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China in Ten Words by Yu Hua

China in Ten Words (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Yu Hua, Allan H. Barr (Translator)

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179866,229 (3.89)4
Title:China in Ten Words
Authors:Yu Hua
Other authors:Allan H. Barr (Translator)
Info:Pantheon (2011), Edition: Tra, Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Kindle!, Your library

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China in Ten Words by Yu Hua (2010)

  1. 00
    Brothers by Yu Hua (Babou_wk)
    Babou_wk: Réflexions sur la grande transformation de la société chinoise, de la Révolution culturelle au miracle économique.

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Yu Hua came of age as the Cultural Revolution gave way to commercial expansion in the wake of Mao’s death, and he conveys his own impressions of the dynamics and complexity of Chinese society in a way that resonates beyond the culturally specific. This is fine literature disguised as a collection of earthy essays—surprisingly sympathetic and humane, evocative of the personal in public and the universal in the particular. ( )
  HectorSwell | Jan 9, 2014 |
Hua examines contemporary China through the meaning of ten words, relating each to stories of his life and work that led him to becoming the writer and thinker he is today. Hua provides insight to Chinese life over the last several decades. ( )
  bradleybleck | Jun 4, 2013 |
zzûpû - ûðûûbû - ûûûûo{ - ûûûû}û - ûrûûû - ûûiûû} - ûwnûwû - ûûûûðy - ûqqûoh - û}ûûð
People - Leader - Reading - Writing - Lu Xun - Revolution - Difference/Disparity - Grassroots - Shanzhai/knockoff - Deceive/Bamboozle

Yu Hua, a Chinese fiction author, takes on the momentous task of framing his nation in ten words. His own life parallels the course of his own nation, from chanting crowds, and the Little Red Book (PEOPLE - LEADER) and the sudden jolt into the frenzied race of modern neo-liberal capitalism. (DISPARITY - SHANZHAI - DECEIVE)

This is also a very personal look at China from his own stories plucking teeth and giving vaccinations in a small village to his first flirtations with banned literature (Dumas, La Dame aux camƒilias).

The longer essays on Reading and Writing are, in my mere opinion, the best in the set. The words themselves are symbols of what meanings and phrases have changed in China over the past 35 years. It is hard to say where China will go next. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
The book conveys something of the dislocations and upside-downness of growing up during the Cultural Revolution, then seeing China lurch towards capitalism (full of corruption and inequality, different than the randomness and destructiveness of Maoist times). One striking story involves books—during the Cultural Revolution, most were destroyed, and the few remaining in his village were passed around through so many hands that they tended to lose front and back pages. Desperate to know the endings, he resorted to inventing them, his first steps to becoming a writer: “I owe a debt to those truncated novels for sparking creative tendencies in me.” Discussing redevelopment, which means the destruction of poor people’s houses, he recounts a joke in which the CIA traces Osama bin Laden to an urban location. “A spy plane enters the airspace overhead, only to discover a scene of utter devastation. ‘I don’t know who ordered the bombing,’ the American pilot reports back to headquarters, ‘but there’s no way bin Laden could have survived this.’” Later, he eloquently and sympathetically identifies the “gifts” required to transact business with a corrupt broker as a form of communication: “gifts not only are the most vital prerequisite for interaction but actually constitute an alternative language, one predicated on a certain degree of personal loss but also able to communicate such sentiments as favor, homage, and esteem. … When they presented to him their cabbages, tomatoes, or eggs, they would be paying him a compliment and addressing him with deference, whereas if they arrived empty-handed, this would be to forfeit language and lose the power of speech.” He likens the Cultural Revolution to today’s economic development in how disruptive they were, how there was and is no stability in expectations.

Yu devotes a whole chapter to the “copycat” and China’s copy culture, which among other things means that this book—officially banned in China—can only circulate (and does) in pirate copies. He believes that copycatting is a result of “lopsided” development. “[A]ll kinds of social emotions accumulate over time and find only limited channels of release, transmuted constantly into seemingly farcical acts of rebellion that have certain anti-authoritarian, anti-mainstream, and anti-monopoly elements. The force and scale of copycatting demonstrate that the whole nation has taken to it as a form of performance art.” Copying isn’t just piracy: he discusses a prostitution business that explicitly modeled itself after the structure of the Communist Party, with a hierarchy, self-criticism, and similar attributes. Copycatting includes making up interviews with people—something that slides into another topic, bamboozling, a term whose cozy connotations are used for everything from flattery to melamine-in-milk fraud. I was left with the strong sense that anyone who purports to tell you what will happen in this huge, diverse nation in five years is bamboozling you. ( )
  rivkat | Mar 20, 2013 |
I don't know how to talk about this book, except to say that it's literally a book about China as defined by Hua's ten words. For each word, Hua talks about China (past and present), while including anecdotes about his life, growing up as the son of doctors during the Cultural Revolution. If you only read one book on China, this one is the one you should read. It doesn't cover everything, but it covers what's important to know and attempt to understand about China. ( )
  callmecayce | Jan 4, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yu Huaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barr, Allan H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Uses a framework of ten common phrases in the Chinese vernacular to offer insight into China's modern economic gaps, cultural transformations, and ubiquitous practices of deception.

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