November 17, 2012

Take Me Away to...China!



Take Me Away Saturday

Take Me Away showcases fiction, nonfiction, and children's books that take place in a specific country and/or within a specific culture.  Take a trip in books!  Look for where we are going next and places we've traveled at the bottom of the post.

This week we are visiting the country of CHINA.

This is usually where I tell you where the country is, but who doesn't know where China is?  China is the fastest growing economy and is one of the largest populations in the world.  Mandarin is the language to know in the business world.  Add to that China's 6,000 year history and historical consciousness,  its three major religions, its social and political developments, and its enviable understanding and blending of both Western medicine and traditional Chinese healing, you almost don't need to mention the depths and breadths of its literature.  ALMOST.  I didn't suddenly just lose it there.


Here are some pictures of China:

Beijing's Forbidden City

Chinese Rice Fields

Nanjing Road, Shanghai

Yu Yeon Teahouses

(There is a list of  the countries and cultures visited in past Take Me Away posts at the bottom of this post. Check them out and discover some good books to read and recommend some, too!)


FICTION SELECTIONS:



In the small southern China town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the nineteenth century, two young girls bump heads and become thick as thieves. Willow is the only child of a destitute family. Pearl is the headstrong daughter of Christian missionaries-and will grow up to become Pearl S. Buck, Nobel Prize-winning writer and activist. This unlikely pair becomes lifelong friends, confiding their beliefs and dreams, experiencing love and motherhood, and eventually facing civil war and exile. Pearl of China brings new color to the remarkable life of Pearl S. Buck, illuminated by the sweep of history and an intimate, unforgettable friendship. 




 an enchanting tale that captures the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening. An immediate international bestseller, it tells the story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.




The characters in Jess Row’s remarkable fiction inhabit “a city that can be like a mirage, hovering above the ground: skyscrapers built on mountainsides, islands swallowed in fog for days.” This is Hong Kong, where a Chinese girl and her American teacher explore the “blindness” of bats in an effort to locate the ghost of her suicidal mother; an American graduate student provokes a masseur into reliving the traumatic experience of the Cultural Revolution; a businessman falls in love with a prim bar hostess across the border, in Shenzhen, and finds himself helpless to dissolve the boundaries between them; a stock analyst obsessed with work drives her husband to attend a Zen retreat, where he must come to terms with his failing marriage.

Scrupulously imagined and psychologically penetrating, these seven stories shed light on the many nuances of race, sex, religion, and culture in this most mysterious of cities, even as they illuminate the most universal of human experiences.




For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.

Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.  So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed. 

Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place–even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one’s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See’s new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard. 



East Wind: West Wind is told from the eyes of a traditional Chinese girl, Kwei-lan, married to a Chinese medical doctor, educated abroad. The story follows Kwei-lan as she begins to accept different points of view from the western world, and re-discovers her sense of self through this coming-of-age narrative. 



Winnie and Helen have kept each other's worst secrets for more than fifty years. Now, because she believes she is dying, Helen wants to expose everything. And Winnie angrily determines that she must be the one to tell her daughter, Pearl, about the past—including the terible truth even Helen does not know. And so begins Winnie's story of her life on a small island outside Shanghai in the 1920s, and other places in China during World War II, and traces the happy and desperate events tha led to Winnie's coming to America in 1949. 



NONFICTION SELECTIONS:




On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas." When the fleet returned home in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships were left to rot at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost in the long, self-imposed isolation that followed was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. And they colonized America before the Europeans, transplanting the principal economic crops that have since fed and clothed the world.  "Menzies makes history sound like pure fun...a seductive read." -New York Times Magazine




The raucously funny story of one young American?s quest to become the baddest dude on the planet (and possibly find inner peace along the way).

Growing up a ninety-eight-pound weakling tormented by bullies in the schoolyards of Kansas, Matthew Polly dreamed of one day journeying to the Shaolin Temple in China to become the toughest fighter in the world, like Caine in his favorite 1970s TV series Kung Fu.

American Shaolin
 is the story of the two years Matthew spent in China living, studying, and performing with the Shaolin monks. The Chinese term for tough training is chi ku (?eating bitter?), and Matthew quickly learned to appreciate the phrase.

