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Binu and the Great Wall (Canongate Myth Series)

2.77  ·  Rating Details ·  231 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews

Knopf Canada welcomes one of China’s most acclaimed and bestselling writers–author of Raise the Red Lantern–to the list with a fascinating retelling of a magical story–already an international bestseller in China and Europe.

Through Binu’s extraordinary story, Su Tong illuminates one of China’s most magical myths. In Peach village, crying is forbidden. But as a child, Binu

Hardcover, 291 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Canongate Books (first published 2006)
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Dec 09, 2016 Kavita rated it did not like it
Binu and the Great Wall is a retelling of the legend of Meng Jiangnu and is based during the Qin dynasty of China. The original story dealt with the suffering of the common people, a lot of whom were kidnapped and forced to build the Great Wall of China, a structure that still stands strong today. The concept is interesting and must have been a very strong critique of the ruling dynasty at the time.

However, this retelling leaves a lot to be desired. The story has Binu living in a village where n
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 02, 2016 Melaslithos rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
I was a bit disappointed in this book.

I always found that the legend of Meng Jiangnu (Binu in this version) was a beautiful one, but here, I felt that it lacks the beauty and elegance of the original version (or at least, the image I have in my mind).

Binu doesn't appear at likeable at all, and because of that, we can't really appreciate all the hardships she went through, all the love and devotion she had towards her husband.
May 07, 2009 Milan/zzz rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, myths
Užasno me smara. Potpuno neočekivano. Ovo je prva knjiga "Mitova" sa kojom se davim već mesecima. Pročitaću je svakako ali sad samo želim da je maknem sa "trenutno čitam"-liste.
Za sad ću je oceniti jednom zvezdom a kad je završim ukoliko budem mislio da je to malo (u šta čisto sumnjam) dodaću joj.
Jan 11, 2016 Sissel rated it did not like it
I read about 50% in earnest before I started to skim the pages. In the beginning I found this book quite enjoyable, but I soon found myself very frustrated with the main character Binu. A lot of terrible things happen to the poor woman, but she was not prepared at all for the journey she was taking on, so I found it very hard to sympathise with her.
Jul 11, 2008 Richard rated it it was ok
A wonderful myth, but this retelling of it lacks energy. I don't know if the fault for this lies in oversentimentality on Su Tong's part, or through some less than insightful translation, but this quickly became very skimmable, unlike Su Tong's other books. I would recommend easily Rice or Raise the Red Lantern over this one.
Dec 27, 2008 Stepan rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-group, fiction
I wasn't familiar with the myth of Meng Jiangnu upon which Binu is based. As such, the book didn't really resonate with me and I found it, at times, hair pullingly ponderous and slow.
Predivna priča, zanimljiva mitologija...
Marthe Bijman
Dec 17, 2013 Marthe Bijman rated it it was ok
Su Tong is the writer of the immensely depressing novel Rice, which is about poor Chinese people who make each other even more tormented than they already are, and ends more wretchedly than it begins. His latest novel, Binu and the Great Wall, (translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt) has much the same effect on the reader, but not only due to the unsympathetic characters and unsettling plot.


The text of the bleak and puzzling novel is made difficult to digest b
May 06, 2013 Bjorn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Why bother (re-)telling a story?

If most of the volumes of the myths series so far have struggled to do anything but rehash the same tired Greco-Roman mythology, Chinese novelist Su Tong's (Raise The Red Lantern) contribution to the Canongate Myths series at least adds a different perspective. It's apparently based on the tale of Binu, the wife of a man conscripted to build the Chinese wall, who walked all the way across China to make sure he had something warm to wear when winter came, only to e
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 10, 2013 Emmett rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book, as I've read "Raise the Red Lantern", "My Life, as Emperor", and "Rice" and enjoyed them all immensely. While it's true I haven't read a novel by Su Tong in a few years, I have to say I still consider "Rice" within my top three favorite novels I've ever read. With that being said, I just didn't feel the same sense of enjoyment for this novel. While I understand that it was written to fit into an already established series and it's a retelling of a myth, so it ...more
Dec 15, 2009 Michelle rated it it was ok
Retelling the story of one woman’s journey in search for her husband, who was brought to build the Great Wall, this story follows the hardships and challenges that Binu had to face as the result of her decision to go after her husband, Qiliang.

