Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “China in Ten Words” as Want to Read:
China in Ten Words
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

China in Ten Words

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,166 ratings  ·  169 reviews
From one of China’s most acclaimed writers, his first work of nonfiction to appear in English: a unique, intimate look at the Chinese experience over the last several decades, told through personal stories and astute analysis that sharply illuminate the country’s meteoric economic and social transformation.

Framed by ten phrases common in the Chinese vernacular—“people,” “l
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Pantheon (first published 2010)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about China in Ten Words, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about China in Ten Words

Wild Swans by Jung ChangThe Good Earth by Pearl S. BuckSnow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa SeeThe Joy Luck Club by Amy TanBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Best Books About China
97th out of 422 books — 342 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenThe Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniShōgun by James ClavellNorwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiThe Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Best books on Asia
310th out of 592 books — 424 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,473)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
3.5 stars. After living in rural China for a few years I lost interest in taking any look (intimate or otherwise) at the Chinese experience. I'm still not very motivated to read about the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution or anything that followed. I exhausted my interest...or at least I thought. Hua's book is really pretty great, especially for readers who aren't very familiar with recent Chinese history. Hua's lived through it all and has a great talent for essay construction. The ...more
This is a truly remarkable book for its depth of feeling, simplicity, humour and elegance. I can say without hyperbole is one of the most memorable I've ever picked up. As the title suggests, the author uses 10 words to describe China as he's experienced it in his life; and through this he paints an enthralling picture of a country travelling the path of upheaval and revolution to its present state.

Through words like "People", "Reading", "Copycat", the author provides vignettes of his own life e
人民 - 領袖 - 阅读 - 写作 - 鲁迅 - 革命 - 差距 - 草根 - 山寨 - 忽悠
People - Leader - Reading - Writing - Lu Xun - Revolution - Difference/Disparity - Grassroots - Shanzhai/knockoff - Deceive/Bamboozle

Yu Hua, a Chinese fiction author, takes on the momentous task of framing his nation in ten words. His own life parallels the course of his own nation, from chanting crowds, and the Little Red Book (PEOPLE - LEADER) and the sudden jolt into the frenzied race of modern neo-liberal capitalism. (DISPARITY - SHANZHAI - DECE
Much of the book will be familiar to anyone who pays attention to China, but Yu Hua has a knack for choosing *just* the right anecdotes to illustrate his points -- and doing so with an economy and directness missing from his most recent novel, 'Brothers.' He's back on form here, and is very well served by Allan H. Barr's excellent translation. Anyone with an interest in contemporary China will want to read this -- and to recommend it to any friends or family members looking to get up to speed qu ...more
C.J. Shane
I'll admit to being something of China geek. I try to keep up with whatever is being published about this fascinating country and culture. Yu Hua's book is one of my favorite recent finds. His book consists of ten essays based on ten words that he considers relevant to contemporary China. The essays are partly memoir, partly history, and partly social commentary. His childhood and teenage remembrances of China during the Cultural Revolution are especially helpful to understanding how it is that ...more
"In the political context of 1989, for a government leader to be hospitalized could mean only that he had lost power or that he had gone into hiding. Everyone immediately understood the implications."

"What other political figure would make a point of waving to his people in a swimsuit? Only Mao could carry this off."

"Leadership contests even extend to geography and technology, so that now we have leaders in natural scenery and leaders among elevators."

"Many Chinese have begun to pine for the era
I read this book because I am preparing myself to read Vogel's long biography of Deng Xiaopeng. It is a series of essays on modern China by a popular Chinese fiction writer who grew up during the Cultural Revolution and grew in stature during the period of economic reform under Deng. The author takes ten words (including a Chinese author of renown) and then presents an essay based on the word to explain how China has developed in the last 50 years. The words focus on ideas/concepts that meant on ...more

I must make a disclaimer. I am out of my depth. I know very little of China. The people. The politics. The economy. The history. I have only the most cursory knowledge of any of it. I know Mao. Or at least I know that no one seems to agree whether he should be on the same historical shelf as Hitler and Stalin or Marx and Trotsky. (Hopefully those distinctions are meaningful for all.)

I’ve met some of the emigrants, chatted with them about how uncomfortable
Yu Huas Konzentration auf zehn chinesische Begriffe ist ein Hingucker - und sie irritiert auf den ersten Blick durch die ungewöhnlich Auswahl der Wörter. Nicht "Liebe", "Drache" oder "Reich der Mitte", Yu Hua betitelt seine biografischen Notizen u. a. mit "Unterschied", "Graswurzeln" und "Gebirgsdorf". Der chinesische Autor sieht seine 2009 entstandenen Texte als Ergänzung zu seinem Roman Brüder (2009). Dieser Roman sei aus dem Zusammenprall zweier Epochen entstanden, die sich in Europa über 400 ...more
As one who came of age in China during the Cultural Revolution, Yu Hua is well situated to compare and contrast Chinese communism and the capitalism-run-amok of the present, a system which is so awful in some respects that many Chinese have become nostalgic for the days of Mao. Using words like "people" and "revolution" as starting points, he tells stories about his experiences then and now, creating a colorful picture of the last 50 years in China.

