Good Reading on China

Old Mar 10th, 2001, 01:56 PM
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Good Reading on China

We'll be going to China soon and have been doing some reading. Am just finishing a new book called "River Town -- Two Years on the Yangtze". Even if you're not going near the Yangtze, its insights into present day China and its people are so interesting (and it's a well written book, too). It's by Peter Kessler -- who spent two years in the Peace Corps and wrote of his experiences. Also mentioned on this site before,"Wild Swans" by Jung Chang tells of three generations of women during the past century. I also had been asking on this site for help in locating a Public TV video -- "China in Revolution". I located the three videos at my library (as several suggested) and they are very good -- two hours each. So plan accordingly.
Old Mar 10th, 2001, 06:26 PM
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Ooh! My favorite subject!

My favorite books to enhance one's China experience are as follows:

Wild Swans, mentioned above

Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng. Very, very good book on the cultural revolution, applicable to all of China, not just Shanghai.

The Soong Dynasty, by Sterling Seagrave. A fabulous account of the Soong family, whose daughters married Sun Yat Sen, Chaing Kai-shek, and a powerful financier. Particularly interesting if you're going to Shanghai.

Hungry Ghosts, by Jasper Becker. A stunning expose on the famine caused by Mao's Great Leap Forward.

Shanghai '37 by Vicki Baum, a wonderful book about Shanghai before the war. Unfortunately, I think it's really hard to get in the states, but it's easy to get here. Many hotels have it, as does the gift shop at the Shanghai museum. My FAVORITE book about Shanghai.
Old Mar 10th, 2001, 08:17 PM
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Hey a BIG THANK YOU from me!!!!!! I'm doing china next spring...and I always spend the year before reading and taking notes and always have to dig out books on my own! Thank you for listing these....I"ve got them immediately after Egypt..Ill start reading!!!!!
Old Jun 13th, 2001, 02:59 PM
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I agree that "River Town" and "Wild Swans are both excellent. I would also recommend "China Wakes" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn and for a fairly short historical review, "China: Its History and Culture" by W. Scott Morton. The excellent PBS series, "The Heart of the Dragon", is on 12 videocassettes (one hour each) that are available in most large public libraries. Of the guidebooks the one I like the best is the Insight guide on China with its marvelous illustrations, some history, some practical matters, and lots of information on attractions. An "interesting" guidebook is Frommer's "China: The 50 Most Memorable Trips" which is quite subjective. He can be quite critical of some of the attractions, but clearly knows and loves China.
Old Jun 13th, 2001, 07:35 PM
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I also really liked 'China Wakes' - it is an interesting read and offers wonderful insight into the recent Chinese history. I'll add 'The Rape of Nanking' to this list. It is a powerful book, shocking, depressing, etc. But the author does an excellent job of covering the aspects of Japan, China, and Europe, as well as contributing events that led to the rape of Nanking. Its gruesome, but I found it to be a piece of history that I knew very little about. I've been doing loads of reading getting ready for my trip - 2 weeks to go - to China. I have approximately 2 years worth of reading to complete before my departure date.
Old Jun 20th, 2001, 12:53 AM
coconut wireless
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What a great topic. I have read most of the books on the list -- there are a few I have missed. Two that were not on the list which are historic fiction novels are The Kitchen God by Amy Tan and Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord -- I am just starting her 2nd novel Middle Hearts which seems to be quite good.

I find that reading about the various dynasties is easier to digest when put into a novel. I also would highly recommend the "Rape of Nanking" a real "eye opener".

Old Jun 27th, 2001, 06:29 AM
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Here's another - The River at the Centre of the World by Simon Winchester. I'm only about half way through but it's been fascinating so far. It's the story of his journey up the Yangtze, visiting the various towns on the way, with lots of the history around all the places, and his modern day experiences all thrown in.

Since we're going on a Yangtze cruise later this year, and to Shanghai, I'm finding it especially interesting, even though we will only be going to a small fraction of the places he goes to.

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