“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

China Books – Five to Watch Forthcoming in 2014

Posted: January 5th, 2014 | No Comments »

I never got round to writing up my favourite China books of 2013 (or worst)…too late now. Anyway, here’s a few (of the many) China books (not including anything I’ve written, contributed to, edited or commissioned) forthcoming in the first few months of 2014 that may interest the China Rhyming Community (if indeed such a thing actually exists!) – in no particular order and with publishers blurbs:

China Dolls – Lisa See – The New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony In Love, Shanghai Girls, and Dreams of Joy returns with her highly anticipated new novel. A bold and bittersweet story of secrets and sacrifice, love and betrayal, prejudice and passion, China Dolls reveals a rich portrait of female friendship, as three young women navigate the “Chop Suey Circuit”—America’s extravagant all-Asian revues of the 1930s and ’40s—and endure the attack on Pearl Harbor and the shadow of World War II.

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I am China – Xiaolu Guo – In a flat above a noisy north London market, translator Iona Kirkpatrick starts work on a Chinese letter: Dearest Mu, The sun is piercing, old bastard sky. I am feeling empty and bare. Nothing is in my soul, apart from the image of you. I am writing to you from a place I cannot tell you about yet. In a detention centre in Dover exiled Chinese musician Jian is awaiting an unknown fate. In Beijing his girlfriend Mu sends desperate letters to London to track him down, her last memory of them together a roaring rock concert and Jian the king on stage. Until the state police stormed in. As Iona unravels the story of these Chinese lovers from their first flirtations at Beijing University to Jian’s march in the Jasmine Revolution, Jian and Mu seem to be travelling further and further away from each other while Iona feels more and more alive. Intoxicated by their romance, Iona sets out to bring them back together, but time seems to be running out.

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The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream – Dan Washburn – Statistically, zero percent of the Chinese population plays golf, still known as the rich man s game and considered taboo. Yet China is in the midst of a golf boom hundreds of new courses have opened in the past decade, despite it being illegal for anyone to build them. Award-winning journalist Dan Washburn charts China s economic and political fortunes through the lives of three men intimately involved in the country s bizarre golf scene. We meet Zhou, a peasant turned golf pro who discovered the game when he won a job as a security guard on one of the massive construction sites and who sees the game as his key to the emerging Chinese middle class; Wang, a lychee farmer whose land is confiscated for an ecological park and resorts to setting up a food kiosk on a nearby track; and Bill, a Western executive manoeuvring through China s byzantine bureaucracy (as well as Thai gangs), ever watchful for Beijing s golf police . The Forbidden Game is a rich and engrossing portrait of the world s newest superpower and three different paths to the Chinese Dream.

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America’s First Adventure in China: Trade, Treaties, Opium, and Salvation – John Rogers Haddad – In 1784, when Americans first voyaged to China, they confronted Chinese authorities who were unaware that the United States even existed. Nevertheless, a long, complicated, and fruitful trade relationship was born after American traders, missionaries, diplomats, and others sailed to China with lofty ambitions: to acquire fabulous wealth, convert China to Christianity, and even command a Chinese army. In America’s First Adventure in China, John Haddad provides a colourful history of the evolving cultural exchange and interactions between these countries. He recounts how American expatriates adopted a pragmatic attitude – as well as an entrepreneurial spirit and improvisational approach – to their dealings with the Chinese. Haddad shows how opium played a potent role in the dreams of Americans who either smuggled it or opposed its importation, and he considers the missionary movement that compelled individuals to accept a hard life in an alien culture. As a result of their efforts, Americans achieved a favourable outcome – they established a unique presence in China – and cultivated a relationship whose complexities continue to grow.

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Impressions of a Lost World: A Century of Chinese Photography, 1860-1950 – Ferdinand Bertholet, Lambert Van Der Aalsvoort & Regine Thiriez – The flourishing of photography as a medium in the mid-19th century coincided with a rise in curiosity about China on the part of the Western world. As the number of foreigners living and travelling in China increased, early photographs of China were taken by and for an international audience. Impressions of a Lost World assembles 250 fascinating images of China in the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th, captured by the Western camera lens. The photographs portray the gritty side of the country as well as stunning views of palaces, temples, harbours and gardens. This juxtaposition of the sordid and the serene provides a multidimensional picture of China’s physical and social landscape before Mao Zedong’s ascent to power changed the country forever. The photographs, many published here for the first time, are both beautiful and moving, and together offer a new understanding of a social and cultural history associated with a time of significant historical change.

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