A prolific writer of novels, novellas, and literary criticism, he has won several prizes, including the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Franz Kafka Prize. A subtly feminist work, at each major milestone in the lives of its two main characters, the author reminds the reader that for all the exotic trappings and social strictures of their time and place, women in Imperial China had their own voices, desires, and methods for exerting some measure of control over their lives.
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The book follows the life of the narrator, Lily, beginning with her experience of footbinding in early childhood and, perhaps paradoxically, its role in helping her rise from the social class of her birth through an advantageous marriage. Snow Flower provides an important and humanizing glimpse into the lives of women in Imperial China, giving a lyrical voice to individuals who have otherwise been all too frequently overlooked.
French sets his reconstruction of the events of against the backdrop of a city and a nation on the verge of monumental change. A quiet, wooded mountain; a glint of sunlight; a patch of moss. Xinran does her best to pry open the trapdoor to what still goes unspoken. The stories she collects of rape, incest, domestic violence, forced abortion, kidnapping, and suicide are shocking — but even more shocking is the seeming mundanity of the brutalization of women and girls, sometimes by less extreme but far more insidious means.
Perhaps Xinran could be faulted for trying too hard to pin the case on political and social chaos under the Communist Party; still, the stories she relates — including her own — are timeless and depressingly universal. Over the course of 12 short stories, Jonathan Tel conjures a vibrant, complex Beijing of multitudes, of idealists and thieves, migrant workers and musicians, of surreal twists and fantastical elements nevertheless grounded in the possible.
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This is the Beijing I imagine telling people about when I talk to those who have never been here. I believe that sentiment, in the same way people believe in great fiction. The s witnessed a publishing boom in English-language or translated China memoirs that focused on individual experiences of political campaigns from the s through the Cultural Revolution. Overnight, she became an accused British spy and enemy of socialism.
Condemned to six and a half years in prison, she endured physical and psychological torture and deprivation. Her beloved daughter, meanwhile, committed suicide. Cheng is a sharp observer and a gifted storyteller; her fierce intelligence, wit, and courage are evident on every page. McMahon also addresses ghost cities, state monopolies, and a manufacturing boom that has simultaneously generated huge prosperity and created what he sees as economic time bombs.
Lin could perhaps be called one of the first anti-Orientalists, but also a debunker of the Yellow Peril.
His words speak to those of us who try to square the reality of our intellectually dynamic, generous, and open-minded Chinese friends with their monolithic state, and remind us that there is indeed a difference. The premise is straightforward, if somewhat provocative: The dominant narrative of footbinding as a painful patriarchal practice imposed upon women for the pleasure of men is an ahistorical oversimplification — and one that serves to obscure the voices and experiences of the women at the heart of the story.
While Ko, who teaches history at Barnard College, is careful to never fully condone or condemn footbinding, and does not shy from the unpleasant — and, as many would persuasively argue, brutal — realities of the practice, she does emphasize that for many Chinese women, bound feet were integral to their perceptions of dignity and self-worth. In this vein, Ko explores how different styles of footbinding emerged and flourished at different periods and locations, locating the various methods of breaking, bending, and binding the female foot within the more conventional history of Chinese fashion.
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First published in , this book is a classic introduction to Chinese medicine that is equally well-suited for an acupuncture training course, a university philosophy class, or the bedside table of anyone interested in Chinese culture. Its author, Ted Kaptchuk, is a Harvard professor who studied traditional Chinese medicine TCM in Macau and is also known for his work on the efficacy of placebo effects in medical treatment. Ultimately, this book is an ontological sketch of the Chinese universe. Like Joyce, Pai uses his naturalistic portraits of urbanites in service of a larger story about exile, nostalgia, cultural stagnation, and nationalism.
Educators should put this excellent and highly readable book on their syllabi. Peppered with sly and sometimes not-so-sly humor, and with gleeful pop culture references, this book will provide a solid foundation for understanding contemporary China. Hong also captures the political and social background that contextualizes precisely how women are kept from advocating for even the most basic rights, such as protection from abusive partners and economic exploitation.
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In this beautifully written work of local and personal history, author Henrietta Harrison provides a gentle yet compelling corrective to the tendency for books about China to focus on individuals and ideas with outsize impact. At the same time, Harrison artfully demonstrates how seemingly abstract developments such as the gradual shift away from Confucian ideology had immediate and deeply felt personal impacts.
But, as detailed in this memoir, after she enrolls in the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine — the first-ever foreigner to do so — she begins a decades-long journey traversing the country in search of discovery, understanding, and good food. Along the way, she becomes one of those rare Westerners in China to achieve true culinary enlightenment, able to enjoy the bits and pieces that the rest of us merely politely endure. Through personal anecdotes and historical research, she places the vast and varied world of Chinese cuisine into much-needed context, and — as a bonus for us — ends each chapter with a recipe.
Bronze and Sunflower , a page novel aimed at to year-olds, takes us back 40 years to a poor Chinese village during the Cultural Revolution. Sunflower has arrived with her artist father and other educated townsfolk, at the May 7 Cadre School in reality, a labor camp , where the adults will clear the land, build houses, and run a fish farm. The lonely seven-year-old eventually makes friends with a mute boy called Bronze from the nearby village, Daimadi, and together they share hardships and adventures both in the village and further afield.
When it comes to English-language books on China, F. Mote takes emperors and eunuchs to task for their failings, unafraid to judge leading characters for their decisions without undue deference to received historical tradition.
