Monday, August 31, 2015

Quick Picks: Three New/Upcoming Chinese History Books

Time for some quick picks! Here are three new or upcoming Chinese history books that have caught my eye:

Runaway Wives, Urban Crimes, and Survival Tactics in Wartime Beijing, 1937-1949 by Zhao Ma [Harvard University Asia Center, September 2015]

Women living in wartime Beijing faced many challenges, including threats from the Japanese occupational forces, poverty from political and social upheaval, and even civil war. 'Runaway Wives' uncovers the ways that women used underground networks and even criminal activity to keep themselves and their families alive.

Garden of Perfect Brightness: The Lost and Most Splendid Imperial Garden in China by Guo Daiheng [Shanghai Press, April 2016]

A look at the Old Summer Palace, built in 1707 and described as the "garden of all gardens"; the palace and its gardens, once heralded as the most beautiful in the world, were destroyed and looted by the British-French allied army in 1860.

City of Marvel and Transformation: Chang'an and Narratives of Experience in Tang Dynasty China by Linda Rui Feng [University of Hawaii Press, August 2015]

Chang'an (present day Xi'an) was the imperial capital of China during the Tang Dynasty; during its heyday, Chang'an was a thriving cultural center that inspired developments in technological, social, scientific and artistic circles. 'City of Marvel and Transformation' puts a special focus on the writings of educated men who came to the city seeking to take the civil service examinations.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From Fiction to History: Book Recommendations ('Revolution is Not a Dinner Party')

I love historical fiction. Historical fiction I read in elementary school (willingly or not!) played a large part in encouraging me to become interested in actual history, and even today I find myself picking up non-fiction books to find out more about the real events and history behind some of my favorite fiction novels! In the same vein, I've decided to start a series of posts recommending some non-fiction reads based on historical fiction favorites. I was checking over my Goodreads 2015 Challenge earlier today and thought that the historical fiction I've read this year would be an excellent place to start.

Fiction: Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Ling, the central character of Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, is only 9 years old when the world around her begins to crumble due to the increasingly heightened policies under the Chinese Cultural Revolution; her parents, two wealthy surgeons who have provided their daughter with a comfortable life and education, find themselves under increasing suspicion and ultimately punishment for their perceived anti-revolutionary lifestyle and beliefs. Ling, too, is increasingly ostracized for being "bourgeois"--for having long hair, new clothes, and a comfortable life. The events in Revolution is Not a Dinner Party were drawn from Compestine's own experiences as a young girl in Wuhan.

History:  Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng

Life and Death in Shanghai
is a deeply personal and detailed account of one woman's long, terrible imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution. Cheng's life made her the perfect target: she was the widow of an official of the last regime, formally educated in London, employed at Shell Oil, and enjoyed a comfortable, wealthy lifestyle. Cheng's imprisonment began after she refused to admit that any of this made her an enemy of China, and what followed were 6 years of horror--and many more years of seeking justice.

History: Blood Red Sunset: A Memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution by Ma Bo 

As a Red Guard, Ma Bo did not hesitate to do the work that Mao's government demanded of its soldiers: ransacking homes for anything that went against the party's guidelines, beating suspected anti-communists in order to make them confess, and even participating in . But when Ma Bo made a careless comment about a party leader, he found himself on the other side--imprisoned for eight years while enduring severe beatings, physical torture and psychological abuse. Blood Red Sunset is Ma Bo's memoir of those terrible years.