This is both the gripping story of Matthew's journey and an intimate portrait of the real lives of the Shaolin monks, who struggle to overcome rampant corruption and the restrictions of an authoritarian government. Laced with humor and illuminated by cultural insight, American Shaolin is an unforgettable coming-of- age story of one man?s journey into the ancient art of kungfu and a poignant portrait of a rapidly changing China.





Jim is separated from his parents in a world at war. To survive, he must find a strength greater than all the events that surround him.  Shanghai, 1941 -- a city aflame from the fateful torch of Pearl Harbor. In streets full of chaos and corpses, a young British boy searches in vain for his parents. Imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp, he is witness to the fierce white flash of Nagasaki, as the bomb bellows the end of the war...and the dawn of a blighted world.  Ballard's enduring novel of war and deprivation, internment camps and death marches, and starvation and survival is an honest coming-of-age tale set in a world thrown utterly out of joint. 



In August 1966 a group of Red Guards ransacked the home of Nien Cheng. Her background made her an obvious target for the fanatics of the Cultural Revolution: educated in London, the widow of an official of Chiang Kaishek's regime, and an employee of Shell Oil, Nien Cheng enjoyed comforts that few of her compatriots could afford. When she refused to confess that any of this made her an enemy of the state, she was placed in solitary confinement, where she would remain for more than six years. Life and Death in Shanghai is the powerful story of Nien Cheng's imprisonment, of the deprivation she endured, of her heroic resistance, and of her quest for justice when she was released. It is the story, too, of a country torn apart by the savage fight for power Mao Tse-tung launched in his campaign to topple party moderates. An incisive, rare personal account of a terrifying chapter in twentieth-century history, Life and Death in Shanghai is also an astounding portrait of one woman's courage. 


CHILDREN'S BOOKS:



On a restaurant on a boat, in faraway Hong Kong, lives a little mouse. This enchanting story tells of his adventures when, one New Year's night, he magics a carved wooden dragon into life and together they fly through midnight skies, over lands you and I only dream of...




This version of the Cinderella story, in which a young girl overcomes the wickedness of her stepsister and stepmother to become the bride of a prince, is based on ancient Chinese manuscripts written 1000 years before the earliest European version. 



A DAY IN THE LIFE OF CHINA.  Playing, exercising, resting under a lotus tree: the things happening in an ordinary park on an ordinary morning.   
Early morning, and a community is coming to life.  Children are playing, an artist is painting, people are exercising and meditating.  Each page in this lovely picture book presents a snap-shot, and a final foldout spread collects them all to give a panorama of daily life in China.  Hu yong Yi's paintings are saturated with color and rich in life and feeling. 


This is, of course, just a sampling of books on Chinese life for you to read. Do you want to recommend/share books that are about the Chinese? Or do you want to share other thoughts?  Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back for our next trip in books! :)

Here is what is coming up next:
Nov.24th: The Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia
Dec. 1st: The Central American country of Costa Rica


Where we've been and the books that take us there:
Australia, Pacific Islands
New Zealand
Fiji
   

7 comments:

  1. I love the movie adaptation of Empire of the Sun, but I've never read the book. Actually, I never knew it was a book.

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  2. I love, love, love the Chinese fiction classic The Story of the Stone (aka Dream of Red Mansions, etc.) by Cao Xueqin. The translation I read (which I highly recommend) is a bit of a commitment, being 5 volumes in English, but so rewarding.

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  3. this is a great list. I really enjoyed American Shaolin; it's a great read. Have fun!

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  4. Thanks for the rec! I haven't heard of that one. If I can read most of The Tale of Genji, The Story of the Stone can make it onto my TBR, too. I love rewarding reads. :)

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  5. What about the Tigress series by Jade Lee? :) Love those books! There's also The Dragon and the Pearl by Jeannie Lin, and Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon.

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  6. Lovely post! I really liked The Kitchen God's Wife.

    http://eclecticbooksandmovies.blogspot.com

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  7. Fantastic post and I love the pics and books! Always wanted to go to China but I think I'd need at least 3 weeks and plenty of money to do and see all that I want. Like walk on the Great Wall and take a train to Tibet... *sigh* Lovely book selection! American Shaolin looks like fun ;)

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