Excerpt of A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xiaolong
(Page 4 of 5)
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In Maos time, corruption was hardly a serious issue in that sense, Lei
said nodding. In the stagnant state economy, everybody earned about the
same, in accordance to the old Marxist principle: to each according to his
need, from each according to his capability. But after the Cultural
Revolution, people have become disillusioned with all the ideological
A spiritual vacuum. That worries me.
Lets see things in a different perspective, Lei said, stepping out of
the pool. After all, Chinas been making great progress. Those two
big-mouthed bathers, for instance, could have talked themselves into prison
during the Cultural Revolution.
You can say that again, Chen said, aware of something he and Lei had in
common. They, too, could be cynical about or critical of the system, but in
the last analysis, they were rather defensive of it.
Lei called his attention to the shower rooms lined along one side, each
with an outlandish name: Pistol, Needle, Five-Element, Yin/Yang, Chain, Mist
. . .
Im like Granny Liu walking into the Grand View Garden, Chen said. In
the classic Chinese novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber, Granny Liu was a
country bumpkin, totally awestruck by the splendor of the garden. Look at
the Jade and Fire Sauna Room.
Today you can do everything with money.
We cops are really in trouble, then.
Lei did not answer, perhaps too busy experimenting something called
Zhou-Heaven-Circulation: he sat on a steel stool with an iron bar cage
hanging overhead. The showerhead jerked out a spray of water, and he jumped
out like a monkey in the Pilgrim to the West.
They then filed through a dry up room, where they were wiped by
attendants with large towels and invited to change into the special
red-and-white-striped pajamas before taking the elevator.
The fourth floor is the recreation areabilliards, Ping-Pong,
basketball, and a fishing pool, too, with a lot of golden carps
Lets skip that, Lei.
Fine. Im hungry today. Lets eat first.
The third floor entrance led into a marketlike place, where stood rows of
large water tanks with swimming fishes and jumping shrimps. Large shelves
displayed a variety of dishes and pots wrapped in plastic, vivid in color
and shape. A sort of live menu. A waitress, also in red-and-white-striped
pajamas, came over. At her recommendation, they ordered pork rib soup with
tulips in a stainless-steel pot over a liquid gas stove, steamed live bass
with ginger and green onion scattered over a blue and white platter,
water-immersed beef covered with red pepper in a large bowl, tomato cups
with peeled shrimp, and chunks of fried rice-paddy eel on bamboo sticks.
They also requested two bottles of ice beer.
The waitress led them to a table, her wooden slippers clacking pleasant
notes on the hardwood floor. The dining hall had a uniform atmosphere,
probably the result of the identical red-and-white-striped pajamas worn by
We have realized communism here, or the appearance of it. Everybody
looks the sameat least in clothing, Lei said, raising his chopsticks. But
look at that large table, the so-called Complete Manchurian and Han Banquet.
The name, if you were wondering, originated from the need for a united front
during the Qing dynasty. To demonstrate his solidarity, the Manchurian
emperor had delicacies from various ethnic cuisines served on one table in
the Forbidden City. Camel dome, bear paw, swallows nest, monkey brains . .
Every rare and expensive item imaginable under the sun, Chen said,
glancing toward the impressive table. Those upstarts show off like
Copyright © 2006 by Qiu Xiaolong. All rights reserved.