Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

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When Young Fu arrives with his mother in bustling 1920s Chungking, all he has seen of the world is the rural farming village where he has grown up. He knows nothing of city life. But the city, with its wonders and dangers, fascinates the 13-year-old boy, and he sets out to make the best of what it has to offer him.

First published in 1932, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze was one of the earliest Newbery Medal winners. Although China has changed since that time, Young Fu's experiences are universal: making friends, making mistakes, and making one's way in the world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312380076
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 04/29/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 216,113
Product dimensions: 5.29(w) x 7.72(h) x 0.85(d)
Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Elizabeth Foreman Lewis (1892-1958) received special training in religious education and English literature, and in 1917 was sent to China by the Methodist Women's Board. There she studied the Chinese language and history, and held teaching posts in Shanghai, Chungking, and Nanking. Young Fu was her first book.

William Low was born and raised in New York City. He is the author and illustrator of Chinatown and Old Penn Station, as well as a four time Silver Medal winner at the Society of Illustrators. Currently, he teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Read an Excerpt

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

By Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, William Low

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2007 Katherine Paterson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-11929-2


A City Set upon a Hill

Young Fu stood on the narrow curbing before Dai's two-storied tenement in Chair-Makers' Way, Chungking, and stared about him. In the doorway, Fu Be Be, his mother, directed load-coolies in placing the household goods which she had brought from home, and anxiously examined each article as it passed before her. A day of clattering over country roads, followed by two on the crowded freight boat, had been difficult indeed for her, but the furniture looked no worse for wear than did her son. For him the hours had flowed into the past as swiftly as the current of the river. He had been fascinated by shifting scenes and strange faces; the constant menace of bandits with which all travel was shadowed had added its own flavor to the experience, and when at last Chungking's great walls had loomed above them, it had seemed the fulfillment of all his dreams.

He turned in the direction of a yell as one of the load-bearers lowered his burden of a pigskin trunk on the bare foot of a bystander. In a flash the two men, their faces white with anger, were after each other.

"Pig, have you no eyes?"

"And you, grandson of a two-headed dog, could you not see that trunk?"

"It is your affair, you whose ancestors for ten generations have been scavengers of the streets, to look where you place a load!"

"And it is yours, whose grandmother resembled a monkey, to move out of the way of workers!"

The carrier, unlike the Chungkingese about him, wore a queue, and the bystander stretched out a hand, grabbed the tail of hair, and pulled viciously. The queue, half of which was false hair plaited in with string, came apart in his hand and the onlookers roared. Furious with chagrin, the victim lifted his carrying pole to strike. As he did so, an unexpected clamor in the street drew everyone's attention, and the bystander seized this opportunity to lose himself in the crowd.

A handsome red wedding chair, ornately decorated with gold, rolled past. Hidden completely behind its satin-hung curtains, sat a youthful bride on the way to her new home. A long train of coolies followed the chair, swinging great, painted trays on which rested roast fowls and sweetmeats, silk bed comforts and hard, lacquered pillows, sealed boxes of clothing, and pieces of furniture — all of the contributions essential to any dowry. When the last of these had disappeared from sight, the angry carrier, who had succeeded in plaiting his queue to its original length, stooped, picked up his pole, and resumed work as if nothing had ever disturbed him.

Fu Be Be breathed a sigh of relief. After the quiet countryside, this city was providing more excitement than she could well endure, but she would have to be content for her son's sake.

Young Fu, unconscious of anything but the fact that he was now in Chungking, drew a long breath of delight. In his village men who counted it a privilege to visit this city once in a lifetime had told of its wonders.

"Miles of streets there are, lined with shops where may be purchased more than any man will ever need," he had heard the innkeeper say one evening. "The people, a hundred times ten thousand in number — so many that they are forced to build dwellings on top of one another that all may be sheltered — work at their countless trades and, when there is time for play, enjoy themselves in handsome tea houses and theaters." Here the speaker had paused in the act of serving a new customer and had gazed inquiringly from one listener to another. "When, sirs," he had demanded, "do farmers and innkeepers ever find time to play? Certainly the citizens of that place are people of good fortune!"

A true saying! For Chungking, built high above the waters that swept about its feet, was distinct in its position of port city to all of this far, western world. To the west and north towered the frozen Himalayas and mysterious Tibet; to the south, trade routes, centuries old, connected it with Indo-China, Burma, and India; to the east, its main artery of life, the Yangtze-kiang, flowed tortuously for fifteen hundred miles before it reached Shanghai and the coast and emptied its muddy stream into the blue Pacific.