The words are simple and direct and contain bot
Graeme Roberts
A fascinating, highly readable book, well-written and superbly translated.

It uses ten common Chinese words to characterize modern China. Having been to China first in the early 80's, before it took the Capitalist road, I found it deeply shocking.

There is a pervasive sense of greed gone rampant, and a vulgarity that I find hard to believe. The society seems to have swung wildly from the repression and enforced conformity of the Cultural Revolution to a wild capitalism that gives laissez-faire a b
I don't really have a good shelf for this book. As others have mentioned, it's a series of ten essays by the author Yu Hua, each centered around a word that he feels is instrumental in shaping contemporary Chinese culture. In each essay, he relates these words to recent Chinese history (in particular, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution) and his own personal experiences.

It makes for quick, engaging and eye-opening reading, particularly as someone who has a cursory education in mod
Yu's first non-fiction book is a succinct and insightful collection of memoirs and observations. He reveals that his direct, unpretentious style owes something to having started writing when his knowledge of Chinese characters was limited - I can relate to that, if not his gripping vignettes of life as a child amid the Cultural Revolution. I'd like to read something else by a younger author as well; for most of China's youth, the Cultural Revolution that shaped Yu and his generation is mere hist ...more
I like Yu Hua's simple prose style quite a bit and have enjoyed his novels previously and so this made for a thoroughly interesting (albeit quite brief) memoir of his life, and his take on the changes in China throughout his life (in the last 50 or so years) or at least seen through the prism of his experience first as a student, later as a country dentist, and eventually as a respected author.
China is a complex issue for sure, so I might not recommend this as a starting point to understand the
Christopher Myrick
A delightfully witty collection of 10 sharply delivered non-fiction essays by one of the Mainland's favorite novellists. Yu Hua connects the spirit of the Cultural Revolution with that of modern China in a way few outside observers could manage. Touchingly personal, sometimes to the point of embarrassment, always insightful and occasionally laugh-out-loud amusing (not an easy thing to pull off when recalling the Cultural Revolution). Published in Taiwan and the U.S., likely a best seller at the ...more
One of the best books I have read about China since I have arrived here is China in Ten Words by Yu Hua. The book is a collection of essays, each one based on a commonly used word in China. Each of these words are loaded with historical and cultural contexts that few outsiders will ever truly understand, at least not in the way that the Chinese understand them.

The book begins with “People,” which Hua argues is so commonly used in China today that it has lost the weight of its initial meaning. He
Rob and Liz
We read this book as well during our recent trip to China. We wanted a more serious book from a Chinese perspective to balance our other book choice. (Liz wrote this review). Hua is a well-known author in China. He grew up during the Chinese Revolution, started his professional life as a dentist, and then transitioned into writing as soon as he was able. His book focuses on ten Chinese words that capture the essence of Chinese recent history and culture: People, Leader, Reading, Writing, Lu Xun, ...more
Andrew Macfarlane
I bought this on the strength of its reviews. I read two chapters a day, so it has taken me less than a week to read. It could be read in a day or so, but I think it helps to let each chapter rumble around in one's thoughts a little. Yu's subject matter is deep and wide, and it would be a disservice to rush through it. In a somewhat typical Chinese manner, he charts the links and nodes between seemingly unrelated concepts and events, and in doing so, weaves together a narrative based on grand hi ...more
Clara Mazzi
Grande Yu Hua. Grandissimo. Non solo perchè è veramente un grande scrittore, ma anche per come è arrivato alla scrittura. Yu Hua ha vissuto gli anni formativi della sua esistenza durante la rivoluzione culturale, ovvero completamente privo di stimoli di alcun tipo, inclusi ovviamente quelli letterari. Si forma in un periodo di estrema instabilità culturale, nel senso che quel poco, ovvero l'unico pensiero ammesso, era comunque soggetto ad improvvisi cambi di prospettiva per cui chi era un grande ...more
Tom Ewing
I bought this on a whim not knowing what it would be about. It turns out it's less a book about modern China than a set of personal essays drawing on Yu Hua's boyhood during the Cultural Revolution, in which fairly standard incidents of male early adolescence - pursuing secret projects, getting lost in books, getting into fights, playground bitching, pointless arguments about bullshit - take place against a backdrop of violent street battles, Red Guard purges of counter-revolutionaries, semi-pub ...more
"China in 10 words" in case the title comes through in Chinese characters -- I had trouble finding it on my own list to mark it as completed. What a fascinating book. I had lots of questions for my history-major husband and had to refer to wikipedia for background on the Cultural Revolution. I still wouldn't claim to have any kind of grasp on China's history, but certainly more than I did before. What a storyteller. His recounting of the social implications of policy decisions in China -- my fav ...more
Catherine Woodman
In preparation for my upcoming trip to China, I am trying to do some reading that gives me a flavor of what this most populous and ancient nation is all about. I read Hua's book "To Live" and I have seen the movie adaptation starring Gong Li, so I came to the book knowing something about the author. He is not a man to mince words. He has grown up in Mao's China and he continues to live in Beijing, so he offers an unflinching and intelligent account of how his country has changed over the past 40 ...more
This was an easy read—probably because it’s only ten words long. Ha! But seriously, folks, these ten essays are a breeze, and they breathed a little color into my understanding of life in China. The author, Yu Hua, grew up during the Cultural Revolution and was a member of the Red Guard, which, on paper, sounds pretty bleak, but his anecdotes show how the absurdities of the time made for humor as well as horror. Indeed, Mao Zedong Thought, when filtered through adolescence and the mundanity of f ...more
Taylor Storey
Fantastic book! I have now read 3 "popular" style books written about China, this is by far the best one. (The others were Dreaming in Chinese by Fallows- pretty good from a linguistics angle and Lost on Planet China by Troost - not horrible, but there's a lot better out there i'm sure). The author of this book, Yu Hua, is a prominent Chinese author who lives in Beijing/Hangzhou. He has written a number of very successful Chinese novels. This one, is ten essays on various parts of China. It is b ...more

