Diverse, experimental sampling of short stories by a talented new generation of Chinese writers. Most of these authors represent what Chinese culture-watchers are calling the ""xungen,"" or ""searching for roots,"" movement in Chinese literature. Bound by disdain for the ""social realism"" of their government-censored forebears, they pick freely from native and nonnative sources for stories, emphasizing voice and style over political correctness. The best, boldest example here is ""Souls Tied to the Knots on a Leather Cord,"" by Tibetan Zhaxi Dawa. A freewheeling meditation on space, time, and technology la Garcia Mrquez, the story could carry any number of labels--from surrealism to post-modernism. Less inventive but more penetrating is Li Tuo's unusually deep (by Chinese standards) psychological sketch of an aging, debilitated woman in ""Grandma Qi."" Other stories, like Zheng Wanton's ""Clock"" and Mo Yan's ""Dry River,"" take stock Chinese plot sources--family strife and political travail--and dress them in beautifully impressionistic color. ""The Tree Stump,"" by A Cheng, is perhaps the collection's most conventionally sentimental tale, and its weakest. Meanwhile, strong stories by rising young literary stars (Han Shaogang, ""The Homecoming""; Wang Anyi, ""Lao Kang Came Back"") help spell out the inventive promise of these unfettered Chinese talents. Anyi, perhaps China's best contemporary female writer, is especially adept at capturing the odd discord of modern Chinese life. Soothing and troubling, measured and eccentric, these stories provide rich inroads into China's urgently unfolding cultural scene. A fine, smoothly translated collection.