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The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  1,387 Ratings  ·  184 Reviews
The Corpse Walker introduces us to regular men and women at the bottom of Chinese society, most of whom have been battered by life but have managed to retain their dignity: a professional mourner, a human trafficker, a public toilet manager, a leper, a grave robber, and a Falung Gong practitioner, among others. By asking challenging questions with respect and empathy, Liao ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by Pantheon (first published April 3rd 2003)
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Sep 21, 2008 Neil rated it it was amazing
Wonderful interviews with Chinese people, reminiscent of Mayhew's "London Labour and The London Poor". The accounts of life during the cultural revolution and the starvation that followed the Great Leap Forward are chilling, but the people are never less than fascinating.
Meghan Fidler
Feb 26, 2012 Meghan Fidler rated it it was amazing
I really try to avoid should-ing on people (my dad always says it's like sh!t-ing on people), however I'll make an exception in this case.

You should read this book,
because should know this story.
And you should be prepared. These people will make an impression.
The stories are short, you can take the book in little intellectual bites.

"The Corpse Walker" is filled with life stories from people who lived during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976?) in china. With depictions of daily life the book pr
Aug 19, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
One of the most fascinating things about this book is how it came to be. Liao Yiwu is constantly on the run from the Chinese government, has been jailed, tortured, and forced to be a wandering street musician. The text for this book was smuggled out of China and published for the rest of the world to read, and wow, what a read! Yiwu interviews the members of the lowest rungs in Chinese society like the public toilet manager, a leper, a grave robber, a father who lost his son in the Tiananmen mas ...more
Feb 14, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
Liao Yiwo, a poet and political prisoner, became interested in others on the outskirts of Chinese society. He performed interviews, some of which were risky, with people who didn't fit in modern times. Old people who remembered traditional ways - like the corpse walker - people who had suffered under Mao's purges, people who had been marginalized by recent accommodations with capitalism. Although Liao travels a bit, most of the interviews take place around Chengdu, his home. The 26 stories in th ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who cares about human rights or is interested in China
Did you know that Confucius was once a professional mourner, paid to put on a good show at funerals? No? Neither did I until I started reading this collection of stories from Liao Yiwu, a dissident author, oral historian and poet from Sichuan Province in China who was due to visit Australia in May, but as of yesterday (May 9th) has been refused permission to travel by the authorities.

Some time very soon indeed, China’s economic output is going to exceed America’s. In my lifetime and yours, they
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I really enjoyed God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China, though "enjoy" is an odd word to use. Perhaps I should say, I got a lot out of it. So I was eager to read this, Yiwu's first book, which is/was banned in China. He writes about a life he knows, having been a political prisoner, street musician, and man on the run for many years. From the simply unfortunate to the conmen and thieves, we are introduced to the marginalised members that no s ...more
Apr 21, 2014 Anny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Living in China was like living in a fast-forwarded Wheel of Fate. You might be at the top at the moment, then before you knew it, suddenly you were crushed mercilessly under the wheel. Those who had affiliations (however slight) with supporters of Chiang Kai-Sek were overnight declared enemy of the state (Nationalist, Rightist, Counter-revolutionist), wiping out any possible futures they might have. Land owners, factory owners, and people of means had their assets confiscated and were plunged t ...more
Jul 29, 2008 Alisa rated it it was ok
Shelves: translations
Not what I expected. The book opens with two stories about funerals and "corpse walking" and closes with a few interesting pieces about blind musicians and career criminals, but everything in between? Classify under, "What Appalling Things Happened to Me During the Cultural Revolution" and "The Even More Appalling Things I Did to Other People During the Cultural Revolution."

I understand that there was no escape from the Cultural Revolution and I guess I should have realized that for anyone over
Audacia Ray
Apr 28, 2010 Audacia Ray rated it really liked it
Reading horribly depressing/angry-making books is sort of my thing. But damn, The Corpse Walker really did me in. Story after story of horrific things that the oppressive Chinese government has done to its people, horrific things people do to each other, and the horrific things people survive and keep on being people.

The stories are all interviews, done by Liao Yiwu, who is himself not in favorable standing with the Chinese government. The conversational style of the interviews is lovely - Liao
Dec 29, 2016 Pečivo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: svíčková
Liao I-wu je pán, kterej v předvečer krveprolití na Náměstí nebeského klidu napsal báseň Krveprolití! V předvečer!! Nejen za takovýdleho Nostradama pak musel do basy. Čínskej režim moc nefandí kritice a Tvrdík to taky určitě uplně neschvaloval. Čínská basa neni žádnej med a tak tam Liao nemohl posilovat a číst, jako je tradicí v americkejch filmech a místo toho byl mučen a málem byl bičem zničen. Krom toho už během basování začal pracovat na Hovorech se spodinou.