The story starts off with the story of how people who live in the areas around North Mountain have been forbidden to cry. Even babies and young children are taught to never shed tears from their eyes. But to cry is only natural, after all, and these people
Will Shadbolt
Dec 30, 2015 Will Shadbolt rated it really liked it
Shelves: chinese, 2015
This is much better than what the reviews around here say. The problem is it's not quite the fairy tale you'd expect, and it's not quite Su Tong's usual fare. (and admittedly the translation could be better). If you know what you're getting into, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The back cover covers most of the set up. I'm not sure why they mention the frog companion, as it leaves early on and doesn't have much to do overall with the story. A lot of people seem to be upset at the awfulne
Jo Bennie
Oct 28, 2015 Jo Bennie rated it really liked it
Shelves: m, t
This is part of the Canongate Myths series, in which internationally acclaimed writers take a particular myth, fairy story etc as a starting point. Su Tong is best known for Raise the Red Lantern.

Binu is the impoverished wife of Quiliang. With his mulberry trees they feed and raise silkworms. They live in Peach village at the foot of North Mountain (in China), a village where a terrible past means that crying is not permitted. Weeping has magically transmuted, some women cry from their ears, or
Apr 23, 2011 Ellie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on the Chinese myth of Meng Jiangnu who brought down the Great Wall with her tears of mourning, this instalment of the Canongate Myths series has ended up a surreal fairytale against a backdrop of a country in despair.

Binu comes from a village where crying from your eyes is forbidden as doing so will mean your death is imminent. The women of the village get round this by shedding their tears via various body parts. When her husband is taken away to work on the Great Wall, Binu is grief-str
Mar 23, 2011 Jesse rated it liked it
This story is about a womans jouney to find her husband.

We start the book thinking that she is incredibly devoted and willing to sacrifice her life i. An order to bring her husband (who has been taken away to work on building the Great Wall) his winter clothes.

The body of the story shows us all of her trials and tribulations as she trys to reach her husband. She is robbed, molested, bought and sold several times (including to a dead man) and imprissoned. However, in the end, she makes it to the
Jul 16, 2016 Deb rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful retelling of an old Chinese fairytale. It is about a Chinese woman who goes to look for her missing husband. He has been taken, against his will, to help build the Great Wall of China. With winter clothes for her husband and a blind frog for company, Binu must make this dangerous journey to try and save her beloved. Along her travels, poor Binu encounters many difficulties, meets many unsavory characters and villagers who are very suspicious of her and her strange companion. ...more
This is a weirdly written book. I have not read many Chinese authors so there may be cultural gap, but it feels like the author is trying demonstrate pathos for the protagonist but only succeeds in making here one of the most pathetic (no pun intended!) and irritating characters I have ever read. A quick browse in wikipedia shows that the myth Lady Meng Jian Nu is about a proud woman who spurns the emperor and gives up her life after bringing down a portion of the wall. Even after giving ...more
Ian Mchugh
Jul 17, 2016 Ian Mchugh rated it really liked it
A grim tale of devotion. "Binu and the Great Wall" is based on one of the 'Four Great Folktales' of China - the story of Lady Meng Jiang. The suffering of Binu is relentless throughout the story and the cruelty she faces makes this 'myth' difficult to read at times. The story ends spectacularly and, I felt, was worth all of the suffering that had gone before. Su Tong's story, and Goldblatt's translation, are accessible and, even though Su Tong has "reimagined" the story, the mystical and poetic ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myth
A retelling of the 'Myth of Meng' - no, I didn't know it either - which in this version tells the tale of Binu's odyssey to the Great Wall to take winter clothes to her husband who has been conscripted to work there. He is dead, she cries. She cries a lot. She cries so much that a section of the Great Wall collapses. I suppose this is a tale of tremendous devotion, but unfortunately I never got to like or admire Binu; she was mostly annoying and in the end somewhat pathetic. All the other ...more
Mar 11, 2014 Jeanine rated it it was ok
I am pretty sure that surrealist authors got their ideas from this very particular and ancient Chinese legend. Proof:
1) Characters who cry from their feet/hands/other body parts and leave wet trails wherever they go;
2) Blind frogs that search for their sons while guiding said characters across China;
3) A weather that shifts and changes based on the whims of a certain eponymous character;
4) Human deer-children who sell eponymous character to a dead man.

