The House

Zhou Enlai’s Novel, “The House” 

reveals secret feelings about family and country

Original Qingping History 2021-02-01 12:14:00

In his later years, Zhou Enlai planned to write a novel, “The House.” It was designed to present the inner and outer life of the Zhou family.

Premier Zhou Enlai was raised in a big family, and they took great care of him. He was raised “while eating a thousand family meals.”

He was fond of reading novels when he was young, so his writing style was unique, and it was natural for him to write a novel of his own. “The House” reveals secrets, of both family and country; he once said affectionately to his staff: “Ba Jin wrote a book, ‘Home.’ Many scenes in that book are drawn from Ba Jin’s own life experience, and family stories. This is very valuable. When I retire one day in the future, I will write such a book about my family.”

As he grew up, many Zhou families lived in a big common house — each with its own room, each with its own stories,  each story with its own shadows. The novel was finished after Zhou Enlai passed away, so the book embodies both a hope — and a regret. It contains the secret feelings of people and nation.

Zhou Enlai’s nephew, Zhou Huazhang, wanted to fulfill his uncle’s wish. He worked for more than 20 years to complete the first draft of the novel. Zhou Huazhang found it difficult to maintain the high standard of the Premier’s writing style.

Zhou Huazhang recalled, “Uncle Zhou Enlai treasured a traditional book, ‘Haichao Shuwu Poems,’ by the patriarch Yuantanggong. This book travelled with Zhou Enlai throughout his most difficult days. It was left to Zhou Enlai by his family.”

The original intent of the novel was simple: to tell the stories of the Zhou family and all its private rooms, following their development through history, in order to illuminate the historic ideals of Chinese society.

His intent was pure. On the one hand, he used “The House” to express gratitude for his upbringing in the Zhou family. On the other hand, he revealed his own family’s history, in order to shed light on the profound changes and development of his nation.

“The House,” by Zhou Enlai and Zhou Huazhang, was completed in 2005 in Chinese. It will be publshed, and translated into English, with support from the Zhou Enlai Peace Institute.


Zhou Huazhang, at the founding of the
Zhou Enlai Peace Institute, 2011