China in Ten Words
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China in Ten Words

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  828 ratings  ·  141 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...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Vintage (first published December 30th 2010)
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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...more
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
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...more
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
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
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...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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
I admire the author's attempt to describe China in ten words. I can't even find a single person I can describe in ten words. China is a country of 1.3 billion people with one of the most complicated political and social structures in the world. The ten words are moderately well chosen and provide a quick glance of China, a bit biased as three out of the ten are really reserved for intellectuals. The authors's dramatic tone(he is after all a novelist) and anti-communist views will no doubt please...more
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Provides interesting insights into Chinese culture and addresses reasons behind their world view. Really enjoyed this book...easy to read too!
Mark Robertson
China in Ten Words. Not sure what made me pick up this book in the bookstore, but somehow it called out to me. What a great read! Couldn't put it down. Part memoir, part reflection of Chinese society and recent history. The essays are packed with fascinating, funny and moving stories of the author's life stretching back into the Cultural Revolution. The history of the Cultural Revolution is well known to me, but I am fascinated by the stories of lives lived during this turbulent period. Some of...more
Mikael Larsson
In order to fully understand China and its people and culture, I would think it is essential to learn Chinese characters.

One short cut to better understand the richness and complexity of the culture of this vast country, without bothering to learn the characters, is to read the works of Yu Hua (most likely in English but he is according to Wikipedia translated into 14 languages, including Swedish;

In this book, his first non-fiction translated into Engli...more
I read the English edition and I found it to be a fascinating exploration of modern Chinese culture around 10 concrete themes. I love that the book was written by a Chinese author (and not an outsider) because that lends it the legitimacy of an insider's perspective. I'm not aware of what the Party thinks of Yu Hua (versus Liu Xiaobo), so I assumed that what he wrote was not terribly controversial.

Yu Hua weaves his personal experience into his explanation of life, culture, and trends in modern...more
David Dinaburg
A single word serves as provenance for the ten sections of China in Ten Words, each structurally identical—personal ruminations mixed with sociopolitical musings—yet, by virtue of the framing device selected, incredibly distinct. The nexus between the words is delicate moreso than subtle, and epochal contrast serves to delineate how Chinese history has informed the modern China.

How the Revolution section discusses a particularly jingoistic slogan, and the consequences derived therefrom:
Even th
Most books I've read lately about China have made me ravenously hungry for Chinese food. Not this one.

This one is ten essays about modern China. Each one includes a story or two from the author's childhood during the Cultural Revolution. Vivid stories, usually quite sad, but with unexpected spots of humor. The chapter about how hard it was during the Cultural Revolution to get books to read was fascinating. As a teenager, the author and a classmate stayed up all night copying a book by hand, got...more
Bob Pearson
If you're Chinese, you must live with the paradox that a chaotic revolution which precipitated vast suffering (Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution) has given way to a society now re-assuming a pre-eminent place in the world. Hua Yu grapples with this paradox in this remarkable series of essays, none of which is particularly startling, but all of which collectively convey an unforgettable impression. Once the "people" were the masses, now they are the individual leaders or entrepreneurs. Once...more
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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 Cries in the Drizzle Boy in the Twilight: Stories of the Hidden China

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“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.” 0 likes
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