<< Si può dire che la Cina di oggi sia un paese con enormi disparità, è come se ci muovessimo in una realtà di luci rosse e sfarzo da una parte e macerie e rovine dall’altra. Per dirla altrimenti, è come se fossimo seduti in un teatro bizzarro dove, contemporaneamente, vanno in scena una commedia su una metà del palco e una tragedia sull’altra.>>
An interesting take on looking at changes in the lifetime of the author. His school years match up fairly well with the years of the Cultural Revolution, and he chooses 10 words that have changed meaning between his childhood and now. It might be interesting to look at American culture and language in the same time period the same way.
Judy Herrmann
The author uses Chinese words at the start of each chapter to describe his life in China. My favorite was when he decided to be a writer instead of his assigned job as a dentist (tooth puller) because jobs at the cultural center were perceived to be leisurely.
Fascinating book. The author uses anecdotal stories to support his ideas. He is such a gifted story teller that the images he creates are captivating (though sometimes disturbing). I usually reserve my five-star-ratings for books that haunt--those rare books that leave you with images or questions that you will remember months (sometimes years) after reading the book. Though there were some essays that had a haunting effect for me, I gave this four stars because there were others essays that did ...more
Carla Patterson
Everything about this book is fascinating and I got a lot out of it. Some things made me laugh, reminded me of my own experiences with Chinese culture, people, and language(s). Some things were heart rending and mortifying, feelings which didn't go away when I stopped reading. I felt compelled to talk about them with other people. Many things were familiar to me already but, coming from this one person's point of view and memory, they were even more impactful than they were as news items. Yu is ...more
I haven't read any of Hua Yu's fiction, and this reads much more as a memoir. It's a catalog of China's (often appalling) absurdities -- corruption, propaganda, widespread lies. The chapter on "bamboozling" is probably best.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 82 83 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Is the order important to this book of essays? 1 2 Jun 12, 2015 10:50AM  
  • The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up
  • Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China
  • Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China
  • China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation
  • Red Dust: A Path Through China
  • The Little Red Guard
  • Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China
  • Dream of Ding Village
  • The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
  • The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China
  • Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing
  • Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962
  • The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future
  • Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory
  • China Underground
  • Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century
  • China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power
  • China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia
Yu Hua is a Chinese author, born April 3, 1960 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
Yu Hua has written four novels, six collections of stories, and three collections of essays. His most important novels are Chronicle of a Blood Merchant and To Live.
More about Yu Hua...
To Live Brothers Chronicle of a Blood Merchant The Seventh Day: A Novel Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China

Share This Book

“If literature truly possesses a mysterious power, I think perhaps it is precisely this: that one can read a book by a writer of a different time, a different country, a different race, a different language, and a different culture and there encounter a sensation that is one's very own.” 4 likes
“Three or four years ago, a city education bureau announced a new measure to raise the quality of local teachers and enable graduating high school seniors to be more competitive in the university entrance examination.” 0 likes
More quotes…