About The Book
The story of Traditional Chinese Painting, taking as its clue the ups and downs in official life of Zhu Huaijing, the protagonist, and with lifelike depiction of scenes of human nature on and off stage in Jindu City, vividly portrays a host of characters living in the centre or periphery of power. The story also uncovers their unique mentality and observed rules of game, and explores the human nature and mechanism workings underpinning the evils and corruptions in a given social environment.
A farmer’s son by birth, the protagonist Zhu Huaijing was simple and honest when young but capable and resourceful as well. After graduation he devoted himself to low-level work for ten years. By virtue of diligence and competence he was appointed deputy county mayor of his hometown Wu County, later was transferred to Jindu Municipal Government and became deputy director of the general office. Contrary to his expectations that “a meteoric rise would follow afterwards”, since “in nature he was not much different from the common vulgar folk” as predicted by the fortune-teller, he remained in that powerless position for a full three years, during which course he tasted bitterly the hard misery of being a benchwarmer. While other officials who got quickly promoted enjoyed bossing people around and being indulged in lavish life, his daily existence became all the more distressing and hard-pressed. Naturally, he failed to find peace with his heart and was seriously disturbed deep within.
Luck favored him at long last. Just as his official career reached a plateau, a turning point appeared. This favorable turn was brought about by Zhang Tianqi, committee secretary of Wu County, Zhu Huaijing’s hometown. The new broom lost no time in apple-polishing each and every official in Jindu City with all means possible. A tricky idea Zhang conjured up was to send a young and beautiful help lady to the city leader concerned via connections, under the disguise of “a hired nanny”
(but a mistress in reality.) In addition, he wanted to send each leader a box of “qin gong chun”, some local specialty of Wu County (a health-care food in surface but a sex-tonic in essence.) For Zhang Tianqi, everything was ready except one thing: He dared not take such a liberty without being introduced first. Thereupon he came to Zhu Huaijing, a former colleague, and readily sought his help in this line. To the latter who had been slipping days away for long, this coincidence was nothing but a godsend to approach leaders and pat them on the back. So he agreed without further ado and went out of his way to assist Zhang Tianqi in finishing the task superbly. Since then, life took a better turn; he became a frequent visitor at the homes of the mayor and the secretary, and won their favor little by little. Later Zhu Huaijing learned by chance that Pi Yong, the youngest son of Mayor Pi Deqiu wished to go abroad for further study. Taking it as a rare chance to court leaders, he and his wife bit the bullet and offered the mayor 20,000 yuan. As expected, soon after the “present” was sent out, he was rewarded with a lucrative post and got promoted to be the number one man of Finance and Business Section. Once in office, he lived a sharply different life from that of the past, being treated and entertained all the time.
Being no lofty gentleman, Zhu Huaijing loved beauty as much as position. At one banquet, he was aroused by the pretty young waitress and couldn’t keep his hand off her body. On another occasion, he was more strongly aroused at the sight of Mei Yuqin, vice general manager of Long Xing Restaurant, who was more beautiful and graceful. Backed by career success, he flirted with her without the slightest reserve and called her by a sweet name. After much trouble he managed to make her become his mistress. Their frequent secret meetings finally turned into a night-by-night romance. Blessed with a good wife and a beautiful lover, Zhu Huaijing should have felt contented; yet his wild desires were again aroused when he faced Chen Yan, a brilliant carefree female reporter from City TV Station. Only after he was informed that she was the mayor’s mistress did he refrain from taking rash moves.
Zhu Huaijing’s hometown Wu County brought in fake yellow peach seeds and forced the local farmers to plant them, causing a loss of over 20 million yuan to the farmers. When this news was reported on the local newspaper by Zeng Li , a righteous journalist (and a former university classmate of Zhu Huaijing), it triggered an instant panic like a heavy bomb to Zhang Tianqi, secretary of the county and other leaders. After much thinking, Zhang entreated Zhu again to talk Zeng out of further reporting. Although Zhu understood very well the report was based on truth and was in the interest of local farmers, he dissuaded against his conscience his former classmate to take back the submissions to a few national newspapers with artful speech, out of his alliance with Zhang. Later, another catastrophe broke out. In order to receive the city leaders, the county forced beggars and the handicapped to move away, with 46 people killed in the overturned lorry. Once again Zeng Li wanted to make it known to the public. And once again he was stopped by Zhu Huaijing who wanted to protect Zhang Tianqi’s position and face, and more to leave a door open for his later ascent in official world. To reach a higher position, Zhu Huaijing has lost his conscience and moral by now. He has embarked on a road of promotion carved out for himself with no turning back.
Deng Cai, Zhu’s deputy at Finance and Business Section, was a man of righteousness and competence. He kissed nobody’s ass and cared nothing about personal gains and losses. Even Zhu admired his ability and integrity. However, given the complexity of officialdom, a man of integrity could hardly expect to go up the ladder. Such a good cadre thus remained in the position of deputy director for 20 years. He had never got elevated simply because he never sweet-talked and even criticized some leaders in private, saying they were incapable of anything but socializing, networking, ceremony-attending and back-door dealing. No doubt he had left a very bad impression on the leaders who gave him none but the cold shoulder. After his heels were cooled for many years, Deng eventually resigned his post and engaged in business instead.
The triumphant Zhu Huaijing never gets satiated in office and in love. Shortly after he became director of Finance and Business Section he started to covet a higher position. As an old hand in officialdom, he tried hard to make administrative achievements by doing superficial work, while cottoning up to the superiors at the same time. Learning that the mayor had a special fancy for Chinese calligraphy and painting, he presented Cold Forest to the mayor, a painting worth 280,000 yuan created painstakingly by Li Mingxi, his friend and a young artist, by coaxing and cajoling. On the mayor’s birthday, he hastened to send him gifts; when the mayor took ill, he waited on him like a filial son. He even delivered to the door the mayor’s favorite rice and vegetables, and tried all means to get him green foodstuff. The mayor’s favor duly won, he was exalted to vice deputy director of the Finance Department. However, out of the blue, just as Zhu Huaijing was counting on Mayor Pi for his career advancement, the latter was found involved in the case of his eldest son Pi Jie, who escaped abroad with massive bank loans. In no time the mayor lost power amidst open rivalry and veiled strife from his political enemies. It never rains but pours. Almost at the same time, the house of Mei Yuqin, Zhu Huaijing’s lover was searched as she was drawn into bribery. All the indecent photos recording their secret affair fell into the hands of the prosecuting authority. With the backer falling and his extramarital affair exposed, Zhu Huaijing’s reputation got ruined overnight. Although he was not removed from office, he has passed his prime, and got brushed aside everywhere he went.
Unpredictable is the life, the overt and covert intriguing still goes on in officialdom. Although being dragged into his son, Pi Jie’s case, Mayor Pi got transferred to the position of CPPCC chairman in charge of religious matter. As it was part of his business, Pi could visit Jinshan Temple now fairly and squarely. After being summoned by the Discipline Inspection Commission for an interview, Zhu Huaijing went to study in the Party school in Beijing. Upon completion, he returned but still acted as vice director. Through the influence of Zhang Tianqi, his old friend for years and now prefectural party committee secretary, he secured a position of equal rank. A new round of entertaining and treating started afresh. His wife Xiang Mei filed a divorce, while his lover Yu Qin was still in jail, looking dully at nothing. Zhu Huaijjing had no idea whether his former classmate Zeng Li had found a proper work platform, nor was he informed whether Li Mingxi was sane or insane, alive or dead, after disappearing from the mental asylum. He looked up at the dazzling sun, blankly knowing where he was.