And that is barely the tip of the iceberg!
Jul 04, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it
This one is very good, and got me interested in some new mythology I had not heard before from China. It's structured like an odyssey, and the main character is someone you can really get behind. The great wall looms large in this book, as it is being built and affecting the lives of all around. It's one of the better books in the Canongate Myths series, though none seem to be able to compete with the Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.
** This is just a QUICK REVIEW of my thoughts on the book **

Tried but couldn't get into it at all! It starts off about how people were punished for crying so they 'learnt' to cry using other body parts; ears, mouths, hair, etc. I just couldn't get into it at all.

Is there a Happy Ending? I don’t know – I didn’t finish it.

Content Rating: I don’t remember.

Romance Rating: I don’t remember.
Katie M.
Jun 08, 2012 Katie M. rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2008
This may have been an extraordinary book and I didn't realize it. Maybe it's a very Chinese narrative and I'm a very American reader? But I found it PAINFUL to get through. Slogging through the grim, unengaging, everything-that-could-go-wrong-will-go-wrong narrative felt kind of like pulling all the pots and pans off my shelf one by one and hitting myself over the head with them.
Feb 22, 2010 Kati rated it did not like it
Joyless. Just about everyone our weak, superstitious, sobbing heroine meets is villainous at worst, uninterested at best. A total slog I'd have abandoned halfway through if it weren't part of the Canongate Myths series. And then the book ends as if they'd forgotten to print the last five pages. Ugh.
Nov 22, 2011 Anna rated it it was ok
Started off sounding cool enough, but became too surreal (to the point of ridiculousness). Felt, at the end, like all the loose ends were just left loose. Also, most of the characters Binu comes across on her journey are just so unpleasant (to put it nicely), reading it sometimes felt like work.
Dec 24, 2008 Amber is currently reading it
This is one of the Cannon Gate series on Myth. I am reading the whole series with my Mom and daughter. Great tales, by great writers. The project is 100 books on myth all by solicicted authors. Nice
May 05, 2010 Linda added it
Su Tong is a very good writer but I'm not sure about this one - it could be the flat translation. I'll give it another go in Chinese. I'm about to read his new book in the original language. It's a pity there's no way to add Chinese books to this site.
Dec 14, 2013 Val rated it liked it
Shelves: world-extra
This is a retelling of an old Chinese folk tale as part of the excellent Canongate Myths series. The simple storytelling and vocabulary works for a folk tale.
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Su Tong (simplified Chinese: 苏童; traditional Chinese: 蘇童; pinyin: Sū Tóng; born January 23, 1963) is the pen name of Chinese writer Tong Zhonggui (童忠贵 Tóng Zhōngguì). He was born in Suzhou and lives in Nanjing.

He entered the Department of Chinese at Beijing Normal University in 1980, and started to publish novels in 1983. He is now vice president of the Jiangsu Writers Association. Known for his c
More about Su Tong...

Other Books in the Series

Canongate Myth Series (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • A Short History of Myth
  • The Penelopiad
  • Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles
  • The Helmet of Horror: The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur
  • Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson
  • Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams
  • Anna In w grobowcach świata
  • Girl Meets Boy
  • Where Three Roads Meet: The Myth of Oedipus
  • Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

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