Romance in the Rain: A Novel on the Wrongs of Old Chinese Tradition
Knowing some of Qiong Yao's novels were usually set during China during the feudalistic times where chauvinism and harsh family dictum was the norm, Romance in the Rain is a commentary that shows the flaws of an unequal, unjust and harsh society. Women back then in the old Chinese society prior to women knowing their rights, were not treated so well. Having had ancestry from China, I have also consulted from my elders about how life in China was especially for women.
Romance in the Rain is a novel on women's rights. The whole story set in 1930s China where Lu Zhenhua a famous general in Northeastern China has taken up to eight brides who all resembled each other in some way. Yiping was born from the eighth marriage and later, Zhenhua moves to Shanghai. He had divorced his first eight wives leaving Yiping and her mother Wenpei in poverty while he lives lavishly with his ninth wife Xueqin (who was an opera singer he married her while she was 18 and he was already much older) with heir children. Yiping's living conditions makes her a bitter person especially when it comes to facing Xueqin.
Chauvinism was a very common trait which the novel condemned. Zhenhua sees any girl that resembles Pingping, he immediately picks her up and makes her his. Wenpei's family tries to object but they have no choice, after all Lu Zhenhua was a powerful figure. Zhenhua sends a wedding down that looks like a riding suit, marries Wenpei. Then later, he sees Xueqin and ends up also having another wife. Which he had a total of eight failed marriages that landed in divorce. The fact that Zhenhua collected his ex-wives like stamps proves he is chauvinistic. Back in China, a richer man of higher status can have a wife and several concubines. It showed women had little or no say, she was required to hold her tongue before a man and that, only men were right. One can also see how Zhenhua showed his double standard was when he beats up Xueqin, locks her up and her son Erjie (who was actually Guangxiong's son) while he could afford to treat women like collectibles which he throws away whenever he's bored. Guangxiong is also a picture of chauvinism since while he is dating Xueqin, he is also dating Anna who is one of his lovers.
The evidence of feudalistic family dictum can be seen in how Zhenhua runs his family. I would pretty hate to have him for my father, considering he beats them up with a horse whip every time they displease him. I could agree with Erhao also that Zhenhua is a hypocrite. Erhao had a genuine love for Keyun but his nasty mother chased her and Adjutant Li off, without Erhao having no knowledge of the baby that died prematurely until years later. This of course, Zhenhua has no right to lecutre Erhao because of how unfairly he had so many failed marriages. It's no wonder why Yiping got so bitter because of her father's ill treatment of her. I mean, she is forced to go there to her father to beg for allowance while her haf-siblings live so properly, she doesn't. The day Zhenhua whipped Yiping almost permanently estranged them from each other.
But what must be noted also is the revenge theme. Although Qiong Yao challenged the wrongdoings of old Chinese tradition, she had also discouraged revenge. One can see this mistake in the protagonist Yiping in her desire to take revenge against her feudalistic father and half-siblings. In her case, she grows to realize revenge will only hurt her as well. After desiring to take revenge on Ruping by 'stealing' Shuhuan it caused her pain when Shuhuan read her diary. Perhaps another backfire of revenge theme was on Xueqin. So Xueqin became Zhenhua's ninth wife but later, she also became Guangxiong's woman as pique. Xueqin thinks she can right another wrong by simply turning the tables- if her husband can have eight ex-wives, why can't she have a lover? Again it backfired on her because when she ran off with Guangxiong, her eldest daughter Ruping committed suicide (a plot removed from the 2001 version), she wasn't treated any better in Guangxiong's household after he rescued her from her being locked up in Zhenhua's house.
So while Qiong Yao was a woman's rights activitist, however she wasn't a female supremacist either.