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World culture: China

by Kenneth Wilkinson

published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2004

ISBN: 978 0340811436

This books is one of books in teach yourself® series. The author intends to give us as full a basic overview as possible in its 250 or so pages of the main aspects of China: the country, its languages, its people, their way of life and culture and what makes them tick.

This book is a very useful foundation for people who are studying for examinations or learning the Chinese language,or anyone who wants to know more about the country and how it works. And This book will also provide valuable and practical information about the ways and customs of Chinese for anyone who is traveling and doing business in China.

The first section of this book is about the making of China. Chapter1 and Chapter2 deal with the forces --historical, demographical and linguistic-- that have brought about the formation of the country we know as China, and the language and people we know as Chinese.

The second section is about all aspects of Chinese culture from the beginnings to present day. The author takes a deep look at the main areas of philosophy and religion,festivals and folklore, literature, entertainment,art and architecture, music, food, crafts and other facets of Chinese ingenuity, together with the people who have created and are still creating them.

The third section deal with the aspects of contemporary Chinese society and the practicalities of living in present-day China: education, health and Chinese medicine, the recent political history and present political structure of the country, work and leisure, Chinese attitude to the family and sex as well as certain characteristics perhaps peculiar to the Chinese. The final unit take a look at the country's future.

Each section has a sub-section entitled "Taking it further", include some useful books, addresses, web sites. and there is glossary as well,which include words, phrases and short sentences, that is very useful for practicing your Chinese.

There are some flaws in this wonderful book, or we can say, the author treats some controversial views as the history fact without asserting them. On page 98, under sub-section "Novel(小说 xiaoshuo)", the author said: "the same author, Luo Guanzhong 罗贯中(1330 to 1400), is also said to have written another highly important book, The Water Margin 水浒传 shui hu zhuan (sometimes called All Men are Brothers)." Water Margin or Outlaws of the Mush or All Men are Brothers is one of four great classical novels of Chinese literature, normally attributed to Shi Nai'an, this statement appears in from all primary school textbooks to Chinese Literature History textbooks referenced by university students who majored in Chinese linguistics and literature, but the author doesn't say anything of Shi Nai'an. That is quite misleading and confusing for the beginners, if he/she encounter another source of Chinese literature.

On page 111, about the drama, the author says that "She(Jang Qing 江清) banned all productions that did not have Mao or Maoism as their central theme. Eventually, only five model works were permitted, all of which recounted heroic tales of revolutions."This is not accurate either, instead 5 productions, there are 8 model dramas total. Those dramas are called The Eight Model Works, or Yang Ban Xi 样板戏 in Chinese. Yan Ban Xi is a kind of ballet/dance/musical drama, actually more than 13 were created during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, but 8 of these carefully crafted model works were most popular and went into history as "the 8 Model works". They were filmed in bright Technicolor and Scope, and were the only kind of entertainment allowed in the theatres, on television and radio. Their influence was beyond measurement. Although times have changed and the westernization of China has seen the power of the Yang Ban Xi diminish, those dramas have regained popularity and are performed for delighted audiences consisting of the now middle-aged Chinese who were teenagers during the heyday of the propaganda opera, The Eight(total thirteen) Model works include:

Beijing Operas:

  1. The Legend of the Red Lantern 红灯记

  2. Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy 智取威虎山

  3. Surprise Attack on White Tiger Regiment 奇袭白虎团
  4. Harbor 海港

Ballets:

  1. Red Women's Detachment 红色娘子军

  2. The White-haired Girl 白毛女

Symphony:

  1. Sha Jia River 沙家浜

  2. The Eulogy of the Dragon River 龙江颂

Other Models:

  1. The Azalea Mountain 杜鹃山

  2. The Warfare in Plain 平原作战

  3. Pan Shi Wan 磐石湾

  4. The Eulogy of the Yimeng Mountain 沂蒙颂

  5. The Brother and Sister on the Prairie 草原兄弟


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