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Shanghai Baby

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3.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,409 Ratings  ·  269 Reviews
A story of love, sex and self-discovery - banned in China.

Publicly burned in China for its sensual nature and irreverent style, this novel is the semi-autobiographical story of Coco, a cafe waitress, who is full of enthusiasm and impatience for life. She meets a young man, Tian Tian, for whom she feels tenderness and love, but he is reclusive, impotent and an increasing us
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Mass Market Paperback, 311 pages
Published 2002 by Robinson (first published 1999)
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To Live by Yu HuaWaiting by Ha JinRed Sorghum by Mo YanEmpress Orchid by Anchee MinShanghai Baby by Zhou Weihui
Fiction from the Chinese Mainland
5th out of 87 books — 114 voters
Wild Swans by Jung ChangLife and Death in Shanghai by Nien ChengMao by Jung ChangRed Azalea by Anchee MinCandy by Mian Mian
Banned CHINA Books
14th out of 54 books — 47 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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The Writer
Dec 17, 2008 The Writer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of my Chinese friends encourage me to read this book, not because they think it's cool or that it's fantastic, but because the main character is a Shanghainese girl.

Well, duh, you can read the title, right?

It turned out, my Chinese friends - who are not from Shanghai - begged me to read this book to prove their points that Shanghai girls are *cough* a bit unruly on the sex and wild side. They have this prejudice that Shanghai girls are only after white guys and that they would do anything
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Julia
Mar 11, 2010 Julia rated it it was ok
Shelves: china, oh-la-la, chick-lit
I found this book on a sale and it kindled my interest because i had heard about the scandal and the banning it had been involved in in china - well, it's very explicit about sex, but doesn't break any real taboos in the western world. Ok, there's sex with an impotent man, there's sex with a German with an OOOOOOO SOOOOOOO HUUUUUUUUUGE penis, there's no sex with a vibrator and there's a little bit of flirting with other women. the only thing which really made me swallow (in an unpleasant way) wa ...more
S.
Dec 23, 2012 S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: dutchess
why is this book so hated? 3.21 according to GR statistics makes it one of the most despised books on the website...

Shanghai Baby was famously banned in China, and although failing to reach any huge level of greatness, clearly illustrates the character's self-centred after-every-expat nature. but this seems to be Shanghai in general. a complete destruction of this city would not turn it into Jerusalem. to some degree, criticism of the book is deserved in that it reflects the sort of "worst stere
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Caleb Liu
Dec 21, 2007 Caleb Liu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Privileged Shanghai twenty-something nicknamed Coco (after Coco Chanel) loves her artist but impotent boyfriend but engages in torrid affair with married German expat businessman.

Wei Hui's attempts to contrast hedonism and the search for authenticity within the lens of the post Deng Xiaopeng China and such weightier themes (East vs West, capitalism vs imperialism) doesn't work.

This is more Cosmo that Keroac, more gossip column than Henry Miller. Notably only for its overblown sex scenes leading
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Ivana
Feb 08, 2012 Ivana rated it it was ok
Much of the praise this novel got is undeserved. Its raise to popularity has to do ( I strongly believe) mainly with the fact that it was banned by the Chinese government. I actually agree with what the Chinese government had to say about it, how it was an imitation of the west or something like that.

The protagonist is this Shanghai girl nicknamed Coco whose idol is Coco Chanel. You could say that the two have something in common--- While Coco Chanel was famous for her relationship with a Nazi o
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Vesna
Jan 21, 2016 Vesna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

Knjiga nema neku radnju. Pisana je kao dnevnik svakodnevnice 25-ogodišnjakinje i ne događa se ništa posebno: malo druženja, malo ljubovanja, malo rada na romanu...
U meni nije pobudila neka razmišljanja, a ni emocije. Doima se nekako nabacano i plitko s tendencijom da bude duboko i sveobuhvatno.
Stilski nije nešto. Na početku svakog poglavlja autorica citira zapadne mislioce i nepotrebno citira druge autore u samom tekstu kao da nema svojih misli pa ubacuje tuđe. U drugoj polovici romana, presta
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Odai Alsaeed
Jul 08, 2012 Odai Alsaeed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
أعتقد أن اشكالية المكان تتلاشي تدريجيا بفعل عامل التكنولوجيا وثورة الاتصالات ومع إبداع الكاتبة أحسست أنني في قلب أحداثها أتخاطب مع أبطالها وأتفاعل معهم...سرد بسيط مؤثر فعال وقيم... كما أن الترجمة كانت موفقة بشكل كبير أضفت على الرواية متعة وابداع ......رواية جميلة تستحق القراءة
Dominic


So... when does the really good part come on?

The protagonist falls in love with an impotent man but finds a "sexy, Western man" to fill her "void". Said impotent man develops a drug habit while the German moves back to Berlin. What is she really left with?