And, ancient and gray, Chungking opened its gates to let the tides of commerce flow in and out, never failing to reach for the choicest prizes and hug them to itself. Wealth it had, wealth that was reckoned enormous even in Szechuen, this the richest province in the Middle Kingdom, and poverty such as only an overpopulated Chinese city can know. Young Fu's pulse quickened; he, Fu Yuin-fah, at the age of thirteen was already here, standing on one of its streets and watching coolies carry familiar household possessions into the room in which he and his mother would live.

That Fu Be Be did not share his enthusiasm, he knew. For weeks she had wept over the idea of leaving the farm land where she had spent her life. But with her husband's death, she had not known in which direction to turn for help. Her father-in-law had died years before, and there was no other member of his family on whom she had a claim. Tilling the ground offered in these troubled times a secure living to no man. As for a widow and a growing boy — she clicked her tongue in dismay.

And then, when the future had seemed darkest, the Head of the Village told her of an opening for an apprentice with one Tang, a coppersmith of Chungking, and, at her request, letters had been exchanged and her son accepted. A life in Chungking was not what she would have chosen for either of them, but, as it was, she had not dared to refuse. Besides the meager furnishings of the farmhouse, she possessed only a few dollars and her wedding ornaments, silver hairpins and bracelets — a feeble barrier between themselves and hunger.

And now the square, red table, the rectangular stools, the rolled bedding, and the baskets of kitchen utensils had been carried within. Fu Be Be paid the coolies what they had been promised in advance and listened with small attention to their grumbling.

"This is not enough! These loads were twice as heavy as we thought them when we bargained price. You have robbed us of strength for the day. Give us another two hundred cash!"

"Two hundred cash!" she exclaimed. "Do I look like the widow of a mandarin? You agreed to my amount; if you are not satisfied, that is your affair." She waved them out of her way and entered the house.

The disgruntled coolies moved on down the street, and Young Fu turned with a sigh from the excitement of the curb. His momentary depression changed suddenly to a feeling of satisfaction that their room was in this lower house and not the upper. At the rear was a ladder which had to be climbed if one lived on top, and while that held no terrors for one who was used to scrambling to the roof of the farmhouse and adjusting tiles displaced by stormy winds, this business of living in the air above others was strange indeed. And for his mother, whose bound feet, four inches in length, had never been expected to step over anything higher than a door sill, this ladder would have presented a real problem.

Within, he stood and looked about. The walls of the one room which they were to occupy were plastered. In his village, the inn alone had plastered inner walls. That material cost more than plain baked clay, and if one could afford to have a wash of it on the outside of the building, it was a mark of prosperity. His own home had boasted such a coating and a tiled roof as well, but it had been built in his grandfather's day, when, for a brief period, the province had known peace and farmers had faced only the uncertainties of weather as their common enemy. His father had worked none the less diligently than his ancestors, but how could a man be expected to prosper when marching troops crushed the tender young plants in the fields, or settled in a village overnight and in that time seized a year's harvest for their use? Fowls and live stock disappeared always with the first visit of soldiers, and if they stayed away, the bandits came in their place.

"Ma teh fah!" his father had said in that expressive earth language which distinguished the talk of the farmers from that of their neighbors in the towns. "Ma teh fah!" And the men of the village had conquered their discouragement and planted again and again. But Young Fu, working from his sixth year beside his father in the fields, had watched him change from a young, good-humored man who was never too tired to laugh at the antics of his small assistant, to a bent, aging stranger with an unsmiling expression and lips that opened only to scold or cough. Here in Chungking there would be no farming worries at least.

Fu Be Be's voice prodded him into action. "Can you find nothing to do but stare? Certain it is there is little about this place worth anyone's glances."

Her son began to loosen ropes from a basket. "The walls are plastered," he suggested by way of favorable criticism.

His mother twisted her mouth. "Naturally, when houses are planted one on the other, something more than good, clean clay is needed. Wood or bamboo is doubtless beneath, but that will make it no better a place in which to live. Cracks there are in plenty, so that our neighbors' curiosity as well as their noise may enter. And holes! We shall do well if we do not supply food to any army of rats. Moreover, the light is poor. And I like not the odor." She walked to the rear and, pressing her eye to a break in the wall, continued, "It is as I feared — our landlord houses his pigs at the back."

