YU HUA, AUTHOR OF TO LIVE, BROTHERS AND CHINA IN TEN WORDS

YU HUA

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Yu Hua is a popular China writer who is known as both a literary master and dispenser of pulp schlock who has won commercial success by tossing out shocking and disgusting images and episodes. He has been praised by foreign critics and is frequently mentioned as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Yu made his name in the late 1980s with a series of disturbing short stories. Since then he has written four novels, including "To Live" and "Brothers"; several volumes of essays; and refined the art of circumventing censorship.

Pankaj Mishra wrote in the New York Times, “Though nearly 50, Yu, who wears his hair short and spiky, looks relatively young. He speaks in emphatic bursts, his face often flushing red, and he is quick to laugh. It was, in fact, his boisterous laugh that almost got him into trouble on the morning of the solemn announcement of Mao’s death? He is a restless chain smoker, insists on ignoring China’s new ban on smoking in public places.[Source: Pankaj Mishra, New York Times, January 23, 2009]

Yu has many critics. He has been accused of selling out to the very forces of commercialism and vulgarity anatomized in his novel; promoting a negative image of China and Chinese writers to the West; sinking into a world of filth, chaos, stench and blackness, without the slightest scrap of dignity; being a carpetbagging peasant who gives himself literary airs. One satire called Pulling Yu Hua’s Teeth compared his work with the pulling of four bad teeth---a black tooth, a yellow tooth, a falsetooth and a carious tooth, concluding that it’s “Not the Toothache but the Pain That Kills You.”

Yu Hua’s Life

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Yu was born in 1960 in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, considered a breeding ground of many Chinese artists and intellectuals including Lu Xun, the pioneer of modern Chinese literature.His father was a doctor. Yu remembers him wearing a bloodstained smock in one small room and lived with his family across the road. Their home also faced a public toilet, where nurses often dumped tumors, and the local mortuary. On hot summer days, it was cool inside the mortuary, Yu recalled, and since the corpses were deposited only at night, I often took a nap there. Sleeping at night in our home, we would be woken by the sound of people crying.” [Source: Pankaj Mishra, New York Times, January 23, 2009]

When Yu was in his teens, the reading of novels was banned In China---especially foreign novels. But he and a friend managed to borrow a translation of Alexandre Dumas’s work, La Dame aux Camelias. They could have the book for only 24 hours. So they hastily copied out every word by hand. They worked all night long. But when they returned the novel, they were confused: Yu’s friend could not read Yu’s handwriting, nor could Yu read his friend’s. So, beneath a streetlamp they read aloud their copy of the book. With a sense of joy. They discovered a moment of liberation.

Shortly after the Cultural Revolution he was assigned to become a dentist. After peering into people’s mouths for five years, he decided to become a writer. “Yu never went to college. My entire education was encompassed by the Cultural Revolution, he said. I went to school in 1966 and came out in 1976, so I never received a proper education. Then, like many barefoot doctors in China in the late 1970s, Yu underwent only some very basic training before he became a dentist. He claims he became a writer because he hated his job: the inside of amouth is one of the ugliest spectacles in the world.” [Mishra, Op. Cit]

“In the early “80s hewas living in a small town between Shanghai and Hangzhou. From his window he often observed workers of the local Cultural Bureau, the Chinese state’s salaried writers and artists, loafing in the streets. We were all very poor in those days, Yu recalled. The difference was that you could work hard to be poor as a dentist, or you could do nothing and still be poor as a worker in the Cultural Bureau. I decided I wanted to be as idle as the workers in the Cultural Bureau and become a writer.”

“Remarkably, Yu seems to have had as little apprenticeship in writing as he had in dentistry. Books were hard to come by during the Cultural Revolution, or they would circulate in mutilated form, like the torn copy of a novel by Guy de Maupassant, which Yu read the middle of (I remember it had a lot of sex, he said) without knowing its title or author. His formative reading experience was provided by the big character posters of the Cultural Revolution, in which people denounced their neighbors with violent inventiveness. I remember, Yu said, walking home from school and reading each poster as I walked along. I was not so much interested in the revolutionary slogans as in the stories.”

