China Mountain Zhang

China Mountain Zhang is a 1992 science fiction novel by American writer Maureen F. McHugh. The novel is made up of several stories loosely intertwined.

China Mountain Zhang
Cover of 1993 Tor paperback edition
AuthorMaureen F. McHugh
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherTor Books
Publication date
March 1992
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
813/.54 20
LC ClassPS3563.C3687 C48


The novel's title derives from the name of the protagonist, a young gay man of mixed Chinese and Puerto Rican ancestry who goes by the name Rafael Zhang in non-Chinese contexts and Zhang Zhongshan in Chinese contexts. His Chinese given name, Zhongshan, is written with the characters with primary meanings "center" and "mountain"; the Mandarin name for China also begins with the character meaning "center" or "middle". Thus, "China Mountain" is an alternate reading of his Chinese given name. (Zhongshan is also one of the given names used by Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen.)

Plot summary

The main story involves a man's maturation in a future dominated by China, where the United States has undergone a Communist revolution (the "Cleansing Winds Campaign") after a period of economic crisis. His personal evolution is paralleled by four side stories in his narrative, following characters progressing from arrogant outsiders to finding a place in society.

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science

The backdrop is a 22nd century in which the Chinese Communist regime dominates the world. The novel is slightly unusual for science fiction in that none of the characters cause any significant change in the world around them; nor does it use any standard science fiction tropes.[1]

The New York Times said of the book when it first appeared: "A first novel this good gives every reader a chance to share in the pleasure of discovery; to my mind, Ms. McHugh's achievement recalls the best work of Samuel R. Delany and Kim Stanley Robinson without being in the least derivative."[2]

Connections to other works

McHugh's short story "Protection" is set in the same future history as China Mountain Zhang, detailing the experiences of a petty criminal in a "Reform Through Labor" camp in Kansas under the future Communist system.

Awards and nominations

The novel was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and Nebula Award for Best Novel and won a Lambda Literary Award, the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award.


  1. ^ McHugh, Maureen. "The Anti-SF Novel". Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved 2015-01-19.
  2. ^ Jones, Gerald (1992-03-15). "Science Fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
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