The Bathing Women

A Novel

The Bathing Women

Translated by: Hongling Zhang and Jason Sommer
FROM AWARD-WINNING and bestselling Chinese writer Tie Ning comes a stunningly original novel that captures the spirit of a new generation of young professionals in contemporary China. The Bathing Women follows the lives of four women—Tiao, a children’s book editor; Fan, her sister, who thinks escaping to America might solve her problems; Fei,a hedonistic and self-destructive young woman; and Youyou, a chef—from childhood during the Cultural Revolution to adulthood in the new market economy. This moving novel charts the journey of these women as they grapple with love, sibling rivalry, and, ultimately, redemption.

Beloved and renowned in China, Tie Ning’s numerous books have never before been translated into English; this publication of The Bathing Women introduces a brilliant writer of uncommon talents, vision, and compassion to American readers. Spellbinding, unforgettable, and an important chronicle of modern China, The Bathing Women is a powerful and beautiful portrait of the strength of female friendship in the face of adversity.
  • Scribner | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476704265 | 
  • October 2012

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Bathing Women includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The Bathing Women follows the lives of four young women in China: sisters Tiao and Fan, and their friends Fei and Youyou. Children during the Cultural Revolution, they come of age in the years that China opens to the West. Each is deeply affected by Mao’s policies, and by the childhood death of Tiao’s half-sister, Quan. Despite the guilty secrets that bind them together, they find real strength in each other as they grow, fall in and out of love, and struggle to find their way in the world.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1.The Bathing Women opens with Tiao contemplating the strange intersection of modern technology and old ways, as embodied by a girl on a bike. How is this intersection shown throughout the novel? How do the different characters handle the sweeping changes in China?

2.Despite moving to the countryside at a very young age, Tiao always considers herself a Beijinger. What does it mean to her to be from the city?

3.There are three major incidents in Tiao’s life: the publi see more

About the Author

Tie Ning

Tie Ning won a national short story award at the age of twenty-five and is the recipient of numerous other literary prizes. She has published ten books—collections of short fiction, essays, and novels—three of which were made into movies and television series, including The Bathing Women. In 2006, at the age of forty-nine, she was elected president of the Chinese Writers Association, becoming the youngest writer and first woman to be honored in this way. Her works have been translated into Russian, German, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, and Vietnamese. The Bathing Women is her first work to be translated into English.