Yu Hua continues to live and workin China, operating in the hard-to-describe gray zone of an author who is not a dissident but sometimes writes things that deal with taboo subjects and hence can only appear in foreign editions. [Source: Jeffrey Wasserstrom, LA Review of Books, November 12, 2011]

Yu Hua’s Literary Career

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Yu wrote a short story and sent it off to a literary magazine in Beijing. An enthusiastic phone call from its editor soon put him on the path to paid idleness at the Cultural Bureau. Yu seems to have relished manipulating the Communist system to his own ends. I was deliberately late on the first day at the bureau office, he told me. Later I would only go once a week, and then finally only once a month to collect my salary. [Source: Pankaj Mishra, New York Times, January 23, 2009]

Yu has been kind of bad boy his whole career. He first became known in the late 1980s as a writer of surreal short fiction whose raw violence---in one story, a 4-year-old strangles his cousin, a baby, in order to enjoy the explosive crying; in another, a young girl is hacked to pieces---brashly defied the hygienic pieties of socialist realism to which China’s state-supported writers were expected to conform.

“Yu was drawn to the icons of Western high modernism whose work began to appear in translation in China in the 1980s, in particular Kafka, Bruno Schulz and Borges. The delicate fictions of the Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata were also a great early influence. Kawabata taught me the importance of detail, Yu recalled. I would buy two copies of his novels whenever I saw them. One to read and the other to keep in pristine condition on my shelf.”

“Yu switched to melodramatic realism in 1992 in his novel To Live. This atrocity-rich tale of a forbearing peasant whose son dies after a blood transfusion to save a party official was turned into an internationally successful film by Zhang Yimou, China’s most prominent director. It won the Grand Prix at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.

“In 1993 the royalties from To Live enabled Yu to leave his job altogether. My friends, he recalled, say I have enjoyed the best of both ideologies: first receiving a writer’s stipend under socialism and now royalties in the free-market regime.”

In 2002 Yu Hua became the first Chinese writer to win the prestigious James Joyce Foundation Award. His novel To Live was awarded the Premio Grinzane Cavour in 1998 and was adapted for film by Zhang Yimou. To Live and Chronicle of a Blood Merchant were named two of the last decade’s ten most influential books in China.

To Live, Brothers and Other Books by Yu Hua

“To Live” is Yu Hua’s acclaimed 1993 tale of a Chinese Everyman’s experiences through decades of revolutionary upheaval. Jeffrey Wasserstrom wrote in the LA Review of Books, “It’s a little gem of a book, alternately funny and poignant, which somehow manages to feel epic despite its modest page count and tight focus on a small set of characters.” The book boasts a broad scope, addressing not only the Cultural Revolution but the Nationalist era (1927-1949), as well as the early Mao years that preceded and in some ways set the stage for it. [Source: Jeffrey Wasserstrom, LA Review of Books, November 12, 2011]

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Yu Hua wrote “Chronicle of a Blood Merchant” and “To Live”, which was made into a film by Zhang Yimou, and a collection of absurdist short stories called “the Past and the Punishments” (available in a fine translation by Berkeley’s Andrew F. Jones).

“Brothers” has been one of China’s biggest-selling literary works. A social novel filled with sex, violence and weirdness, it was short-listed for the Man Asian Prize and was given a French award. Published in two parts in 2005 and 2006, it has sold more than a million copies in China, not counting the probably higher sales of innumerable pirated editions. An English translation came out in 2009. The very direct, matter-of-fact style unfortunately doesn’t translate very well into English. [Source: Pankaj Mishra, New York Times, January 23, 2009]

Pankaj Mishra wrote in the New York Times, “Brothers follows of two stepbrothers from the Cultural Revolution to China’s no-less-frenzied Consumer Revolution. In the opening scene, Li Guang, a business tycoon, sits on his gold-plated toilet, dreaming of space travel even as he mourns the loss of all earthly relations. Li made his money from various entrepreneurial ventures, including hosting a beauty pageant for virgins and selling scrap metal and knockoff designer suits. A quick flashback to his small-town childhood shows him ogling the bottoms of women defecating in a public toilet. Similarly grotesque images proliferate over the next 600 pages as Yu describes, first, the extended trauma of the Cultural Revolution, during which Li and his stepbrother Song Gang witness Red Guards torturing Song Gang’s father to death and observe the suicide of a man who hammers a nail into his skull. In the moral wasteland of capitalist China, Song Gang is forced to surgically enlarge one of his breasts in order to sell breast-enlargement gels.”

