The Pavilion Zhuiyue depicts various lives of the members of the large Ding family after the fall of Nanjing. The novella describes much of the mundane triviality in the family, the endless frictions between Mr. Ding’s wife and concubines, tangled emotional confusions of his children, and his persistence in upholding his ethical integrity. All these detailed episodes and moments unfold as the curtains of history part and, as a result, history is presented as fragmentary.
Ye Zhaoyan once said, “I wanted to write The Pavilion Zhuiyue to ridicule the traditional mode of a Chinese family known as ‘4-generations living together’-- a common theme in Chinese literature. Mr. Ding, in this novella, as a typical symbol of the cultural relics, embodies the embarrassing situation of the traditional values in the background of an era full of profound changes, against which his doltishness and stubbornness is unfolded.
The author, Ye Zhaoyan, is familiar with the history and geography of Nanjing. His works, therefore, often evoke his admiration for the ancient Qinhuai culture of the city, giving his work an aura of sadness and nostalgia.
Ye Zhaoyan was born in Jiangsu in 1957. He worked as a fitter for 4 years after his graduation from high school in 1974, and then in 1978 he entered Nanjing University to study at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature in 1978. He began his graduate study at the same department in 1983 and earned his Master’s Degree in Modern Chinese Literature. His work experiences range from roles as a university teacher at Jinling Vocational University, an editor at Jiangshu Literature and Arts Publishing House, to a professional writer for Jiangsu Writers Association.
Ye Zhaoyan started writing novels in the early 1980s. His works include the novels: Stagnant Water, Nanjing 1937: A Love Story, A Flower’s Shadow, Floral Evil, Other People’s Love, Flower House without Glass Walls, Our too Stubborn Hearts, among others. His novellas include: Suspending Green Apples, May Dusk, the series of “Moor on the Qinhuai River at Night”, Stories of a Jujube Tree, and Lascivious Songs. He is also the author of several short stories, including Green Café, and several prose collections, including Wandering Night, Old Shadow of Qinhuai, Ye Zhaoyan Prose, Misty Rain on the Qinhuai River, and Collections of Ye Zhaoyan’s Works (7 volumes).
Ye is the recipient of several awards, including the National Outstanding Novella Award, the Zhongshan Outstanding Literary Award, the Shanghai Literature Outstanding Work Award, the Times Literature Outstanding Novel Award, among others. The Pavilion Zhuiyue won the National Award for Outstanding Novella from 1987 to 1988 and the 1st Jiangsu Literature and Arts Award.
The senior, Mr. Ding was appointed as a Hanlin in the Qing Dynasty. As a result, quite a few of his old friends are survivors of those bygone ages. Moreover, he himself is a senior member of the Tong Meng Hui and his best friends even include some of the founding members of the present Nationalist Party. During his birthday banquet, two guests start to quarrel because of their different attitudes towards the present national calamity.
After the fall of Nanjing, Mr. Ding supports Zhongxiang to participate in the revolution and refuses to move to the refuge area with his family. Instead, he chooses to confine himself in the pavilion named “Chasing the Moon.” Pondering over the history, he swears that he won’t leave the pavilion as long as the Japanese invaders are still rampant in China, and he even changes the name of his bedroom to “Not-Dead-Not-Alive Temple.” Besides reading books, Mr. Ding buries his head in writing “Diaries in the Not-Dead-Not-Alive Temple,” with the belief that if he cannot die decently, he should at least live decently. Mr. Ding wants to follow the Style of Gu Yanwu’s Record of Daily Study and write a great book that can be handed down.
Confining himself at home, Mr. Ding can still hear bad news about the outside world from his family members. After Nanjing becomes more secure, his health also improves and new black hairs grow in his all white hair. He therefore searches out all ancient books for this reason and convinces himself that it must be because of his cultivation of the noble air.
Mr. Ding still stays in the pavilion, but all incoming news is bad. It seems that the Japanese army is invincible and the army of the Nationalist Party does nothing but retreat. They lose Xuzhou, later Zhengzhou, later Guangzhou, and most recently, the 3 towns of Wuhan. The only peaceful place now is Nanjing, which has become the rear guard of the Japanese.
Most of the properties of the Ding Family are burnt in the war, which results in a sharp reduction of income from rent and, at the same time, everything gets more and more expensive overnight. Boqi, the oldest grandson, who is in charge of the family now, has to secretly go back to work in the Railway Bureau. His new supervisor learns that Boqi is the descendant of a Hanlin of the Qing Dynasty. He therefore asks Boqi to bring him paintings and calligraphy. This new supervisor is more or less crazy about antiques and his way of collecting paintings and calligraphy is shameless. As a result, Boqi has to brace himself to convince his grandfather to write him some calligraphy. Mr. Ding blames Boqi for this, but still, he writes something for him.
Zhongxiang comes back to Nanjing after his girlfriend leaves him. He always drowns himself in liquor. Mr. Ding is very disappointed in Zhongxiang who, in his eyes, gave up being a loyal man fighting for his country and now cowers at home in submission to the invading Japanese. Zhongxiang knows that his grandfather is disappointed at him and he therefore tires of going up to the pavilion to be bothered by the old man. He thinks that his grandpa has been senile for a long time and even if he is not senile, the old man would not understand what he suffered outside, let alone his broken heart abandoned by love.
Mr. Ding has a student named Shaojing who is a core member of the Wang Jingwei party. Mr. Ding sees him as a traitor. Shaojing is always polite and respectful to Mr. Ding as a student should be. However, after a couple of conflicts, he starts to complain of the old man’s stubbornness. Consequently, the love between him and Wan, the 8th daughter of the family, suffers significantly.
Mr. Ding’s son-in-law, Mingxuan, finds himself a position as a dean in a school by taking advantage of Shaojing’s network while also trying to maintain a superficial peacefulness in the big family by cutting down news from Mr. Ding. In the end, however, Mr. Ding breaks up with Shaojing when he learns the truth and he gets severely sick and passes away soon after. Shaojing and Wan quickly get married before Mr. Ding’s funeral. Mr. Ding’s desire to be buried in the yard of the Pavilion Zhuiyue is unfulfilled because it is opposed by everyone in the family.