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China In Ten Words Essay

1433 words - 6 pages

While most would find it difficult to describe what they want for lunch in ten words, it seems to be enough for renowned author Yu Hua to describe a nation. As one of China’s most eminent authors, “China in Ten Words” serves as Yu Hua’s first work of nonfiction to be published in English. Through this work, Hua has forged a dynamic narrative that provides an insight into modern China through the breakdown of ten words: people, leader, reading, writing, Lu Xun, disparity, revolution, grassroots, copycat and bamboozle. Throughout the novel Hua’s biting banter and sophisticated foresight is heavily noted as he goes in depth to characterize each of the ten words. Through the book’s ten ...view middle of the document...

While the words themselves are transparent, Hua conveys each word to hold a deeper meaning. He uses each word as a stimulus for ruthless critiques of China’s content in regards to economics, politics, and society. In the essay titled, “Leader” Hua introduced the impact of the Cultural Revolution in which he witnessed first hand, uncovering connections between the flattery of Mao and the persecution produced by the imbalance in present day Chinese society. It is in this essay that Hua acknowledges the fact that while there are consistencies between China’s past and present, in many respects the nation has evidently changed.
In the early years of communist rule according to Hua’s generation, Mao was the sole leader. It was a simple time in which “there were no classes to speak of…People then were on an equal level, all alike in their frugal lifestyles; as long as you didn’t stick your neck out, you could get through life quite uneventfully.” It is evident that today’s China does not reflect the practices from the early years of communist rule. Rather it is a hub of competition, with the absence of the security of the earlier years noted. Naturally this has led citizens to yearn for the past, specifically Mao’s reign. Yu Hua referred to a public opinion poll in which Chinese citizens were asked how they would react if Mao were to awaken from his grave. An overwhelming 85 percent of people deemed the awakening of Mao would be a positive event. Ten percent found the idea negative while five percent thought it would have no relative impact on China. However, it must be taken into consideration that this poll was administered on the Internet. In this case it is very likely that most of those who participated in the poll were from a younger generation, a generation that lacks complete understanding of the severe realities that occurred under Mao’s rule. However, there is no denying the presence of a nostalgic desire.
Throughout the notable essay “Reading” Hua portrays the lack of reading material available during the Cultural Revolution, reminiscing on his own manic pursuit for books as a child. Literary works were frequently ravaged with flames through the work of Red Guards. However, remnants of books withstood the flames and would secretly circulate, making its rounds from one reader to the next. Hua recalls a laughable memory of him and a classmate getting their hands on an illicit copy of a French novel. The joy of having something to read drove the young boys to hand-copy the novel so that the luxury could be savored. After frantic efforts to finish the replica as quickly as possible, the boys soon realized that they could not decipher each other’s handwriting. The recollection was indeed a whimsical yet informative insight on the struggles during the Cultural Revolution. While the hardships and brutality of the Cultural Revolution are widely known today, Hua’s personal recollection further enriches this historical...

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