“The reasons for the novel’s commercial success seem clear. It invokes the widely experienced violence and suffering of the Cultural Revolution while also drawing on another resonant theme in China: the outlandish lifestyles of the rich and famous, especially nouveau-riche entrepreneurs like Li. Li represents the country’s new cultural icons, whose large appetites for money, women and cars keep the innumerable Chinese bloggers and Internet chat rooms transfixed with both admiration and revulsion.”

"Reading is good, and going a day without reading is even more uncomfortable than going a month without taking a shit." In “ Brothers” , our hero, Baldy Li, utters this affirmation in an effort to reinvent himself as a literary man and win over the town beauty, Lin Hong. Lin finds his sentiments uninspiring, so he tries out two less vulgar substitutes, to no avail. The line, however, gets straight not to the heart, perhaps, but to the bottom of what makes Brothers worth reading. This is a funny book, an assault on prudery and other social mores that is brash, surprising, and at times even revolting. Yet scatology is but one (albeit important) ingredient in a work of comparative brutality that juxtaposes the cruelty of China's revolutionary past with the injustices of its commercialized present. With Brothers, Yu Hua revives themes of death, violence, and family that permeate his earlier works. Readers will also find in abundance Yu Hua's famed black humor. The object, duration, and even tone of his humor, however, is noticeably altered. To read this novel is to plunge into an ambitious, relentless, and uneven, yet often inspired, farce. [Source: Christopher Rea, University of British Columbia, MCLC List, November 2011]

Book: “Brothers” by Yu, Hua, translated by Eileen Cheng-yin Chow and Carlos Rojas ( Pantheon Books, 2009)

Brothers Story

Christopher Rea of the University of British Columbia wrote on MCLC List, "Brothers tells the story of step-brothers Baldy Li and Song Gang, inhabitants of a fictional Liu Town, from their scrappy childhood and inseparable friendship during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) to their growing estrangement into adulthood from China's "Reform and Opening" period of the late 1970s up to the present. The book is divided into two parts, which were published as separate books in China in 2005 and 2006. Part I, set during the Cultural Revolution, concerns events of the brothers' childhood and adolescence, including the re-marriage of Li's mom, Li Lan, to Song's dad, Song Fanping; their encounters with local bullies; and the successive deaths of Song Fanping and Li Lan, which leaves them orphaned. [Source: Christopher Rea, University of British Columbia, MCLC List, November 2011]

The novel opens in the twenty-first century with the septuagenarian tycoon Baldy Li sitting on a gold-plated toilet seat and imagining himself carrying the ashes of his late brother into orbit as China's first space tourist. The true hook, however, appears soon thereafter when the narrative reverts to a formative moment in his adolescence in the 1960s. Like his late father before him, Baldy Li gets caught peeping at women's butts under the partition separating the men's and women's sections of a public toilet. Unlike his father, who falls into the shit trough and drowns,[2] Baldy Li lives to tell the tale, and tell it he does. Every adult male in Liu Town surreptitiously approaches him to learn the secret of Lin Hong's derrière, which he sells to all comers for a standard price: a bowl of house-special noodles. The incident (after which we move back in time again to Baldy Li's birth) takes on outsized importance in the narrative, because this first in a series of victories over his fellow townsfolk immediately establishes Li as a winsome rascal. Subsequent (pre-)pubescent transgressions in Part I cement his larger-than-life persona as a mischievous and enterprising trickster, a persona that is further developed in Part II.

Part I also follows another arc in a pathetic key: the abject widowhood of Li's mother, Li Lan; her reluctant courtship with the virtuous widower Song Fanping; the brief happiness of their marriage and family; the climactic trauma of his death; and the denouement of Li Lan's own final decline. In this narrative arc, society's violence escalates from the petty bullying of the boys to a murder that robs a vulnerable family of its happiness.

