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The Story ‘Winter Nights’ by Pai Hsien-Yung Research Paper


Hsien-Yung Pai is also popularly known as Bai Xianyong. He is a renowned Chinese writer based in Taiwan. He is well-known in the literature world for having written a number of famous and ground breaking Chinese pieces (Lee and Dutrait 738). Right from his early years in life, he showed interest in English literature and studied the same at National Taiwan University. After his studies, he travelled abroad to master in creative writing at the University of Iowa.

Bai Xianyong is most famous for his fictional works depicting the life of the people of Taipei (Yee 86). One of his literary works, ‘Taipei People’, was published in 1971. It is one of the most famous pieces by this author. In addition, he published a book titled ‘Crystal Boys’ in 1983. His other works include ‘Death in Chicago’ and ‘Pleasantville’ in 1974. His work is characterized by melancholy, which he attributes to the death of his mother in 1963. It appears that the death affected him a lot. In his works, he blends both experimental modernist and Chinese literally techniques.

In this paper, the author analyzes one of Bai Xianyong’s pieces. The piece selected for this analysis is the ‘Winter Night’. The author will look at how Bai Xianyong uses doubling, parallels, and memory in this piece.


In his work ‘Winter Night’, Bai Xianyong makes use of doubling, parallels, and memory as literally genres. To begin with, doubling is a technique where a participant supplements the role of the protagonist. In this case, the participant is required to play their ‘self’ role, as well as their ‘role reversal’ (Evans 863). The participant in a literally work is required to say things that the protagonist in the story might want to say.

In addition, they may be required to say things that the protagonist may be withholding. The use of parallels, also referred to as parallelism, involves the use of similar patterns of grammatical structure and length. Memory, when used as a literally tool, is also referred to as memoir. It is a non-fictional literally genre. The genre attempts to provide readers with a collection of memories that an individual holds about moments and events that took place in their life.

The use of these stylistic devices in writing leaves the readers lost between the past and the present. It requires the readers to be critical in their analysis of the literature to be in a position to understand the message that the writer is trying to put across. The three stylistic devices will be analyzed in the context of Bai Xianyong’s ‘Winter Night’.

Doubling in the ‘Winter Night’

At the beginning of the story, professor Yu is seen as assuming his self role and that of the protagonist (Lee and Dutrait 741). The instances show doubling in that he expresses his views and those of his friend, Wu Chu-kuo. He also says what his friend Wu would be expected to say. To begin with, professor Yu imagines the situation he will be caught up in with the arrival of Wu and the likely conversation that would ensue between the two of them.

Professor Yu tells his friend Wu that he was in the alleys moments earlier waiting for him since he had a feeling that he would get lost (Xianyong 214). He goes ahead to state that the Taipei alleys are more confusing than ‘peiping’ hunting. The statement is expected of Wu given his past experiences when he visited professor Yu before traveling abroad. In this instance, it is not clear to the readers whether the conversation between the professor and Yu is in the present or is based on a past engagement.

Another instance of doubling is observed when professor Yu is asked about his aching knee by his friend Wu. He responds by stating that he had never recovered fully from the incident where he fell and hurt his knee (Xianyong 217). The incident occurred during his years at the university. He goes ahead to make fun of the situation by stating that he is lucky he has not turned into a cripple yet.

The statement is seen to somehow express the thoughts in Wu’s mind (Yee 99). Anyone would expect a person suffering from a knee problem for so long to be crippled more than twenty years later. The reader of the story may have trouble establishing the duration within which Professor Yu is expected to be crippled following the accident that left his knee severely hurt.

Professor Yu states that he would love to teach in America for some time before he retires from lecturing (Xianyong 213). He wants to lecture for just a short period of time, probably a year or two. However, he proceeds to state that he was afraid the Americans would not be ready to hire a Chinese to teach literature in their universities. The last statement is a classic example of doubling and is most probably what was in Wu’s mind (Yee 100).

Wu was likely to doubt the likelihood of the American universities hiring a lecturer of Chinese origin to teach English. There are so many qualified lecturers who are native speakers in America. The American universities would prefer to employ them than go for a Chinese tutor (Lee and Dutrait 738).

Bai Xianyong studied in America himself. As such, he fully understands the American culture and their relationship with foreigners. However, professor Yu is quick to reiterate that he does not intend to teach English in an American university (Xianyong 213). On the contrary, he was looking forward to teaching Chinese, his native language. However, Bai have only introduced professor Yu as an English lecturer. As such, the reader is likely to wonder how competent professor Yu would be in teaching Chinese. Professor Yu may have studied Chinese in the past. However, Bai has not shown the readers an instance where the professor has the knowledge required to teach Chinese at university level.


The manner in which Bai Xianyong uses memory in his work ‘Winter Night’ leaves the reader unsure of whether he is implying the past or the present. A case in point is at the beginning of the story, where professor Yu is awaiting the arrival of his friend. The professor remembers that Wu had never loved black tea. As such, he prepares some dragon well tea for him. Professor Yu knows the kind of tea to prepare for his friend as a result of the memories the two friends share (Yee 98).

