In 1998, Alai published his novel Red Poppies (Original title in Chinese: The Dust Settles - ChenAi LuoDing) that describes feudal life in the Tibetan borderlands during the decade or so before the liberation of Tibet by the People's Liberation Army in 1951. It tells the tale of a local family of chieftains, the Maichi family, prior to and during occupation. The story is narrated by the youngest son of the family, who is considered to be an idiot. The English title relates to the production of opium in these remote provinces, far away from the centers of control in Lhasa and Beijing. In part, this novel bears a controversial political message. It describes the administration of the Tibetan provinces as cruel and full of intrigues, albeit romantic at the same time. The liberation of Tibet by the communists is presented as a great stride in history, as the serfs are relieved from humiliating serfdom.