Of course, the author leaves us with a "who I'm I?" cliff-hanger moment near the end of the book which seems to be the major theme running throughout. From the reviews on here, one would describe the protagonist ("Coco") to be a heartless, self
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Patty
Sep 18, 2007 Patty rated it liked it
I bought this book because of the controversy and upon reading it I understand why this book caused such a stir in China that drove them to burn the copies. Personally I found the topic quite ordinary, drug addiction and female sexuality is something that an army of Indonesian young writers love to discuss since the fall of New Order era. But given the fact that this is a book from a young woman in a country as repressed as China, I gotta give it some credit. The author was very brave. She spoke ...more
Icha
Feb 07, 2008 Icha rated it really liked it
Nikki (or Coco) is a writer in China which was not popular enough. She is a tough woman who lives on her own. She had a boyfriend named Tian Tian and she lived together with him. Tian Tian was a nice weak loyal guy who loved painting. They both lived happily although Tian Tian could not give her offspring. He was impotent and Coco explained it really clear that they do not mind with that.

Coco has many great friends beside her. They sometimes asked Coco hang out and spend the night together. Coco
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Emon
Oct 04, 2007 Emon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Situated by the changing Shanghai, Coco started to write her second novel. Coco was formerly a journalist, but resigned after she launched her first novel.

By encouraging her boy friend, Tian Tian, a painter, Coco felt self confidence to write her novel. Tian Tian saw that Coco was very talented at writing.

This novel also described that Shanghai was a changing city. Where modern met old. And East met West. That's why Shanghai is always interesting city in the world.In the wilderness of Shanghai,
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Alexis
Jul 13, 2011 Alexis rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Wow! What an utterly uninspired piece of writing. The main character (apparently based on the author) is totally unrelatable and lacks depth. While I believe the character was intended to be this revolutionary and shocking women she came off as a shallow and uncaring character with no redeemable human quality. The writing itself was boring and uninvolved.... A depressing attempt at shock value.
Iris
Jun 10, 2016 Iris rated it liked it
this is the wildest thing ive ever read and even tho i think it was def important in elevating female perspectives on sex eroticism lgbtqia in chinese lit it still felt rly male gaze-y :(
Cari
Nov 25, 2009 Cari rated it did not like it
Crap. Self-indulgent, narcissistic, unabashedly ignorant, poorly written crap. It's a shame that Chinese literature is being represented by such an atrocious wanna-be.
Michael Haley
Apr 06, 2015 Michael Haley rated it really liked it
The tone of this book lies somewhere between a Truffaut film and a sexually explicit Taylor Swift song, which coupled with an engaging voice in its lead character Coco, makes for an interesting read. The book lags a little in the middle, yet the story captures the tone of being midway through 20, when one is both simultaneously the most brilliant one will ever be and the most carelessly stupid. Bonus points for a book primarily about sex that somehow manages to be explicit, enduring, and exhilar ...more
Mirvan  Ereon
Apr 02, 2012 Mirvan Ereon rated it it was amazing
Loved it. Slutty and unapologetic the way I like it.
Antonomasia
If this had been published here in 2011, not 2001, it would have been called a hipster novel. It's more conventionally written than Taipei or How Should A Person Be? (plus the descriptions often teeter on a subjective line between 'intense melancholy beauty' and 'a bit emo'), but most of the characters are, as in Alt-Lit, well-off urban middle class arty twentysomethings who barely have a thought for anyone and anything outside their own social set. There are even vists to a therapist.

Shanghai
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Lau
Tenía curiosidad por esta novela que tan controversial fue en China. No se, quizás mi mente acostumbrada a la literatura moderna no se horroriza facilmente, o tal vez el nivel de aceptación y pensamiento en ese país es bastante conservador. Cuando salió se quemaron publicamente miles de ediciones, pero una vez más, el mercado negro triunfó y ayudó en la difusión.
Shangai Baby no es un libro que leería dos veces, al menos no de momento. Es interesante, está bien escrito y tiene ciertos “raptos” fi
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Sheila
Jul 11, 2013 Sheila rated it liked it
Shanghai Baby is a story about a twenty-something, Shanghainese writer who falls in love with two men: an impotent Chinese and a married German. If it's all about that, I will have abandoned the book after a few chapters. But Wei Hui also paints a picture of 1999, post-colonial Shanghai, maybe not representative of industrial China, but at least enough to satisfy a traveler like me.

The main character is called Coco and she wants to be famous, a characteristic that she attributes to Shanghai's s
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Jennie
Apr 07, 2007 Jennie rated it liked it
Wei Hui is Shanghai-ese spoiled spoiled spoiled who can think of nothing better to do, so she decides to become a writer, and because she's a writer, she must be tortured! Oh! It's so hard being her! It's so hard living the life of luxury and not having to care! Don't you feel sorry for her? Because she wants you to.

