Happy New Year! That isn't a belated greeting. Today is Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year), the first day of the year 4710 and the Year of the Dragon. I've been to China many times; it's an intriguing and amazing country. My husband also lived there for two years, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allowed him to really get to know so many people and to appreciate the Chinese culture.In honor of the New Year, here are three of my favorite books about China, running the gamut from reality to fiction.
One of the biggest errors anyone can make is thinking that China is a backward country that needs the West to come in and set it straight. Many businessmen have made that mistake, believing that they can teach the Chinese a thing or two about how to compete in the world.
Tom Clissold is a British businessman who entered China in the '90s, a heady gold-rush era that saw Western companies flocking to the world's biggest economy in search of a get-rich-quick scheme, and the Chinese taking their first steps into the capitalist world.
Clissold quickly learned that the Chinese were not as in need of instruction as everyone first thought, and that the country and its people were just as smart, fun, scheming, interesting, and frustrating as they are in any other part of the world.
Twenty Chinese writers offer a glimpse into their lives in China over the 10-year period between 1984 and 1995, a time that saw huge changes in society and politics for the country.
The stories, most of which are published here in English for the first time, range from a look at small village politics to an urban love story to a very funny story of a man with a toothache. Despite their different plot lines, they all serve to showcase the everyday lives of the Chinese people.
Authors include Wang Meng, a former Minister of Culture, and Su Tong, whose most famous work was Raise the Red Lantern.
This is a fictionalized version of the story of Wu Jao, the only woman who ruled China as empress. She began her climb as the 13-year-old concubine for Emperor Taitsung during the Tang dynasty around 600AD.
The Chinese harem she enters is a world of intrigue, murder, and vicious fights for power and money. Jao gathers the courage to tell the emperor of the evil doings in the women's quarters, earning his admiration, but also placing a target squarely on her own back.
After the emperor's death, Jao enters a convent, only to be quickly called back to court by the new emperor who has always had an infatuation for Jao. As his primary concubine, she rules with the emperor until his death, then taking the risky move of grabbing the throne when none of her children are capable of ruling.
If you like Philippa Gregory, you'll love this novel and all of its soapy intrigue.
Remember that today is your last chance to enter my first Read.Eat.Think. contest. To celebrate my 100th post, I'm giving away a big box of books. All you have to do is send an email to readeatthink(at)gmail.com to tell me what your favorite post from my blog has been so far. We'll have a drawing at 5pm today for the books. Good luck!