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Some critics have praised Shen Congwen for creating characters with beautiful souls. Readers credit him with having described beautiful and fulfilling styles of life, even in materially primitive surroundings, that conjure up the "health and dignity" prized by the Crescent Moon writers. Other critics value Shen Congwen as a realist writer. He has written many works exposing the abuses of the military in the countryside, and the vanity of the urban bourgeoisie.
Most of the short stories in this collection, typeset in bilingual format, reveal the plight and the strength of the common people. They were chosen from the period when Shen had already honed a fine writing style, and they were written about rural folks in his native region, and about people he knew from his daily life. There are contradictions between the "new" and the "old," and also between human values with enough integrity to nurture life, versus corruption that leads to the decline and death of a culture.