Also, Wei Hui most pretentious. And her writing, ugh. "A team of Japanese boys on roller skates looked like mounted butterflies as they showed off their techniques... their dyed hair
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Melissa
Oct 23, 2011 Melissa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I grabbed this book off of a free book exchange shelf thinking it was Shanghai Girls but decided to read it anyway. Big mistake! Granted this book was written in 1999 and was almost banned by the Chinese government because of it's sensuality, it was not worth being printed. This was a very shallow twenty-something version of Sex in the City without the best friends. The only parts that were interesting were brief commentaries on western expats. I found the narrator obsessed with all things weste ...more
Meg
Jan 09, 2014 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Non credevo che un libro del genere potesse appassionarmi tanto. In fin dei conti, si tratta del resoconto della vita (movimentata, certo) di una giovane donna cinese dotata di un egocentrismo e una superficialità veramente notevoli. Di più, non c'é un personaggio, tra quelli descritti, che non sia animato da una superficialità marcata e da un certo lassismo nei confronti della vita... Li ho odiati tutti, dal primo all'ultimo, eppure ho trovato" Shanghai Baby" un libro bellissimo, scritto con un ...more
Sanaz Ahmadi
Jun 24, 2016 Sanaz Ahmadi rated it it was amazing
Despite the fantasy escapism, this book treats her characters well. They come to life in a truly gripping story by the Chinese Anaïs Nin. Just like Nin, the "diary" is enhanced, telling the gripping and passionate story of a girl we all wish we could be.
Dominic
May 27, 2014 Dominic rated it liked it
Shelves: china
a lot of unfair negativity about this book. I had never read something like this before and the copious sex scenes were slightly off putting and the main thing stopping me giving it a higher rating. Don't get me wrong, I love sex! But reading about other people doing it is dull.

However, this book is so poetic, it is beautifully written and I love the characterisation, Tian Tian is my favourite character and most of the poetry orbits Coco's lamentations on his being. At points also a very existe
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Debbie
Feb 10, 2016 Debbie rated it it was ok
This book was so odd. It is touted as being banned because it was "too sensual". I found it more about a strange, narcissistic woman and her very needy childlike boyfriend. Not great, but I finished it
LKM
Sep 17, 2008 LKM rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this because "It was like The Lover", and I liked that book, so "I would like this one, too."

I can't say I really... liked it. I can't say it was just ok either; it's somewhere in between, and to be fair, I never went past half the book.
The part I read wasn't all that bad, but it felt a bit like the author kept trying to sound more than what she could actually be. Like a kid trying to use big words.
I got bored halfway through and decided I better take my time reading about samurai.

It's a
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Maria Arra Perez
Aug 10, 2014 Maria Arra Perez rated it really liked it
Wei Hui's voice in Shanghai Baby feels like something I've already heard before. I could not say that it has similarities to those of Murakami's or Plath's, but, somehow, I feel like I am hearing a combination of these two authors voices in Hui's - rebellious yet poetic yet sincere.

I cannot say that I am rooting for Nikki/Coco, but I sure am listening to her. Through and through, Chinese novels prove that women really are inferior to men -- which the society is slowly being able to reshape.

Befor
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Juliet
Jan 12, 2016 Juliet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fluff
Reads like it was written by a 19-year-old: self-absorbed, in love with her own phrases, in love with her own appearance. It was "banned and burned" in China so I kept reading it to see what all the fuss was about, or why it was such a best-seller, but nothing substantial emerged. Yes, someone dies and she says some poetic things about it, but nothing really seems to sink in, including the fact that cheating on her boyfriend, disappearing for days at a time without telling him where she was migh ...more
Reno (Falling Letters)
I wavered between rating this book two or three stars but in the end I decided I felt more positive about this book than most of the people who gave it two stars, so three it is. I read this book for a university course on Chinese gender and culture. I anticipated a poorly written, vapid, chick-lit type story. While I definitely still consider it a fluff tale now that I've read it, I was surprised to find that there's a lot going on in this book if you're ready to give it a closer thought. My cl ...more
Astrid Natasastra
Well, she is a good author.. she's able to describe the characters and emotions precisely.. it'll engage you.. but story wise.. I don't really like it.. it's just basically about a Chinese girl who had a younger bf but having affair with a good-looking western guy. It's still a good read incase you have nothing else to read or you can borrow this from your friend. Otherwise, it's not a priority.
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Zhou Weihui (simplified Chinese: 周卫慧; traditional Chinese: 周衛慧) is a Chinese writer, living and working in Shanghai and New York. She is known in the West also as "Wei Hui".

Her novel Shanghai Baby (2000) was banned in the People's Republic of China as "decadent". Her latest novel Marrying Buddha (2005) was censored, modified and published in China under a modified title.

Wei Hui has been regarded b
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“Kissing with the tip of the tongue is like ice-cream melting. It was he who taught me that a kiss has a soul and colour of its own.” 17 likes
“Her life was like a burst of wild, flowing Chinese calligraphy, written under the influence of alcohol.” 15 likes
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