Cover image for The seventh day
The seventh day
Yu, Hua, 1960- , author.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Di qi tian. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Pantheon Books, [2015]
Physical Description:
213 pages ; 22 cm
Yang Fei was born on a moving train. Lost by his mother, adopted by a young switchman, raised with simplicity and love, he is utterly unprepared for the tempestuous changes that await him and his country. As a young man, he searches for a place to belong in a nation that is ceaselessly reinventing itself, but he remains on the edges of society. At age forty-one, he meets an accidental and unceremonious death. Lacking the money for a burial plot, he must roam the afterworld aimlessly, without rest. Over the course of seven days, he encounters the souls of the people he's lost.
General Note:
"A novel"--Jacket.

"Originally published in China as Diqi tian by New Star Press, Beijing, in 2013"--Title page verso.
Added Author:
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
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From the acclaimed author of Brothers and To Live: a major new novel that limns the joys and sorrows of life in contemporary China.
Yang Fei was born on a moving train. Lost by his mother, adopted by a young switchman, raised with simplicity and love, he is utterly unprepared for the tempestuous changes that await him and his country. As a young man, he searches for a place to belong in a nation that is ceaselessly reinventing itself, but he remains on the edges of society. At age forty-one, he meets an accidental and unceremonious death. Lacking the money for a burial plot, he must roam the afterworld aimlessly, without rest. Over the course of seven days, he encounters the souls of the people he's lost.
As Yang Fei retraces the path of his life, we meet an extraordinary cast of characters: his adoptive father, his beautiful ex-wife, his neighbors who perished in the demolition of their homes. Traveling on, he sees that the afterworld encompasses all the casualties of today's China--the organ sellers, the young suicides, the innocent convicts--as well as the hope for a better life to come. Yang Fei's passage maps the contours of this vast nation--its absurdities, its sorrows, and its soul. Vivid, urgent, and panoramic, The Seventh Day affirms Yu Hua's place as the standard-bearer of modern Chinese fiction.