Hovory se spodinou je 25 příběhů
A few years ago, my husband and I visited China. It was the best vacation I have ever had! China has so much history, culture, and ancient artifacts. We climbed the Great Wall and saw the terra cotta warriors. Also, we were there on Buddha's birthday, and we celebrated by eating a bowl of noodles (a traditional birthday food) in celebration with the Chinese--with chopsticks. This is done by scooping big groups of noodles at one time, and tipping the bowl to drink the broth. We visited Tiananmen ...more
Michael Andersen-Andrade
Nov 28, 2016 Michael Andersen-Andrade rated it it was amazing
When I travel to a foreign country, I take books about that country that will challenge and provoke me as well as give me insight that I couldn't uncover by myself. I just finished reading "The Corpse Walker" in Beijing, which I had downloaded to my Kindle before leaving because it's banned in China. I make no apologies for being a (democratic) socialist, but I will always resist and challenge any system that bans free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to shine light on the darker corner ...more
Apr 10, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, history
The Corpse Walker dives into stories of the lives of ordinary citizens of the People's Republic of China. The Communist Party and the Cultural Revolution are the dominant topics in this collection, as elderly and adult Chinese reminisce about their lives. Some men illegally walk a corpse an untold number of miles to be buried in its hometown. An unapologetic human trafficker relives his "glory days" in prison. A man who runs a public toilet talks about the Cultural Revolution and life in a turbu ...more
Between the years 1993 and 2006, Liao Yiwu conducted a series of interviews in China, collecting oral histories that present a view of people from the lowest rungs of Chinese society. The Corpse Walker is the amalgamation of those interviews, often done at great peril to the Liao, because the Chinese government does not want people to know that the "new " China is often not an improvement for some of it's citizens.

I've read a lot about China, but this collection of interviews is especially enlig
Jan 23, 2015 Beata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lektura ciężkostrawna, bo historie w niej zawarte nie są strawne i nie powinny być. Powinny pozostać jak zadra, która nieustannie przypomina, jaki ludzie zgotowali sobie, i nadal gotują innym ludziom, los. Chiny po lekturze wywiadów Yiwu jawią się jak czarna dziura i blizna, która rozlała się nie tylko na przyrodę i kulturę Chin, ale przede wszystkim na ludzki umysł i serca/dusze. Te potworne opowieści, świadectwa ludzkiego zniewolonia i upadku w każdym aspekcie jego bytu budzą grozę i bezbrzeżn ...more
Oct 05, 2015 Aidan rated it really liked it
Liao Yiwu has had an extraordinary life. He nearly starved to death in the famine that followed Mao's 'Great Leap Forward', his family was condemned by Mao for being 'rightist' and Liao himself was imprisoned and tortured for writing poetry that simply expressed the heartfelt desires of many Chinese for reform.

Now living as a street musician, this gifted writer has focused his considerable talents on giving the Chinese underclass a voice. This book is a series of interviews with outsiders who ha
Mar 25, 2013 ☕Laura rated it really liked it
This book is an eye-opening, often disturbing, look at life inside China over the course of its turbulent political history. It was not quite what I expected. There are some interviews with people in various professions, which is what I anticipated, but much of this book is about those who have been considered dissidents or counterrevolutionaries, who have been imprisoned and/or suffered harsh treatment and even torture for their practices or beliefs. I came away from this book with a much great ...more
Sep 05, 2008 Angela rated it liked it
Recommended to Angela by: Harper's magazine
A series of interviews of the poor and oppressed in China. I don't think the translator captured the true feel of the original standard Mandarin, because the language was extremely clunky. However, I was still caught up in the stories, which all inevitably included beatings by the Red Guard, cold-hearted actions by the Communist Party, and the details of the everyday lives of Chinese peasants. What popped up the most? The Great Leap Forward was "a total disaster," and Chairman Mao sucks. I'm get ...more
I had to take periodic breaks while reading the interviews, simply because the tales of woe and suffering were overwhelming at times. The horrors inflicted upon their own people during Mao's reign made me ill -- the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, the Red Guards... How could one not compare this brutal history to the genocides of Pol Pot, Pinochet, Hitler and Stalin? And yet there are kitschy-cool appropriations of Mao here in the US. I myself have participated in this, even buying ...more
May 24, 2013 Jan rated it it was amazing
Excellent book to read Fourth of July weekend - especially when we are not always happy with the policies of our nation. Reminds us that - for many in the world - basic freedoms like expressing a simple opinion and choosing one's own job - are either dangerous or non-existent.

