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The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China From the Bottom Up
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The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China From the Bottom Up

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  1,016 ratings  ·  151 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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Anchor
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Neil
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
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
...more
Sara
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
Lisa
May 09, 2011 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Karen
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
Audacia Ray
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
...more
Beata
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
Anny
May 05, 2014 Anny rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Deb
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
Laura
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
I-Ching
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
Angela
Oct 10, 2008 Angela rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Sophie
This in an absolutely amazing collection of people quickly becoming extinct 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 Pain," and "O
...more
Catherine
The author Liao Yiwu introduced the word "diceng" meaning "bottom rung of society" in 1949. His book "interviews with people from the bottom rung of society" was published in China in the 1990s. It was banned. In 2002 the complete manuscript was smuggled out of China. The translator Wen Huang met with Yiwu in 2004 and was given permission to translate some of the interviews and publish them as "The Corpse Walker and other true stories of life in China". While Yiwu still lives in china and strugg ...more
Jan
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.
Emma Morrison
This was a great collection of short interviews between the author and a range of different people in the lower classes of Chinese society. Most of the interviewees had been through the revolution when the Nationalist Government was toppled by Chairman Mao's Communist Party.

It was astonishing to learn more about the thought processes involved in the revolution, and the extremely minor infractions it took to become Rightist, and therefore prosecuted, and in same cases killed, by the local party o
...more
Bonnie
This is a fascinating look at Chinese life at the lowest levels. But even more so, it is the compelling story of the effects of Mao's various programs in the mid-20th Century. Or, in other words, how to nearly destroy a civilization. It exposes people at their cruelest, and also shows them at their toughest. The will to survive is amazing. I would like to say it also shows people at their kindest and most caring, but honestly, there is not much of that in these stories.
I would recommend the boo
...more
Jesús Santana
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
kagami
"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
Will
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
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
...more
Margaret Sankey
As the son of class enemies and a banned journalist, Liao Yiwu decided to use his outcast status to gain the trust of and interview other people at the margins of Chinese society, yielding a fascinating collection of oral history pieces--from the wealthy but socially outcast (the public toilet magnate, the mortician), actual criminals (human trafficker, safecracker, border jumper), people haplessly caught up in political machinations they step in (the composer, the sleepwalker), remnants of Chin ...more
Brian
Outstanding and sometimes shockingly frank literary interviews with Chinese people displaced by political shifts in China. I learned about professional mourners, who are paid to wail loud and long at funerals, and about corpse walkers, who are hired to literally walk the dead back to their homelands for burial. There's also a bracing interview with a despicable sex trafficker, from jail, who discusses his methods and philosophy. Most of the interviewees tell of being severely punished or in some ...more
Patrick
I read this collection of interviews for a Modern Chinese History class. It has some interesting interviews with some interesting people: real-world Chinese. Many of them were criminals, as the title suggests. Those on the margins of society are given attention. There are some downright hilarious moments in this book. "The Peasant Emperor" is by-far the funniest interviewee in the book. The recollections of the party officials and former-party members are fascinating. There is much recollection ...more
Tom Darrow
Very good book that provides insight into the impact of the communist revolution in China. Focuses on 25-30 stories of lower class people. There are numerous stories of beatings by the authorities and jailings. There are many memorable stories, like a prisoner who escaped from jail through the latrines and the people who carried corpses to their home towns.

The three things that prevented me from giving five stars are 1) if you are looking at this from a historian's perspective, one has to be a l
...more
Alisa
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
...more
Pete Lee
An amazing and enthralling document of the price China pays for her modernization, told entirely through vividly cinematic accounts from the streets. Grand stories get fished out of the marginalized citizens. Though they look orange and apples in appearance, this book shares the spirit of the Chinese classic "Outlaws of the Marsh" in that they both celebrate the people of the streets through these odd, supposedly prosperous periods. There haven't been too many honest books focused on the street ...more
Tony Daniel
Adored the book. Tragedy, comedy, pathos, beauty. These are portraits of Chinese citizens told via interviews Liao has conducted and transcribed (and perhaps embellished a bit). Liao has a theme, which is that people in a crazy totalitarian system must become a little crazy themselves if they are to survive, but it is gently worked in, and mostly he revels in the odd, sweet, troubled, weird lives he presents. Liao keeps a very nice middle distance between himself and the subjects, and this since ...more
Jessie
I really don't know how I feel about this book. There is certainly somewhat of a bias - I have many Chinese friends who tend to be proud of their country, and this is not a book that would make one proud of China's history. Liao Yiwu interviews people at the bottom of the proverbial ladder in China. There is a strong current of Chinese culture that I find fascinating, although there were times when I was almost cringing at some of the beliefs expressed in this book. I also had the natural tenden ...more
Grady McCallie
It's often hard to know how much to believe of an oral history from one's own culture; it's that much harder to know how to evaluate this collection of interviews, culled and translated from the original Chinese, with a variety of people on the fringes and lower edges of modern Chinese society. The sense of trust is not enhanced by the inclusion of sentences that couldn't possibly have been in the original book, such as one interviewee saying, to author Liao Yiwu, "As you know, in China, old peo ...more
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6693470
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...
God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet's Journey Through a Chinese Prison Kulky a opium: život a smrt na náměstí Nebeského klidu Die Dongdong-Tänzerin und der Sichuan-Koch: Geschichten aus der chinesischen Wirklichkeit 中國「上訪村」

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