In a short time the room was in order. Food was prepared and a candle lighted. It flickered grotesque shadows over the cracked walls, cast a soft glow on the brass hot-water kettle which was Fu Be Be's special pride, and reddened the highly colored countenance of the genial kitchen god whose portrait had been placed in a choice location on the chimney. This deity, friendly though he was in appearance, had been known to carry bad reports to Heaven at the festivities of the New Year period, and it was wise for a household to give him the place of honor on its walls.

Young Fu nodded wearily over the food. He held the rice bowl close to his lips and with the chopsticks pushed its contents into his packed jaws. Steaming tea revived his interest in life. He became conscious of the ceaseless bustle of the street and, rising, slipped to the outer door.

Chair-Makers' Way was busy about the preparation of the evening meal and the approach of night. Load-bearers carrying poles from which empty ropes now dangled, beggars imploring pity, housewives attending to last-minute errands, playing children, barking dogs — all crowded the narrow street. The sedan-chair shops, that gave to the place its name, were closing their fronts, fitting into grooves the sliding wooden panels that closed them in securely from the outer world. Patrons thronged the hot-water stores, purchasing just enough for a brewing of tea. To heat this for oneself was much more expensive; that required a double purchase of cold water and charcoal.

With delight, Young Fu watched this activity. This was the life of which the visitors to Chungking had told. And tomorrow he would become an apprentice to Tang, the coppersmith, and when he had time for play, he would enjoy himself in tea houses and theaters. In a city like this, money for such pleasures would be easy to earn. He thought with a smile of pity of the existence to which his former companions in the village were condemned. Most of them would now be asleep, and their parents with them, while these people were still preparing evening rice. And instead of this interesting spectacle, there would be silence broken only by the frogs and an occasional howling dog.

"Good!" he said under his breath, "and great in fortune am I to be here."

"Truly?" a voice interrupted, and, startled, the boy looked up to find a tall, elderly figure beside him. A scholar — there was no doubt of that. Shabby of garment he was, but with the fine, intelligent expression with which even the youngest Chinese learns to associate a man versed in the Classic Wisdom. For further proof his hands, held carefully within each other, boasted nails three inches long on each of the smallest fingers, a sign that their owner engaged in no manual labor. He was smiling whimsically as he repeated, "Truly, thou dost think thy fortune great because thou hast come to live in this place?"

Young Fu, his cheeks red with the embarrassment of being overheard, bowed customarily three times, and stammered a reply, "Respected and Honored Sir, I am a newcomer in this city and its wonders seem very great to my stupid eyes."

The scholar nodded understandingly. "Thou art young and easy to please. Therein lies thy good fortune — in youth, not in coming to this city. Thou art from the country, is it not true?"

Young Fu bowed again. "You know all things, Revered One." Some of his first discomfort was wearing off. Never in his life had he held a personal conversation with a teacher; that this was happening now was only another example of the benefits to be derived from living in Chungking. He listened attentively to the other's continued speech.

"A good life it is to work with the soil and know the sun. That wilt thou not find in this city! It shines seldom and old bones like mine cry out for it. But thou wilt not miss it, not at first. Thou art strong." His eyes lightened with humor — "And good! That I can see for myself."

Young Fu, lost in interest, agreed soberly, then becoming aware of the old gentleman's amusement, his usual impudence rose above all other emotions. With a grin he replied, "Again you speak truly, Ancient One."

"A verity!" replied his elder, carrying on the spirit of the occasion, "and never hast thou been known to prod without warning thy neighbor's water buffalo, or to push a young companion on the slippery path between paddy fields, or to torment thy mother for sugar cane and watermelon seeds, or to mock at thy elders when they were not present."

Young Fu's attempt to affirm the reasonable quality of these statements ended in laughter. His tormentor smiled, then asked seriously, "What is thy name?"

"I am of the miserable house of Fu, and I answer to Yuin-fah."

"And thou wilt dwell in this house, thou and thy family?"

"I and my mother." The boy's expression became shadowed by memory. "My father is no longer here."

There was a flash of sympathy, but no words concerning this loss.

"And thou wilt now care for thy mother?"

Young Fu answered proudly. "Tomorrow I go to be an apprentice to one Tang, a coppersmith. I shall work hard and my mother shall not want. Tang is, I understand, a man of importance in this city. It may be his reputation is not unknown to you, sir."