Great for sermon illustrations, you preachers out there. Think Labor Day. This is a Chinese version of Terkel's Working.
Feb 21, 2014 DaViD´82 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vyloženě mrazí z toho, že ačkoli Čína nemůže být kulturou, náturou, historií a tak nějak vším rozdílnější od Československa (a ostatně i Česka a Slovenska), tak jak moc jsou ty osudy a příběhy (nejen) z dob revoluce shodné s příběhy od nás.
Craig McMahon
Jul 16, 2015 Craig McMahon rated it really liked it
Depressing and raw, and required reading for China's followers and friends. Will the CPC ever atone for its crimes?
May 31, 2015 Sophie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This in an absolutely amazing collection of people quickly becoming extinct interviewed in China by a fascinating and brave interviewer.

From The Professional Mourner:

"Our wailing sounds more authentic than that of the children or relatives of the deceased."

These tunes -- "Sending off the Spirit," "Pursuing the Spirit," "Requiem," "Calling the Spirit," "Farewell from Family Members," "The Ultimate Sorrow," "Sealing the Coffin," "Transcending to Heaven," "Burial," "One Last Look," "The Searing P
Ming Jiu Li
I liked the interview format in which the life stories are presented, it was easy to hear the different voices and personalities coming through. I would have liked on the other hand for there to be more stories of and from women.
Nov 26, 2016 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Fascinating glimpse into the lives of average Chinese people over the last 50 years.
Jesús Santana
Oct 27, 2014 Jesús Santana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liao Yiwu es un poeta, músico y escritor chino nacido en 1958 en la provincia de Sichuan en pleno momento de hambruna del “Gran Salto Adelante” de la dictadura China, ganador del Premio de la Paz otorgado por el gremio librero alemán en la Feria del Libro de Frankfurt en el año 2012, sus libros y trabajo en general se encuentran prohibidos en la República Popular China, su defensa escrita y verbal de las libertades no solo en su país de origen sino en todos los países que se encuentren bajo cua ...more
Jan 03, 2017 Agata rated it it was amazing
I learned a lot about recent China history from that book! Some facts truly shocked me. The book reads very well although it's not what you would call a pleasant read.
Nov 18, 2009 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is one of those 3.5 star books. 4 stars for cultural relevance and interest, but 3 stars for enjoyment. i could be judging the enjoyment value a little harshly, i came into this with really high hopes.

every story is entertaining and interesting, and most reveal interesting and, often, lesser-known facts about modern chinese history, culture and politics. this is a great intro or accompaniment text for someone who's interested in a social account of recent chinese history. the main players a
Dec 21, 2012 kagami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
"The Corpse Walker" is a collection of interviews with different people who have managed, in most cases involuntarily, to rub the Chinese authorities the wrong way, and as a result have been mistreated in the most horrendous, unthinkable manners. Their stories shed light on some very dark, grotesque sides of China's past, and, most disconcertingly, her recent present. The fact that the author, Liao Yiwu, was sent to prison and is still a persona non grata in China due to his publications, is in ...more
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
I learned more about China from reading Liao Yiwu's The Corpse Walker and Other True Stories of Life in China than I'd previously learned in a lifetime.

The book comprises twenty-seven true life interviews with Chinese citizens from all walks of life and Liao Yiwu has been imprisoned for 4 years for writing the truth and recording oral history. In fact, he is legally unable to leave China to promote his book or attend international literary festivals.

His collection takes its name from an old pra
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I love it I think the quality 1 3 Apr 23, 2016 12:00AM  
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Liao Yiwu is a writer, musician, and poet from Sichuan, China. He is a critic of the Chinese regime, for which he has been imprisoned, and the majority of his writings are banned in China. Liao is the author of The Corpse Walker and God Is Red. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the prestigious 2012 Peace Prize awarded by the German Book Trade and the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis ...more
More about Liao Yiwu...

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“Times have changed. Everyone talks about money and nobody cares about Communism anymore.” 1 likes
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