Retreating Figure 背影

It is the most profound language in heaven and earth.


Chinese Name: 背影

English Name: Retreating Figure; Beiying

Author: Zhu Ziqing 朱自清

Originally Published: 1928

Genre: Literature, Prose

Retreating Figure 背影
Retreating Figure 背影

Brief Introduction of Retreating Figure

Retreating Figure 背影 is the first between heaven and earth to the deep feelings of the text. It is a reminiscence essay written by modern writer Zhu Ziqing 朱自清 in 1928. When he left Nanjing 南京 for Peking University 北京大学, his father saw him off at Pukou Railway Station 浦口火车站, watched him get on the train and bought some oranges for him. What impressed the author most was the view of his father climbing up and down the platform as he bought oranges for him. The author uses simple words to express the father’s love for his children deeply and delicately, sincere and touching, showing the father’s care and love from ordinary events.

The characteristic of this essay is to capture the character’s characteristic “Retreating Figure” proposition and express deep feelings of father and son in the narration. In the article, there are four figures, which are the memory of the figure, the station farewell figure, buy orange railway figure and missing the figure.

Retreating Figure 背影
His father saw Zhu Ziqing off to the railway station. 父亲送朱自清去火车站。

The first opening topic “Retreating Figure”, there is a strong emotional atmosphere enveloped the whole text. At the second station, the author described his father’s retreating figure in detail. The third time is the father and son farewell, the son looked at the father’s retreating figure in the crowd disappeared, parting feelings, tears. At the end of the fourth article, the son read his father’s letter and saw his father’s retreating figure again in tears. He could not help missing his father, echoing the beginning of the article, showing the sincere feelings between father and son incisively and vividly.

Retreating Figure 背影
Father climbed the platform to buy oranges for Zhu Ziqing. 父亲攀爬月台买橘子给朱自清。

The prose language is very honest and simple, but also very elegant in quality. This highly nationalized language is in harmony with the national spirit and the perfect structure of the article. The main feature of this essay is line drawing. The full text focuses on the father’s retreating figure which moved the author deeply in a particular situation. The text of this line description, read light and plain, but the true feeling thick, contains a deep feeling. The so-called in plain see magic. Secondly, the work also uses the technique of setting off on the side. The use of these side foil techniques, more against the father of the moving power of the son.

In a different way, this essay reflects the awakening of the truest and most touching of human relations, especially father-son relations, as the icy waters of old moral ideas ebb. In the face of this awakening, people for the first time as a real person to own and reveal their feelings. This is also the revolutionary historical content and ideological significance contained in the article. This has led to imitations of his soulful, bland prose style.

Retreating Figure 背影
Zhu Ziqing thought of his father’s retreating figure as he read the letter. 朱自清在读信中想起父亲的背影。

Author of Retreating Figure

Zhu Ziqing (November 1898 – August 1948), originally was named Zihua 自华 and later was renamed Ziqing. He was born in Pingming Town 平明镇, Donghai County 东海县, Lianyungang City 连云港市. He is an outstanding modern essayist, poet, scholar and fighter for democracy.

Retreating Figure 背影
Zhu Ziqing 朱自清

Zhu Ziqing graduated from high school in 1916 and was successfully admitted to Peking University. He began publishing poetry in 1919. In 1921, he joined the Literature Research Association and was one of the important writers during the May Fourth Movement 五四时期.

In 1923, Zhu ziqing published his long lyric poem “Destruction 毁灭” of nearly 300 lines. 1928 The first collection of essays “Retreating Figure 背影” was published. In 1931, Zhu Ziqing went abroad to study. In July 1932, he returned to China and became director of the Department of Chinese Literature at Tsinghua University 清华大学. In August 1932, Zhu Ziqing and his wife were married in Shanghai 上海.

In 1934, he published A Miscellany of European Travel 欧游杂记 and a Miscellany of London 伦敦杂记. In 1935, he published a collection of essays entitled You.Me 你我. After the victory in 1945, the Kuomintang government 国民党政府 launched a civil war to suppress the democracy movement. In July 1946, zhu ziqing’s friends were killed, which made him very sad and angry. He became a revolutionary democracy fighter with the education of dark reality and the promotion of patriotic democracy movement.

In the actual struggle against hunger and civil war, he was seriously ill, but he always maintained the integrity and sentiment of an upright patriotic intellectual. On August 12, 1948, Zhu Ziqing died at the age of 50.

Excerpts From Retreating Figure


To get to the platform, you have to cross the rails, jump off, and climb up. My father was a fat man, so it was hard to walk there.


But it was not easy for him to cross the tracks and climb onto the platform. He lifted it up in his hand and drew his foot back.


His portly body tilted slightly to the left, showing signs of effort. Then I saw his back, and my tears came out.

Evaluation of Retreating Figure

This kind of seemingly simple and simple, but in fact can produce a great sense of power of the article, the most can be as Mr. Zhu’s representative works, because such works, also just on behalf of the author.

Li Guangtian 李广田

This article is clean throughout, no superfluous words, no superfluous words, every word is carefully studied.

Ye shengtao 叶圣陶

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