Part II, which is three times the length of Part I, follows the brothers diverging paths and the disintegration of their relationship into adulthood. Once an underdog, Li transforms himself into the top dog in Liu Town through a series of entrepreneurial ventures, including running a charity factory, brokering Japanese "junk suits," wholesaling scrap metal, and eventually heading a diversified conglomerate that achieves an economic monopoly over Liu Town. Song Gang, who is as weak-willed, naive, and passive as Baldy Li is resourceful, worldly, and opportunistic, manages to marry Lin Hong despite his brother's opposition, but their blissful marriage and his livelihood are eventually crippled by the new economic order Baldy Li has imposed upon Liu Town. Subjected to an escalating series of emasculating indignities, Song eventually has his woman stolen by his brother while the itinerant swindler Wandering Zhou is dragging him around the country to serve as, among other things, a male virility pill hawker and boob-implant model. Soon after returning home, he kills himself.

Farce and Tragedy in Brothers

Christopher Rea of the University of British Columbia wrote on MCLC List, "Brothers is intriguing not least as an A-list writer's first novelistic response to the questions: What has become of China since the Cultural Revolution? How is a writer to respond to a society in which the absurd has become commonplace? While exploring the dynamics of human relations through such themes as kinship, loyalty, and betrayal, the novel also offers an outlandish portrayal of contemporary society run amuck. Rather than attempt to touch on all of its myriad subplots, I focus the rest of my comments on two of the novel's notable features: the trope of the trickster, personified by Baldy Li; and the manipulation of modal registers under the rubric of farce. [Source: Christopher Rea, University of British Columbia, MCLC List, November 2011]

Farce is a compelling yet underestimated and often misunderstood creative mode. At its plainest, it is a one-note-samba of sarcastic abuse, the register most likely responsible for its generally low reputation as disconnected episodes of pointless buffoonery or laughter for laughter's sake. (Chinese terms for farce, often used in a pejorative sense, include) As scholars have been at pains to point out, however, farce may pursue a variety of agendas, not least making its audience complicit in its transgression or suspension of moral norms. Further, farcical registers may be loud or subliminal, even imperceptible. Works as different as Nabokov's Lolita and Lao She's Camel Xiangzi, for instance, have been read as works of both realism and farce. A key distinction between farce and comic modes based on "reality" (such as satire) is that the former creates its own fantasy world rather than attempts merely to represent a presumed "real world."

In Brothers, farce is primarily a mode of offence in the dual sense of seeking to offend the moral status quo, as the author defines it, and doing so aggressively---taking the offence, so to speak. This broad register is one of the easiest to recognize as farce because it bludgeons the reader/audience with outrageous conceits. The beauty contest of "virgins" with reconstructed hymens that opens in Chapter 63 is one of the novel's most obvious farcical sequences, but farce is also at work in the abjection of father and son Song, which I discuss below.

The novel's alternation between tragedy and farce has been one of its most difficult aspects for critics to reconcile. Yu Hua has likened writing the novel to composing a symphony in which passages of Wagnerian bombast push the audience to the brink before abruptly shifting to a single, sublime note of Bach, and the musical metaphor seems apt to describe the novel's repeated tonal shifts. The death of Song Fanping in Part I is one such example. Having suffered beatings, public humiliation, and incarceration for being a "landlord," the estimable man is finally beaten to death on the street, where his disfigured corpse is left for the better part of a day. When Baldy Li and Song Gang arrive and recognize the body by its clothes, they are mocked by bystanders for asking "Is that my father?" Eventually the kind-hearted vendor, Mama Su, confirms to the distraught children that it is indeed Song Fanping and persuades a man to transport his corpse home on a borrowed cart. (The man is mocked and assaulted by gawkers en route.) Li Lan, devastated, is too poor to afford a big enough coffin, so the men from the coffin shop settle on this solution:

From the outside room the man in charge yelled, "Let's start smashing!" Li Lan's body jerked as if she were being electrocuted, and Baldy Li and Song Gang's bodies jolted in response. By this time a crowd had gathered outside the house, including neighbors and passersby, as well as others attracted by the commotion. A mass of them crowded the door, and a few even tumbled into the house. They excitedly discussed how the men from the coffin shop were shattering Song Fanping's knees. Li Lan and the children hadn't realized how they were going to smash his knees, but now they heard them talking about bricks, which then shattered, and how they used the back of a cleaver. There was so much din outside that they couldn't make out clearly what everyone was saying. They could only hear people whooping and hollering, as well as the sounds of smashing, dull thuds, and occasional sharp snaps---that was the sound of bone crunching.

