred to as "the established upcoming superstar of the Chinese literary world ", Ma Pinglai is a member of the prestigious Beijing Writers' Association.