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A Dictionary of Maqiao
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A Dictionary of Maqiao

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  171 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
One of the most-talked about works of fiction to emerge from China in recent years, this novel about an urban youth "displaced" to a small village in rural China during the Cultural Revolution is a fictionalized portrait of the author's own experience as a young man. Han Shaogong was one of millions of students relocated from cities and towns to live and work alongside pea ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published July 2nd 2003 by Columbia University Press (first published 2003)
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This was such a unique book; part novel, part short story collection, part memoir, part treatise on language and culture. The author was one of the "Educated Youth" relocated to the countryside, specifically the village of Maqiao, in the 1950's as part of Mao's Cultural Revolution. The author presents his somewhat fictionalized experiences in Maqiao as vignettes, each revolving around a particular word, name, or phrase from the Maqiao dialect. Through these we are introduced to a cast of eccentr ...more
Apr 24, 2013 Bjorn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Having a sense of humour doesn't mean being able to tell jokes. Humour is the ability to play with the expected. Which is never more apparent than when authority tries to tell people what to think.

In 1970, the young intellectual student Han Shaogong was sent to the tiny village of Maqiao, where not much has changed since the emperor's days. But this was the cultural revolution and everything was to be made new: city-dwelling weaklings would become good workers, and in the process help turn the f
John Armstrong
Mar 20, 2016 John Armstrong rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chinese-modern
Han Shaogong’s A Dictionary of Maqiao, originally published in Chinese in 1996 and translated into English by Julia Lovell in 2006, is not only the best novel I’ve read in the last few years but also an absolute miracle of translation. The translator had great admiration for the book and approached the author for permission to translate it into English. She relates his response as, “I am very happy that you wish to translate the book, but I’m afraid it will be terribly difficult.”

She was not su
Rowland Bismark
Aug 18, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
During the Cultural Revolution, Han Shaogong was one of seven Educated Youth sent to the hamlet of Maqiao in northern Hunan, which consisted of "forty-odd households, about ten head of cattle, and pigs, dogs, chickens, and ducks, with two long, narrow paddy fields hugging its perimeters". His observations of people and customs and language during the six years he spent there form the basis for his novel A Dictionary of Maqiao.

This takes the ostensible form of a dictionary or encyclopedia, with o
Wendy G
Apr 28, 2014 Wendy G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the many books I chose based on the title; I was not disapponted. "A Dictionary of Maqiao" is a novel about a fictional village in rural China and the ways in which the people used language to resist, transgress, and mock the current political climate. The backdrop is the Down to the Countryside Movement, which was a component of the Cultural Revolution in China. Young, urban, college-educated people were sent en masse to rural villages to learn the real and valuable work of the p ...more
Chậu Tưởng Kí
Mua quyển này từ hồi 2014 mà để mãi mới đọc, hình như do hứng thú nhất thời với bố cục. Bảo là tiểu thuyết mà chia đề mục như từ điển thật lại còn có cả chữ Hán ngay bên cạnh (đáng tiếc là chữ phồn thể xem chẳng hiểu gì lại còn không có phiên âm, không biết bản gốc có phiên âm không nhỉ? ). Sách đọc để vỗ giấc ngủ cuối cùng lại hay quá không dứt được. Ban đầu mình đọc một lèo nhưng thấy hơi ép bèn chuyển qua đọc một ngày một mục, bò bò bò tới giờ :)). Thích nhân vật Diêm Tảo, cũng thích Thiết Hư ...more
Richard Yu
Mar 13, 2016 Richard Yu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miriam Kool
Ik dacht tijdens het lezen af en toe dat ik deze toch wat hoger zou gaan raten, maar uiteindelijk toch niet. Het idee is leuk, een roman over het leven in een Chinees dorpje in de vorm van een woordenboek. Maar de uitwerking kan me niet echt bekoren. Het verzandt te vaak in encyclopedie-achtige beschrijvingen die niet boeien, waarmee het geheel erg vermoeiend wordt om te lezen. er blijft een enorme afstand tussen de personen die in het boek voorkomen, waardoor je ook nooit echt de interesse voel ...more
Frank Kasell
An interesting book, this. When I discovered it, the immediate comparison that came to mind was with the Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić. Ultimately, though, outside of the main structural conceit (eschewing a conventional linear plot in favor of short, interconnecting "dictionary" entries), the connections are limited. In Han's fictionalized dictionary (it's unclear to me where the line is between the fiction and the reality, to be honest...not that I think it's important to know) of ...more
Joey Diamond
Aug 20, 2015 Joey Diamond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
There needs to be more fragment fiction. Such a good way to capture all the ins and outs of this small village and the weird experience of being an Educated Youth sent down to the country during the cultural revolution and the folk tales and the doublespeak and everything. Almost everything.
Peter Milligan
Jan 24, 2015 Peter Milligan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love the spirit of the book. Revolution!
Sarah Fisher
Jun 05, 2007 Sarah Fisher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: language lovers
4 stars since it tended to be dry at times. It's written in dictionary style using language and its cultural peculiarities to also tell the story of a remote village in China, which speaks their own dialect. Very interesting how the language really becomes part of the people. You'll probably get more out of it if you already have some background in Chinese, or better yet, can read it in the original language. It'll make the book easier to understand at first.
Jun 04, 2007 Amelia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I really enjoyed this. It was hard to follow at first since I got the characters mixed up. Even though this is organized as a dictionary, it's really the description of a cast of characters. This book is about those who populate a Chinese village during the Cultural Revolution. I enjoyed its insight into the way that Chinese peasants experienced that time period.
Shanti Hofshi
Interesting approach to telling a story - a series of word definitions that bring the characters and their relationships to life little by little. Also a fascinating insight into life under the Cultural Revolution in China. Would be nice to know whether all the tidbits of information can be taken at face value, though.
Jan 08, 2014 Theresa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read it, interesting enough, but just couldn't get into.
May 17, 2008 Kelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
There were pages of this that I liked, pages that explored how language is rooted in place. There were small stories within the larger novel that were fascinating. But on the whole, it felt like work to finish it, like an unfinished promise.
Valette Keller
Dec 31, 2014 Valette Keller rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
So slow and boring. The few bits of story that happened in some of the definitions were kind of interesting, but the history of the people and the lands an the words was uninteresting and just couldn't finish.
Kristen Schrader (Wenke)
Couldn't finish it. Just really really boring. And the format's a neat idea, but I needed more of a narrative to draw me in.
Nancy Lewis
Dec 02, 2011 Nancy Lewis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
A familiarity with China and Chinese culture helps when reading this book.
Natasha Telepneva
An incredible book, strongly recommend!
Amirah Azhar
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May 27, 2016
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Cheree Martin rated it did not like it
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Han Shaogong (Traditional:韓少功; Simplified: 韩少功; Pinyin: Hán Shàogōng; born January 1, 1953) is a Chinese novelist and fictionist.

Han was born in Hunan, China. While relying on traditional Chinese culture, in particular Chinese mythology, folklore, Taoism and Buddhism as source of inspiration, he also borrows freely from Western literary techniques. As a teenager during the Cultural revolution he w
More about Han Shaogong...

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