China in Ten Words
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From one of China’s most acclaimed writers: a unique, intimate look at the Chinese experience over the last several decades.
Framed by ten phrases common in the Chinese vernacular, China in Ten Words uses personal stories and astute analysis to reveal as never before the world’s most populous yet oft-misunderstood nation. In "Disparity," for example, Yu Hua illustrates the expanding gaps that separate citizens of the country. In "Copycat," he depicts the escalating trend of piracy and imitation as a creative new form of revolutionary action. And in "Bamboozle," he describes the increasingly brazen practices of trickery, fraud, and chicanery that are, he suggests, becoming a way of life at every level of society. Witty, insightful, and courageous, this is a refreshingly candid vision of the "Chinese miracle" and all of its consequences.
the light, my eyes would blink as I entered the world of imagination, creating endings to those stories that stirred me so deeply tears would run down my face. It was, I realize now, good training for things to come, and I owe a debt to those truncated novels for sparking creative tendencies in me. The first foreign novel I ever read was another headless, tailless thing, without author or title, beginning or end. In it for the first time I encountered sexual descriptions; they made me anxious
authority of teachers served a radical agenda by counteracting the efforts of Zhou Enlai and others to restore order to the educational system. lu xun One day in May 2006 I was sitting in the departure lounge of Copenhagen’s well-run airport, surrounded by travelers of multiple nationalities murmuring away in their various languages. I gazed out through the plate-glass windows at the Norwegian Air jet that would soon fly me to Oslo, and my eyes were drawn to the huge portrait on its
big-character posters: I had observed countless demonstrations and acts of violence, and trailing along behind grown-ups, I had gone to watch innumerable struggle meetings. At that time the people I most admired were boys ten years older than me, for they had been able to participate in the nationwide “networking” by Red Guards that had begun in October 1966. Schools canceled classes so that everyone could take part in revolutionary activities, and Red Guards embarked on ambitious journeys
inner being until my thirtieth year, when an experience late one night finally allowed me to understand the term in all its potency. It was only when I had a real-life encounter with it—disengaged from all linguistic, sociological, or anthropological theories and definitions—that I could tell myself: “the people” is not an empty phrase, because I have seen it in the flesh, its heart thumping. It was not the enormous rallies in Tiananmen Square that imparted this understanding, but an episode in
me. The second story comes to us from the city of Xiangtan, in Hunan. There the municipal government announced that street numbers could be purchased. Chinese people have a superstitious faith in certain numbers, believing that the number six, for example, promises a happy outcome and that eight signifies fortune and prosperity. Residents eagerly splurged on numbers such as 6, 66, 666, and 6666 and 8, 88, 888, and 8888; as a result, street numbering in some neighborhoods went haywire as regular