Lao She, author of this short story and one of the masters of 20th century Chinese fiction, eschewed literary complexity in favor of more colloquial prose that focused on the lives of ordinary people. This made him one of the more accessible writers of his generation: anyone who can read this should be able to get through Camel Luotuo, the depressing novel about a downtrodden Beijing rickshaw driver that made Lao an international celebrity two years after he penned this piece.
Although this story is not exactly what we'd call upbeat, the ending is characteristically ambivalent and those of us in the office are torn over how to interpret it. Does the bird die or live? And what - if anything - is the final sentence supposed to mean? If you think you've cracked the puzzle, we'd welcome you to share your ideas by email, or in the comments section below.