"His name is not new to me. As an artisan, his stamp on a piece of brass increases the price. Thou art fortunate to learn thy trade under his teaching." He turned slightly. "My name is Wang, with the title, Scholar, of which I am most unworthy. I dwell on the upper floor of this house. If at any time thou shouldst meet with ill fortune, as is sometimes true of a youth from the country, thou canst find me there in my room." In another moment the dignified figure had moved to the rear of the building and climbed the creaking treads to his apartment above.

The street was quieting. Most of the people had gone within their homes, and the shop fronts presented closed, wooden surfaces. An unexpected noise cut the silence. Four liveried coolies turned the corner and swung down the narrow way, a handsome sedan chair raised high on their shoulders. "Open the street!" they cried, "open the street for the rich foreigner!" From the curb a few feet away, a woman's shrill voice yelled, "Foreign devil! Foreign devil!" and the child, clinging to her hand, buried its face in its mother's clothing and whispered, "Foreign devil! Foreign devil! Foreign devil!"

Young Fu tingled. A foreigner had been in that chair. Never had he seen one of these strange creatures. They were said to come from lands so far away that their boundaries lay beyond the farthest reaches of the Middle Kingdom. All of this was puzzling indeed. In his village it was commonly believed that where the Middle Kingdom ended, there the world ended as well. And these foreigners were like the Miao and the Lo Lo, only another tribe of aboriginal savages. He had heard it said, also, that a great sea separated their land from China, though what a sea was, Young Fu was not at all sure. Water, perhaps like the Lin River; certainly nothing so large as the Yangtze-kiang, which was the greatest of its kind under Heaven. And here in this city foreigners were, no doubt, a common sight. He would make it his business soon to view one for himself. His mind felt about to burst with new experiences. The villagers had not told half of what was to be seen in Chungking.

He went within at a call from Fu Be Be, and closed the door carefully behind him. "A great scholar talked with me outside. He lives in this building. And I watched, only a minute ago, while a foreigner in a sedan chair rode past. It was too dark to see him," he finished with regret.


Excerpted from Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, William Low. Copyright © 2007 Katherine Paterson. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

IA City Set upon a Hill1
II"In the Beginning All Things Are Difficult"15
IIIService at the Point of a Rifle36
IV"If a Man's Affairs Are to Prosper"50
VFor Sale-Dragon's Breath, Cheap69
VITilting with Fire88
VIIThe Devils of Disease104
VIIIA Footstool for Bandits!123
IXA River on the Rampage143
XA Small Problem of Ownership159
XI"He Who Rides on a Tiger Cannot Dismount"180
XII"In the Course of Time Men's Motives May Be Seen"198
XIIIA Use for Curiosity220
XIV"One Must First Scale the Mountain in Order to View the Plain"242

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Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fu leaves the country and heads to the city to serve as an apprentice to a coppersmith for seven years. Being in the city is a new experience for him. He must learn how to deal with the cruel remarks of his fellow apprentices and how to handle money, to stop thieves and to avoid those who would take advantage of him in the market.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this look at life in the Chinese city Chungking at the turn of the century. Watching Young Fu come of age was enjoyable and his experiences and life are interesting in terms of Chinese culture. It is clear that Ms. Lewis loved China and the people she came to know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved this coming-of-age book about the journey and adventures of young man named fu. full of wonderful characters, story line, and life lessons as well as insight into another culture. relevant comparison with today's china and it's walled villages. forward & note by Katherine Paterson and Peal Buck respectively link this 1932 newbery winner to today's times. an interesting read for middle schoolers, teens and adults.
captinm More than 1 year ago
I love this boo k so much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't really like this book:it is quite poor. I just started reading it, and i want to abandon it. but it's work. oh well
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oh my god. This book doesn't have a bit of exciting detail here. It's the boringest book I've ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very bad book, and clearly did not deserve the Newberry award. It was poorly wirtten and was dragging. Even though there was much action, Fu was heroicly saved from every disaster.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was confusing to read. It was also hard to follow along with. The events that are mentioned to lead to the main idea are confusing to put together. I have always been interested in the culture and life of Japan and China but this book made me very confused on the topic. I would not recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read, and re-read this book. The story is facinating. This book could be the reason I visited China this past summer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think it is very nice I just started reading it but I fell in love with it. I wish there's part2.
Guest More than 1 year ago