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He then makes his history relevant by grappling with challenges of governance applicable across ages. The book is particularly strong in two aspects: information on steppe peoples and elite political philosophy. It perhaps works best as a capstone for a learner, bridging knowledge across dynasties and inspiring curiosity for deeper reading. It traces the ruination of a social class: scholars who were a source of national pride found themselves suddenly lampooned as a national embarrassment.
Yang Jiang portrays self-serving relationships between colleagues, friends, and spouses, showing how individuals were manipulated into abandoning genuine expression in favor of performative political genuflection. At that time, Yang was punished for working on a translation of Don Quixote , which she finished in She died in Beijing 38 years later, at age This is an early 19th-century book that crosses genres, blending memoir and novel to give us a portrait of a mid-level official and his relationship with his dear wife, who dies young. When I was first getting interested in China I read it and it sort of brainwashed me, in a very good way, making me realize the universality of ambition and disappointment, love and sadness, among people around the world.
They get under your skin and stick with you, which is what great writing should do. In the fall of , a warlord named Shi Congbing was decapitated by his rival. His head stuck was stuck on a pole outside a train station. She dumped three rounds from a Browning semi-automatic into the back of his head, splattering his brains all over his prayer circle.
Eugenia Lean gives a fine account of the gory details, the media circus, and the legal wranglings that followed, but her purpose is teasing out something about the sociopolitical character of the Republican Era. That is what they disputed: how should Tao be understood and practiced. The book is an excellent introduction to the differences between Confucius and Mozi and the Yangists and others. It clearly draws out distinctions between Confucius and Mencius and Xunzi.
The Sophists and Zhuangzi are expertly analyzed. And it is fairly persuasive on a point that not everyone will accept: the nonexistence of a historical person, Laozi, the credited founder of Taoism. Surveys of this sort are difficult to pull off well without lapsing into textbook simplicity, but this one succeeds in both introducing basic concepts and also drilling deeply into fascinating philosophical, historical, and linguistic debates. Handong, an unsympathetic business man with political connections, falls for Lan Yu, a young, seemingly naive newcomer to the Chinese capital.
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Over pages, the book follows their decade-long infatuation with each other, not shying away from explicit sex scenes, plenty of relationship conflict and emotional turmoil, and questions about the role of sexual identity and desire in the face of societal expectations — questions all too familiar to both current and older generations of men who love men in many other countries. As a cultural product, no other publication may be as representative of the gay experience in China. Instead, the book speaks to the constant need for adaptation and change faced by the Chinese queer community, which will find spaces to survive no matter what.
Sir Edmund Backhouse is a reflexively interesting character. He was a reclusive linguistic genius and an English dandy, the best-selling chronicler of the late-Qing Dynasty and a literary fraud, the alleged lover of Oscar Wilde and the Empress Dowager Cixi.
The two-odd years I spent decoding his handwritten memoirs — a dense thicket of polyglottal meanderings, contradictory claims, and byzantine literary allusions — were as mad and exasperating as any an editor is likely to encounter. It is not a book for everyone. Many struggle to navigate its dense prose and baroque sexuality, and the line between reality and fantasy is blurred to the point of indecipherability. Yet readers who follow where its author leads — through the gay brothels of Qianmen, the seat of Manchu power, and the Forbidden boudoir — will glimpse a salacious but poignant portrait of a forgotten China.
Through self-cultivation, the Great Learning says, the ancients improved their minds, their persons, their households, and ultimately their country. What happens in Jin Ping Mei is precisely not this. In fact, the sex scenes for which the novel is infamous account for less than 1 percent of the work as a whole, and seem to have been intended to complement the other perversions — of justice, of morality, of proper social order — that the anonymous author documents with the same pitiless clarity. Ximen Qing debauches, ravishes, and whores his way through much of the novel, but he also cozens, suborns, and climbs to heights of wealth and access that no one of his character or social status should ever have.
For an educated reader of the late Ming Dynasty, the conclusion of the novel — the collapse and dispersal of the Ximen household, juxtaposed with the fall of the Northern Song Dynasty to the Jurchens — would have come as no surprise, and not just because the Northern Song had ended five hundred years previously. Ximen Qing and his rapacity are symptoms, not causes, of a terminally sick society.
Despite its Northern Song setting, which it borrows along with its main characters and much of its first 10 chapters from Outlaws of the Marsh , Jin Ping Mei is transparently about the late 16th century world in which its author and its first readers lived. Imagine a world where the people in power are every bit as venal and corruptible as the merchants they officially despised. Imagine a state that imprisons and exiles the just. Imagine a society in such complete moral free-fall that the only imaginable goal is more.
How long can it survive before the Jurchens show up? How long does it deserve to? But it presents a unique twist on the genre of books written by foreigners on sojourn in the Middle Kingdom. She arrived back in Beijing just in time to have a front row seat for the earth-shaking events of the summer of The book attempts to make sense of the political upheaval of the past half-century and her own connection to her ancestral homeland. Yu Hua is known for stories that capture an uncanny mix of comedy and tragedy in the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The scope and tone of the novel resembles Forrest Gump , another famous work of fiction whose titular character stumbles through decades of tumultuous change.
The author put in countless hours studying the Evenki, who now number in the tens of thousands and live mostly in the Evenki Autonomous Banner, close to where the Mongolian, Inner Mongolian, and Russian borders meet. But it is also precisely because of his unique depth and breadth of involvement in both worlds that makes him uniquely qualified to write this book. The future of AI might well be the future of the world; use this book to make your acquaintance.