The professor also remembers that his friend used to have stomach problems. At this point, the professor is concerned that his friend may eat his way back to his old stomach problems (Madden 103). Bai Xianyong appears to lose the reader at this point. The readers may have problems establishing whether the author intends to talk about the past or the present since Wu has not yet arrived at this point in the story. In this paragraph, Bai Xianyong illustrates a conversation between the two friends as if Wu has already arrived, which is not the case.

There are other instances of memory in the book. An example of this stylistic device is made clear when Wu tells professor Yu that his son resembles him. The two start to draw on memories that they shared in their youth (Xianyong 218). They go back in time and start talking of their university life. The same memories are experienced by professor Yu when he escorts his friend Wu. He finds his son seated by the window of his room studying. The impression he gets of his son is that of the life he had lived during his younger years.

He imagines that is the same way he looked at that time. Professor Yu’s memories go deeper and he remembers how he met Ya-hsing, his wife. He also remembers of her beauty, especially how it was brought out by her hair. In addition, professor Yu remembers the poem that he had written and dedicated to her. Again, the reader gets lost at this point. The reader is lost between the past and the present since they tend to compare the life of Chun-yen, professor Yu’s son, and that of his father. The reader compares the three in an attempt to form a mental picture of how the past looked like (Ouyang 127).


As already indicated in this paper, some instances of parallelism are evident in the story ‘Winter Night’. Parallelism is most used in the story for the purposes of emphasizing on certain issues (Yee 85). For instance, Wu uses parallelism to describe the rioting American students. He describes them as unruly, irresponsible, and uninterested in the learning process. In particular, Wu describes the American students as ‘shaggy-haired and barefoot’ as a result of their unruly behavior (Xianyong 217).

The use of the two words expresses the extent to which the American students are regarded by the writer as troublesome. However, as the story progresses, the reader learns that both Wu and professor Yu were also notorious during their university days. They often engaged in strikes, just like the American students. Wu was the leader of the university riot where professor Yu hurt his knee. At this point, the reader gets trapped between the past and the present given that Wu, who supported university riots back in the day, now criticizes the same behavior (Yee 89). The rioting students are probably of the same age as Wu during his university years. As such, he should not criticize their behavior.

Another instance of parallelism is seen when the writer attempts to describe how Wu takes his tea. Parallelism in this instance is used to vividly describe the process taken by Wu from the moment he picks his glass to the moment when he takes the tea into his mouth. Bai Xianyong states that Wu began the process by putting his hand around the glass of dragon well tea (Xianyong 211). He then lifts the glass, blows aside the leaves floating on the surface, and takes a sip. The pattern of words used in the statement show similarity in terms of grammatical structure and length (Ouyang 127).

The statement may be confusing to a reader who is not familiar with Bai Xianyong’s writing style. The reader may be left wondering whether the statement describes Wu’s normal habit or his conduct at that particular moment. Professor Yu states that prior to traveling abroad, Wu hated black tea and was only used to dragon well tea (Xianyong 211). As a result, one may conclude that Wu was most probably drinking dragon well tea for all the twenty years he was abroad. As such, he has formed a particular habit when it came to taking tea. His act in this instance may be as a result of habit and not process. Therefore, his way of drinking tea may be something of the past rather than of the present.


Many modern writers have resorted to the use of complex literally genres to pass a message to their audience (Evans 863). Readers must be in a position to identify these literally genres for them to understand what the author is trying to put across. Bai Xianyong is one of these modern writers. In his work ‘Winter Night’, Bai Xianyong makes use of various literally genres. For instance, he uses doubling, parallels, and memory in his writing.

The three genres are vivid throughout the story. The combination of the three genres has profound impacts on the reader. For example, the reader is not sure whether the events detailed in the story are taking place in the past or in the present. A critical analysis of the text shows that the readers are lost between the past and the present.

Works Cited

Evans, David. “The West of the Story.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 54.4 (2008): 862-869. Print.

Lee, Gregory and Noel Dutrait. “Conversations with Gao Xingjian: The First ‘Chinese’ Winner Of The Nobel Prize For Literature.” The China Quarterly 167 (2001): 738-748. Print.

Madden, Mary. “Using Genre Literature and Video in Homelessness Research: A Feminist Sociological Experiment in Insurrectional Textuality.” International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches 4.2 (2010): 100-112. Print.

Ouyang, Wen‐Chin. “Genres, Ideologies, Genre Ideologies and Narrative Transformation.” Middle Eastern Literatures 7.2 (2004): 125-131. Print.

Xianyong, Bai. “Winter Nights.” The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature. Ed. Lau Josep and Howard Goldblatt. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. 210-223. Print.

Yee, Angelina. “Constructing a Native Consciousness: Taiwan Literature in the 20th Century.” The China Quarterly 165 (2001): 83-101. Print.

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"The Story ‘Winter Nights’ by Pai Hsien-Yung." IvyPanda, 25 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-winter-nights-by-pai-hsien-yung/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Story ‘Winter Nights’ by Pai Hsien-Yung." March 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-winter-nights-by-pai-hsien-yung/.


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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Story ‘Winter Nights’ by Pai Hsien-Yung." March 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-winter-nights-by-pai-hsien-yung/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Story ‘Winter Nights’ by Pai Hsien-Yung'. 25 March.

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