A disturbing look at the construction of a railway across the ecologically-fragile Tibetan Plateau, where vast areas of permafrost hover around single...moreA disturbing look at the construction of a railway across the ecologically-fragile Tibetan Plateau, where vast areas of permafrost hover around single degree below freezing, and about China's push to bring its particular brand of economic development and industrialization to Lhasa, Tibet's traditional capital. Oh, and also to make it easier to scour the Plateau for exploitable mineral and oil and gas deposits. And to ship troops to China's disputed border with India.
Chapters about the engineering and building of the railway are interspersed with chapters about the people impacted by the building of the Great Train, for better or worse. The indigenous Tibetans, as might be expected, are getting the short end of the economic stick, while their cultural "apartness" is quickly eroding due to China's determined efforts to homogenize it out of existence. Nearly the entire city of Lhasa has been demolished and rebuilt on the Chinese boomtown model since the turn of the 21st century.
As Han Chinese pour into the city to capitalize on the government-subsidized economic boom, which doesn't include any provisions for education or medical care or vocational training for native Tibetans, the locals find themselves shut out of the job market, as few speak Mandarin, the "language of commerce" in Lhasa.
He considered with sadness how Tibetan culture was disintegrating as a result. Names of towns and streets were revised to Mandarin. Business signs were all in Mandarin, with fine-print Tibetan as a subscript. The more Han who established businesses, the more they hired their fellow Chinese, perpetuating a trend that excluded the Tibetans. The economic progress rolled over many of the indigenous people like an unstoppable wave. They increasingly turned to crime and alcohol and idleness -- all of which already seemed to be on the rise in Lhasa. Over the past few years, prostitution had ballooned in Lhasa, with literally thousands of young girls leaning out the doorways of "hair salons" all across town. Until recently, the girls had all been Chinese, catering to the officials posted there. Now Tibetan girls were prostituting too -- and the trade was becoming still more prevalent. At the same time, the religious and moral architecture of society was rotting -- there were few senior lamas, or traditional teachers, and enrollment in monastic society, once the cornerstone of Tibetan culture, was strictly curtailed by the government. Renzin himself only went to Tsurphu Monastery for the annual festival; when he stepped inside the temples or other small monasteries, he was reverent but unsure what to do. As Tibetans were becoming increasingly secular, they were forgetting their heritage, and with it, their Tibetan vocabulary.(less)
Beautifully-told story of a Japanese couple who were instrumental in rescuing the Akita from near-extinction, with interesting details of rural life i...moreBeautifully-told story of a Japanese couple who were instrumental in rescuing the Akita from near-extinction, with interesting details of rural life in post-war Japan.(less)
I was really disappointed with this book. The author's tone was rather more academic than what I thought these women deserved, and I wound up skimming...moreI was really disappointed with this book. The author's tone was rather more academic than what I thought these women deserved, and I wound up skimming large sections of the text.
The first half was completely given over to proving that, during the Japanese war of aggression against China and throughout World War II, the Japanese Army or agents thereof abducted, coerced or duped as many as 200,000 Asian and Caucasian women into confinement at "comfort stations" in order to sexually service Japanese officers and troops in war zones. These women so deprived of their human rights were rendered pretty much as a nameless, faceless mass in this section.
The voices of the few survivors of the "comfort stations" who finally came forward in the early 1990s didn't even appear until the second half of the book and, even then, only fragments or summaries of their stories were told. Very brief sub-chapters addressed the experiences of "comfort women" who survived the war. Some who were taken to Pacific Islands or to other distant locations were never able to make their way home again. Many of those who did return home faced discrimination in their communities and rejection by their families because of their "disgrace." Many suffered permanent injuries from violence or disease and/or were left infertile. Few were able to rebuild happy lives after the traumas they had suffered.
To give the author some credit, the premise of the book was to bring this forgotten history to the attention of the Japanese people because the wrongs done to these women had never been properly acknowledged, let alone any apologies or attempts at atonement made. The execution was lacking, however. This could have, and should have, been a much more compelling read.(less)