Chronicle of a Blood Merchant
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"Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" Summary

By Yu Hua

china | 263 pages | Published in NaN

One of the last decade's ten most influential books in China, this internationally acclaimed novel by one of the mainland's most important contemporary writers provides an unflinching portrait of life under Chairman Mao.A cart-pusher in a silk mill, Xu Sanguan augments his meager salary with regular visits to the local blood chief. His visits become lethally frequent as he struggles to provide for his wife and three sons at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Shattered to discover that his favorite son was actually born of a liaison between his wife and a neighbor, he suffers his greatest indignity, while his wife is publicly scorned as a prostitute. Although the poverty and betrayals of Mao's regime have drained him, Xu Sanguan ultimately finds strength in the blood ties of his family. With rare emotional intensity, grippingly raw descriptions of place and time, and clear-eyed compassion, Yu Hua gives us a stunning tapestry of human life in the grave particulars of one man's days.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A man navigates the complexities of love, family, and societal expectations in 20th-century China through his unconventional career as a blood merchant.

Chronicle of a Blood Merchant: A Tale of Love, Sacrifice, and Morality


"Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" is a captivating novel written by acclaimed Chinese author Yu Hua. Set in the mid-20th century, the story takes us on a journey through the life of a humble blood merchant, Xu Sanguan, as he navigates the complexities of family, love, and societal expectations. Through vivid storytelling and rich characterization, Yu Hua explores themes of sacrifice, morality, and the human condition.

Brief Synopsis

The story is set in the fictional town of Liu Village, China, during the 1950s and 1960s. Xu Sanguan, the protagonist, is a simple and hardworking man who earns a living by selling his blood. The demand for blood rises during this period due to the various political campaigns and medical advancements. Xu Sanguan's life takes an unexpected turn when he falls in love with a young and beautiful widow, Xu Yulan.

Main Characters

Here are the main characters in "Chronicle of a Blood Merchant":

Character NameDescription
Xu SanguanThe protagonist and a blood merchant. He is hardworking, kind-hearted, and struggles with the challenges of family and societal expectations.
Xu YulanA young widow who captures Xu Sanguan's heart. She is beautiful, independent, and becomes a source of both joy and turmoil in Xu Sanguan's life.
Xu Sanguan's WifeXu Sanguan's wife, who is referred to as "Xu Sanguan's Wife" in the novel. She is devoted to her family but becomes suspicious of Xu Sanguan's relationship with Xu Yulan.

Summary of Different Story Points

Chapter 1-3: The Life of a Blood Merchant

The story begins with Xu Sanguan's humble life as a blood merchant. His days consist of selling his blood, dealing with the constant gossip of the village, and taking care of his wife and children. However, everything changes when he encounters Xu Yulan, a widow who captivates his heart. Xu Sanguan finds himself torn between his loyalty to his family and his growing love for Xu Yulan.

Chapter 4-6: Forbidden Love and Moral Dilemmas

As Xu Sanguan's relationship with Xu Yulan deepens, the villagers start to gossip, and Xu Sanguan's wife becomes suspicious. The couple must navigate the challenges of their forbidden love while facing the moral dilemmas of societal expectations and personal happiness. Xu Sanguan finds himself torn between his desire for Xu Yulan and his duty towards his family.

Chapter 7-9: Sacrifice and Betrayal

Xu Sanguan's wife discovers his affair and confronts him, leading to a heartbreaking revelation. In an act of sacrifice, Xu Sanguan agrees to sell his blood to pay for his wife's medical treatment. Xu Yulan, devastated by the turn of events, makes a difficult decision that changes the course of their lives forever. The story delves into the themes of sacrifice, betrayal, and the consequences of one's choices.

Main Events

  • Xu Sanguan falls in love with Xu Yulan, a young widow.
  • Xu Sanguan's affair with Xu Yulan becomes the subject of gossip in the village.
  • Xu Sanguan's wife discovers the affair and confronts him.
  • Xu Sanguan agrees to sell his blood to pay for his wife's medical treatment.
  • Xu Yulan makes a life-altering decision that impacts her relationship with Xu Sanguan.

Themes and Insights

"Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" delves into various themes and insights, including:

SacrificeThe novel explores the sacrifices individuals make for the sake of their families and loved ones. Xu Sanguan's decision to sell his blood and Xu Yulan's ultimate sacrifice highlight the depths of human love and selflessness.
MoralityThe story raises questions about societal expectations and the morality of personal choices. Xu Sanguan wrestles with his desire for personal happiness and the consequences of betraying his family's trust.
Love and DesireThe novel explores the complexities of love and desire. Xu Sanguan's affair with Xu Yulan reveals the power of love to both uplift and destroy lives. It also highlights the human capacity for desire and the struggles it brings.
Consequences of ActionsThe book delves into the consequences of one's actions and the impact they have on individuals and relationships. Xu Sanguan's choices have far-reaching effects on his family, Xu Yulan, and the village community.

Reader's Takeaway

"Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that explores the complexities of love, sacrifice, and morality. Through the compelling story of Xu Sanguan, readers are invited to reflect on the choices we make and the consequences they carry. Yu Hua's masterful storytelling and rich character development make this book an engaging and emotionally resonant read.


"Chronicle of a Blood Merchant" is a captivating novel that delves into the depths of human emotions and the moral dilemmas we face. Yu Hua's exploration of sacrifice, love, and the consequences of one's choices creates a compelling narrative that will resonate with readers long after they finish the book. This novel is a testament to the power of storytelling and the universal themes that connect us all.

Chronicle of a Blood Merchant FAQ

  1. What is the plot of Chronicle of a Blood Merchant?

    Chronicle of a Blood Merchant follows the life of Xu Sanguan, a blood merchant who sells his blood to support his family in rural China during the 1940s. The story explores Xu's struggles and sacrifices, as well as the impact of political and social changes on his life.

  2. Who is the author of Chronicle of a Blood Merchant?

    Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is written by Yu Hua, a renowned Chinese author known for his works exploring contemporary Chinese society and history.

  3. What themes are explored in Chronicle of a Blood Merchant?

    The book delves into various themes, including family relationships, societal changes, sacrifice, and the impact of politics on ordinary people's lives. It also touches upon the idea of honor and personal dignity.

  4. Is Chronicle of a Blood Merchant based on a true story?

    No, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is a work of fiction. However, it is inspired by the author's own experiences growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China.

  5. What is the writing style of Chronicle of a Blood Merchant?

    Yu Hua's writing style in Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is characterized by its vivid descriptions, poignant storytelling, and a blend of humor and tragedy. The narrative is engaging and offers a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people in China.

  6. Is Chronicle of a Blood Merchant a standalone book or part of a series?

    Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is a standalone book. It is not part of a series.

  7. What is the significance of the title Chronicle of a Blood Merchant?

    The title refers to the protagonist's occupation as a blood merchant, which serves as a metaphor for the sacrifices and struggles he endures to provide for his family. It reflects the economic and social conditions of the time, as well as the impact of political changes on ordinary people's lives.

  8. Is Chronicle of a Blood Merchant suitable for young readers?

    Chronicle of a Blood Merchant contains mature themes and explores the complexities of adult life, so it may not be suitable for very young readers. It is recommended for mature teenagers and adults.

  9. Has Chronicle of a Blood Merchant been adapted into a movie?

    Yes, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant has been adapted into a film. It was released in 1995 and directed by Zhang Yimou.

  10. Is Chronicle of a Blood Merchant available in multiple languages?

    Yes, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant has been translated into multiple languages, allowing readers from various countries to enjoy the book.