Oracle Bones
A Journey Between China's Past and Present

Hessler, Peter
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Year Published:  2006  
Pages:  471pp   ISBN:  978-0-06-082658-I
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX7159

A first-hand exploration of contemporary China through the accounts of its living citizens as well as through ancient artifacts uncovered in archeological digs -- a psycho-social examination of who the Chinese are today.


Abstract:  Peter Hessler's first hand exploration of contemporary China through the accounts of its living citizens as well as through ancient artifacts uncovered in archeological digs is a psycho-social examination of who the Chinese are today.

Its literal focus is that as democracy and freedom are to George W. Bush's America, so are culture and history to the majority Han Chinese of modern day China. The fundamental values of both, he claims, have been damaged by the very measures aimed at protecting them.

Hessler is an American living in China who writes for The New Yorker magazine from Beijing. His earlier book River Town focused on life in rural China and was drawn from his residency in a remote village as an English teacher. This one attempts to speak to those with greater exposure to a world beyond their own village. The narrative rocks back and forth from descriptions of archeological finds, to the reminisces of scholars who know their history well, and have for one reason or another, moved on from it.

It examines social change and what fuels it. Among the many interviews those that stand out are discussions about minority Uighurs from the far west of the far east, how those who survived the Cultural Revolution are the living witnesses and sometimes the ones responsible for those who did not, and the still prickly relationship among Chinese over the rise of Communism and the fall of the Kuomintang. This latter is emphasised in his accounts of Taiwan's relationship with the Mainland.

It is neither travelogue nor journalism, but it is a worthy examination of the social change now underway in China.

[Abstract by Penny Cadrain]

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