Reviews of Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words Review

In her review of “ China in Ten Words” by Yu Hua, Melanie Kirkpatrick wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Yu Hua is one of China's most acclaimed novelists, hugely popular in his own country and the recipient of several international literary prizes. He brings a novelist's sensibility to "China in Ten Words," his first work of nonfiction to be published in English. This short book is part personal memoir about the Cultural Revolution and part meditation on ordinary life in China today. It is also a wake-up call about widespread social discontent that has the potential to explode in an ugly way. [Source: Melanie Kirkpatrick Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2011]

The book's 10 chapters present images of ordinary life in China over the past four decades-from the violent, repressive years of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when the author grew up, to the upheavals and dislocations of the current economic miracle. Along the way, Mr. Yu ranges widely into politics, economics, history, culture and society. His aim, he writes, is to "clear a path through the social complexities and staggering contrasts of contemporary China."

And he succeeds marvelously. "China in Ten Words" captures the heart of the Chinese people in an intimate, profound and often disturbing way. If you think you know China, you will be challenged to think again. If you don't know China, you will be introduced to a country that is unlike anything you have heard from travelers or read about in the news.

The book's narrative structure is unusual. Each chapter is an essay organized around a single word. It's not spoiling any surprises to list the 10 words that the author has chosen in order to describe his homeland: people, leader, reading, writing, revolution, disparity, grassroots, copycat, bamboozle and Lu Xun (an influential early 20th-century writer). None is likely to appear on the list of banned words and phrases that China's censors enforce when they monitor Internet use. But in Mr. Yu's treatment, each word can be subversive, serving as a springboard for devastating critiques of Chinese society and, especially, China's government.

Mr. Yu, who lives in Beijing, made the decision not to publish "China in Ten Words" in his own country. Instead, it came out earlier this year in the other China-Taiwan-and, now, in the U.S. It will be interesting to see how he is received when, after his American book tour, he goes home again.

In his review of “China in ten Words”, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a Professor of History at UC Irvine, wrote in the Los Angeles Review of Books, “”China in Ten Words” ...manages to convey a great deal of information and insight in just over 200 pages, with ten chapters that focus on a wonderfully diverse set of terms, from “Reading” to “Revolution,” and “Leader” to “Bamboozle.” As expected, Barr captures the loose, colloquial, and occasionally anarchic flavor of the author’s prose. [Source: Jeffrey Wasserstrom, LA Review of Books, November 12, 2011, Jeffrey Wasserstrom is a Professor of History at UC Irvine and Asia Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books. ]

In Yu Hua’s book, each of the terms he singles out for attention---revolution, writing, disparity, grassroots, copycat---function more as a counterpart to Proust’s famous Madeleine than as an object of dispassionate linguistic analysis. They serve above all as spurs to memory---opportunities to tell illuminating stories about the past. It's rare to find a work of fiction that can be hysterically funny at some points, while deeply moving and disturbing at others. It’s even more unusual to find such qualities in a work of non-fiction. But China in Ten Words is just such an extraordinary work.

Book: “ China in Ten Words” by Yu Hua (Pantheon Books, 2011)

Yu Hua on Mao

In many cases, especially early in the book, the terms resurrect incidents that took place in Yu Hua’s provincial hometown during the Cultural Revolution decade, the period of his childhood and adolescence . Take, for example, the chapter he devotes to the word “Leader.” When Yu Hua was young, this term was reserved exclusively for references to one individual: Mao Zedong. Moving deftly between the humorous and the disturbing, as he does throughout the volume, Yu Hua pokes fun at himself for being so swept up in the personality cult mania of the time, recalling how he suspected the fates of giving him a raw deal by forcing him to be born into a “Yu” rather than a “Mao” family. [Source: Jeffrey Wasserstrom, LA Review of Books, November 12, 2011]

In contrast and by way of self-critique, Yu Hua also offers the tale of a local official who discovers that sharing the Great Helmsman’s surname can be a curse rather than a blessing. Since the official headed a local committee, some people jokingly called out to him as “Chairman Mao” when he passed them on the street. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, the poor man was castigated for putting on airs, pretending to be a “local” Chairman Mao. His defense was that he had never asked people to call him that nor had he called himself by that term. In that supercharged political environment, though, this did him no good, as his accusers pointed out that when passersby had called him “Chairman Mao,” the local official had answered without correcting them for misspeaking.

