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To Live (in traditional Chinese: 活着; in simplified: 活著) is a 1993 novel by Yu Hua. Our nameless narrator meets an old man in the countryside who tells him his life story. This is how it goes.

After losing all of his family's land and fortune to gambling debts, Fugui stops being a Rich Bitch Jerkass and begins life as a honest, hardwarking family. Too bad life doesn't let him.

After he is forcibly recruited by the Nationalist Army and must leave his family, Fugui fights and sees the horrors of the Chinese Civil War, returning to him home years later to suffer the tumultuous changes that the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward has wrought.

The novels ends with Fugui's entire family tragically dead and Fugui as a old farmer with only an ox with as his companion, which, surprisingly enough, illustrates a more Bittersweet Ending than an Downer Ending, with the book's most prevalent theme being that people should keep on living for the sake of life, despite their various mishaps and tragedies.

To Live is also rather well-known for its description of Chinese life in Red China, such as its illustrations of backyard steel furnaces and communes. A movie of To Live came out in 1994, directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Ge You and Gong Li.

Examples of To Live include:
  • The Atoner: After being a gigantic asshole for most of the beginning of the novel, Fugui turns into a deeply penitent man after he loses his family's fortune to gambling debts.
  • Banned in China: This novel has been banned in China for its less than pleasant (but still extremely realistic) description of life as a villager in Red China.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jiazhen's shown to be a quiet, submissive person up to the point of an Extreme Doormat, but goes into full Mama Bear completely when she meets the man who inadvertently helped kill her son.
  • Break the Haughty: It takes Fugui losing all his family's funds and plunging them into poverty to make him stop being such a gigantic selfish Jerkass.
  • Character Development: Fugui starts off as an arrogant Jerkass who blatantly disrespects his family, spends all his money on whorehouses and gambling, and hitting his pregnant wife, but eventually grows into a hardworking man who is extremely devoted to his family.
  • Cute Mute: Fengxia
  • Daddy's Girl: Fengxia
  • The Determinator: Fugui is one, of sorts. Even though his entire family dies, he still keeps on living and refuses to give up.
    • Jiazhen is also an excellent example, despite being an Extreme Doormat. She kneels at Fugui's feet at the gamblehouse and refuses to leave, even when he beats her. She only leaves when Fugui gets two men to carry her away.
  • Domestic Abuser: In addition to being a generally shitty husband, father and son prior to his Character Development, Fugui also slapped and beat Jiazhen when she was pregnant with Youqing.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Most of Fugui's family die in most senseless ways, the most notable being Erxi being the first porter to be crushed by the slabs of cement, and his grankid dying by choking on beans.
  • Extreme Doormat: Jiazhen
  • It Got Worse: Oooh boy.
  • Jerkass: Fugui when he was younger. He even lampshades it himself:

 Fugui: :It hurts to think about it now. When I was young I was a real asshole.


The the film based on the novel contains:

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