Author Notes

Yu Hua is the author of five novels, six story collections, and four essay collections. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He has received many awards, including the James Joyce Award, France's Prix Courrier International, and Italy's Premio Grinzane Cavour. Yu Hua lives in Beijing.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Yang Fei is dead, and the notice on his apartment door directs him to report to the funeral parlor the next day for his cremation. Stuck in a shadowy limbo, able to see and interact with both the living and the dead, people such as Yang have no relatives to mourn them or arrange for their proper burial. Thus they are fated to endlessly roam an afterlife in which they encounter both loved ones and casual acquaintances. For Yang, this means a prolonged search for the father who raised him and the wife who divorced him. Listening to the life stories of the people he meets, Yang is exposed to a riotous panoply of crimes and betrayals, from graft and corruption to greed and consumerism, that contributed to their deaths. With a mesmerizing vision of what the afterworld might look like, internationally award-winning novelist Hua (Boy in the Twilight, 2014) crafts a discerning critique of contemporary Chinese culture through an evocative allegory revealing fates much worse than death.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"I roamed on the borderline between life and death." Yang Fei is late for his cremation. His soul won't be laid to rest until he appears for his appointment with the incinerator. Hua's (Boy in the Twilight) eighth book follows 41-year-old Yang Fei's week of wandering in the afterworld in a powerful testament to alienation that stretches beyond the land of the living. Yang Fei drifts through the afterworld and pieces together how he lost his life and what he lost with it. He visits his ex-wife, who died by suicide after a scandal. He encounters a young woman called Mouse Girl, who killed herself after her boyfriend gave her a fake iPhone and did not answer her angry, melancholic blog tirades. He sees his birth mother, from whom he was separated just after his birth. He searches hardest for his father, a man who raised him alone, forsaking friends, lovers, and the opportunity for a much different life. Hua's prose has a lilting, elegiac quality that is both soothing and distant, but his characters, quite like apparitions, never fully materialize. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Yang Fei is dead. Arriving at the funeral parlor as directed, he's denied eternal rest because he has "neither urn nor grave"; over the next seven days, he revisits his short 41 years. Yang Fei was temporarily famous as "the boy a train gave birth to," having accidentally slipped from his birth mother through a toilet opening on a moving train; he was rescued by a railway employee who became his devoted father. When Yang Jinbiao falls morbidly ill, Yang Fei abandons job and home to care for him. Unwilling to drain Yang Fei further, Yang Jinbiao disappears, setting in motion an afterlife journey for both father and son. VERDICT Arguably China's best-known contemporary writer (To Live, adapted into Zhang Yimou's acclaimed film; the Man Asian Prize-shortlisted Brothers), Yu offers a new work that is surprisingly gentler than his previous titles. Although the author retains his signature outlook of an absurdist new China with little regard for humanity-27 fetuses floating down a river, iPhones worth more than life, kidney harvesting from willing young bodies-this latest is ultimately less graphic expose and more poignant fable about family bonds made not of blood ties but unbreakable heartstrings. It will assuredly reward Yu's readers, familiar and new. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The fog was thick when I left my bedsit and ventured out alone into the barren and murky city. I was heading for what used to be called a crematorium and these days is known as a funeral parlor. I had received a notice instructing me to arrive by 9:00 a.m., because my cremation was scheduled for 9:30. The night before had resounded with the sounds of collapsing masonry--one huge crash after another, as though a whole line of buildings was too tired to stay standing and had to lie down. In this continual bedlam I drifted fitfully between sleep and wakefulness. At daybreak, when I opened the door, the din suddenly halted, as though just by opening the door I had turned off the switch that controlled the noise. On the door a slip had been posted next to the notices that had been taped there ten days earlier, asking me to pay the electricity and water bills. In characters damp and blurry in the fog, the new notice instructed me to proceed to the funeral parlor for cremation. Fog had locked the city into a single, unchanging guise, erasing the boundaries between day and night, morning and evening. As I walked toward the bus stop, several human figures appeared out of nowhere, only to disappear just as quickly. I cautiously walked ahead for a distance, but found my passage blocked by some kind of sign that appeared to have suddenly grown out of the ground. I thought there ought to be some numbers on it--if the number 203 was there, then this was the stop for the bus I wanted to take. But I couldn't make out the numbers, even when I felt for them with my hand. When I rubbed my eyes, I seemed to see the number 203, suggesting that this was indeed the stop. But now I had a strange feeling that while my right eye was in the original place, my left eye had moved outward to my cheekbone. Then I became aware that next to my nose a foreign object had attached itself to my face, and something else was caught underneath my chin. When I felt around with my hand, I discovered that my nose was next to my nose and my chin next to my chin--somehow they had altered their locations. The fog was now even more dense. Amid the murky figures and ghostly buildings I heard sounds of life rising and falling like ripples of water. Then, as I took a few tentative steps farther on, hoping to penetrate the gloom, I heard cars crashing into each other. The fog had drenched my eyes and I couldn't see the collisions--all I was aware of was a series of violent impacts. A car burst out of the fog behind me and sped past and into the sounds of life, and the sounds churned and popped like boiling water. I stood there uncertainly for a little while, but soon realized that if there was a pileup on this stretch of road, the No. 203 bus would not arrive anytime soon and I should go on to the next stop. As I walked on ahead, snowflakes came billowing out of the fog. They seemed to glow like patches of light, and when they landed on my face, my skin felt slightly warmer. I stood still, watching the snowflakes fall through the air and settle on me. My clothes gradually stood out more clearly against the snow. This was an important day, I realized--my first day of death. I hadn't washed and I hadn't dressed in funerary costume--I was simply wearing my ordinary clothes, with a baggy old overcoat on top, as I headed toward the funeral parlor. Stricken with sudden misgivings at my sloppy attire, I turned on my heel and headed back in the direction from which I'd come. The falling snow had brought some light to the city and the thick fog seemed to slowly dissipate as I walked, so that I could faintly make out pedestrians and vehicles going to and fro. As I reached the bus stop I had left shortly before, a scene of utter confusion met my eyes: the road was completely blocked by a chaotic tangle of over twenty vehicles, with police cars and ambulances ringing the perimeter. There were people lying on the ground and others being pulled from cars that were twisted completely out of shape; there were people moaning and people crying and people who made no sound at all. I stopped for a minute, and this time I could see clearly the number 203 on the sign. I made my way past. When I got back to my bedsit, I undressed, walked naked over to the shower enclosure, and turned on the faucet. As I filled my palms with water and began to wash, I found that my body was covered in wounds, and I gingerly removed the bits of gravel and splinters of wood that were embedded in the open lesions. Just then my mobile phone started to ring. I found this strange, because service had been disconnected two months earlier for nonpayment, and here suddenly it was ringing again. I picked it up and pressed the listen button. "Hello?" I said quietly. A voice responded. "Is that Yang Fei?" "That's right." "Funeral parlor here. Where are you now?" "I'm at home." "What are you doing?" "I'm washing." "It's almost nine o'clock now! How can you still be washing?" "I'll be there soon." I felt embarrassed. "Hurry up, then, and be sure to bring your reservation slip." "Where will I find that?" "It'll be on your door." Then the caller hung up. I wasn't very happy about this--why was there such a rush? I put down the phone and renewed my efforts to clean my wounds. I picked up a bowl, filled it with water, and used it to wash out the remaining grit and splinters. This helped to speed things up. Still dripping wet, I walked over to the wardrobe and opened it, in search of a funerary costume. But I could find nothing answering this description; the closest thing was a pair of white silk pajamas with a low-key flower pattern and the characters, now faded, that Li Qing had embroidered in red thread on the chest--a souvenir of my brief marriage. She had carefully chosen two pairs of traditional Chinese-style pajamas for us one day, and had sewn my name on hers and her name on mine. I had never worn these pajamas since our marriage broke up, but now, when I put them on once more, their color seemed as warm as that of snow. I opened the door and carefully studied the funeral parlor notice posted on the outside. On the slip was written A3--a reservation number, by the look of it--so I detached it, folded it carefully, and put it in my pajama pocket. As I was about to leave, I had the feeling I'd forgotten something and stood for a moment in the swirling snow to ponder. Then I remembered--a black armband. I was a single man, parentless and childless, with nobody to come and mourn my passing, so it was up to me to wear one. I went back into my room and riffled through the wardrobe for some black cloth. After a prolonged search all I could find was a black shirt so worn that it was now turning gray. I cut off part of the sleeve and placed it over my left arm. My mourning attire clearly left something to be desired, but I felt tolerably satisfied with the effect. Once more my phone rang. "Is that Yang Fei?" "Yes, hello." "Funeral parlor here. Are you still planning to get cremated?" I hesitated for a moment. "Yes, I am." "It's nine-thirty now--you're late." "Is it so important to be on time?" I wanted to do things right. "If you want to get cremated, you need to hurry it up." Excerpted from The Seventh Day by Yu Hua All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.