Yu Hua on Modern China

No one disputes the idea that the Communist Party remained committed to “revolutionary” action even after taking power in 1949, Yu Hua writes in his chapter on revolution. “At that point, of course,” he continues, “revolution no longer meant armed struggle so much as a series of political movements, each hot on the heels of the one before, reaching ultimate extremes during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.” What is less readily appreciated, he points out, is what happened next, after “China reintroduced itself to the world in the guise of a freewheeling, market-driven economy.” At that point “revolution appeared to have vanished,” but this was an illusion. In fact, in our economic miracle since 1978, revolution never disappeared but simply donned a different costume. To put it another way, within China’s success story one can see both revolutionary movements reminiscent of the Great Leap Forward and revolutionary violence that recalls the Cultural Revolution.

“Just consider,” Yu Hua writes, “how urbanization has been pursued, with huge swathes of old housing razed in no time at all and replaced in short order by high rise buildings.” The term “blood-stained GDP” is becoming a popular one in Chinese online debates, coined to described the high human toll of the government’s rush to make the country look as “modern” as possible as quickly as possible. Yu Hua doesn’t employ this newly minted phrase, but he uses ones that are just as highly charged. He writes, for example, of a “developmental model saturated with revolutionary violence of the Cultural Revolution type,” in which many ordinary individuals are once again suffering in the name of abstractions.

Yu Hua on Tiananmen Square, the Cultural Revolution and Modern China

In her review of “ China in Ten Words” by Yu Hua, Melanie Kirkpatrick wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Take the word "people," which, post-1949, has been ubiquitous in China: Think "People's Republic" or "People's Daily" or "the people are the masters," as Chinese schoolchildren are taught to say. In Mr. Yu's telling, the word becomes an opportunity to discuss the Tiananmen Square incident of June 4, 1989, when Chinese soldiers fired on unarmed democracy demonstrators. He movingly describes the dashed hopes of Chinese patriots who longed for something more from their government.”

In his view, the Beijing residents who marched in support of the student demonstrators were less interested in democratic freedoms than in eradicating the corruption they witnessed among government officials, who got rich at the expense of the rest of the Chinese citizenry. For him, Tiananmen Square marks the dividing line between "a China ruled by politics" and "a China where money is king."

Mr. Yu argues that corruption infects every aspect of modern Chinese society, including the legal system. Historically, Chinese peasants with grievances could go to the capital and petition the emperor for redress. Today, Mr. Yu writes, millions-yes, millions-of desperate citizens flock to Beijing each year hoping to find an honest official who will dispense justice where the law has failed them at home. What will happen when they discover that their leaders at the national level are just as corrupt as those at the local level?

The violence and deprivations of the Cultural Revolution are by now well known, but Mr. Yu's reminiscences add color and texture to what the world has learned in recent years about that lost decade. The youthful Yu Hua is something of a wise guy and a schemer, pitting himself against bureaucratic inanities. It is sometimes impossible to know whether to laugh or cry.

In "Reading," Mr. Yu describes his boyhood eagerness to find something to read other than "grindingly dull accounts of class struggle." Works of literature were routinely destroyed in book-burning bonfires tended by Red Guards. But fragments survived and circulated in secret, passed from reader to reader. One day, Mr. Yu and a classmate get hold of a pirated Translation of a classic French novel and decide to hand-copy it so that they can savor the pleasure of reading it over and over again. What ensues is a hilarious description of the boys' frenzied efforts to finish the transcription overnight-only to discover in the morning, in an O. Henry-like twist, that they can't decipher each other's handwriting.

As awful as the Cultural Revolution was, in Mr. Yu's telling its horrors sometimes pale next to those of the present day. The chapter on "bamboozle" describes how trickery, fraud and deceit have become a way of life in modern China. "There is a breakdown of social morality and a confusion in the value system of China today," he states. He writes, for example, about householders around the country who are evicted from their homes on the orders of unscrupulous, all-powerful local officials.

Mr. Yu's portrait of contemporary Chinese society is deeply pessimistic. The competition is so intense that, for most people, he says, survival is "like war." He has few hopeful words to offer, other than to quote the ancient philosopher Mencius, who taught that human progress is built on man's desire to correct his mistakes. Meanwhile, he writes, "China's pain Is mine."

Image Sources: Amazon

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January 2013


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