How Bi Feiyu's 'Three Sisters' Highlighted the Irony of Modern China

Stephanie Chang

Chinese writer Bi Feiyu defied the odds when he was awarded the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2010, the third writer from his country to do so in four years, for his novel Three Sisters.

Bi Feiyu is among a generation of Chinese writers whose memories have been shaped as much by China’s tumultuous 20th century history, which weathered revolution and the rise of Communism, as by the seismic societal shifts caused by the post-1980s economic growth. Bi’s novel Three Sisters focuses on the separate stories of three sisters to show the effects of these shifts on individuals caught amidst sweeping historical change.
The Wang family depicted in the novel is far from ideal; from his position as Party Secretary of a provincial town in China to his rapid fall from grace, Wang Lianfang drags behind him the fate of his family. Although the novel opens with the birth of an eighth child, a son, it quickly moves on to the story of the girls in the family whose less sought-for births determined their status in the family hierarchy as well as in society.

Whilst Bi’s characters play the roles set out for them by the manifold forces of culture, family, gender, and history, they do so without becoming staid cardboard characters. Each of the three sisters around whose stories the book focuses has her own dreams and personalities, and each devises her own method to leave the parochial rural community of their birth. This, though, only heightens our awareness of the strong forces that determine their paths.

As China’s predominantly rural population moves into cities pursuing dreams of new lives, and its urban residents look to material means for personal fulfilment, Bi’s novel questions the naivety of this pursuit and shows that the new found freedom felt by many in China is, perhaps, not as free as supposed. Part of the irony of modern China is that the demolishing of stultifying old traditions has made room for new traditions as intractable as the old.
The previous Chinese winners of the Man Asian Literary Prize are Jiang Rong for Wolf Totem in 2007 and Su Tong for The Boat To Redemption in 2009.
By Stephane Chang

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.