The Butcher's Wife

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Chen Jiangshui is a pig-butcher in a small coastal Taiwanese town. Stocky, with a paunch and deep-set beady eyes, he resembles a pig himself. His brutality towards his new young wife, Lin Shi, knows no bounds. The more she screams, the more he likes it. She is further isolated by the vicious gossip of her neighbors who condemn her for screaming aloud. As they see it, women are supposed to be tolerant and put their husbands above everything else. According to an old Chinese belief, all butchers are destined for hell—an eternity of torment by the animals they have dispatched. Lin Shi, isolated, despairing, and finally driven to madness, fittingly kills him with his own instrument—a meat cleaver. A literary sensation in the Chinese language world with its suggestion that ritual and tradition are the functions of oppression, this novel also caused widespread outrage with its unsparing portrayal of sexual violence and emotional cruelty. This tale has made a profound impact on contemporary Chinese literature and today ranks as a landmark text in both women's studies and world literature.


Li Ang was born in Taiwan in 1952. After graduating from college in Taiwan she studied drama in the United States in the 1970s. Her fiction is critical of traditional Chinese culture and controversial for its portrayal of cultural superstition, violence, and brutally abusive sexuality.