I wrote this post waaaay back in the day before I left for America and didn’t get a chance to publish it before my trip. So its a little outdated on the stories but I wanted to share this information in case you have a burning desire to learn more about China.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to do some exploring in the city. My brother and cousin who were visiting, the hubs, Jack, Addy, and I trekked across the city in the rain in an attempt to see some museums. In a rookie move I forgot to check the days that the museums were open and the first museum we got to was closed on Mondays. I’m so frustrated with myself, because I checked the website later and there it was, plain as day, “Closed on Mondays”. In English. Probably Chinese too but I can’t use the excuse that I couldn’t understand what it said. Not to be discouraged, the boys were happy to find a small restaurant selling questionable meat on a stick and steamed buns.
We finally got a taxi and headed across the city yet again to check out the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Museum, full of posters from the last century, especially the Cultural Revolution. This was especially interesting to me since I just finished reading “Life and Death in Shanghai” by Nien Cheng, the autobiography of a woman who was unjustly imprisoned and tortured in the 1960s all because she had ties with the West. The book helped me understand China’s recent history and gave me compassion for the Chinese people. Its hard to believe the effect that the events of that time had on an entire generation of people. Many cultural behaviors we see now (getting things through your personal connections, only looking out for yourself in public settings thus the pushing and shoving in any crowded situation, the one child policy that created a generation of “little emperors”) are a result of the cultural and social upheaval of that time period. I’m no historian and perhaps thats not completely accurate but it does seem like the entire modern culture was shaped by the things that took place.
There are several other books on my list to read before I leave China. Unfortunately it can take me months to finish one book these days, as opposed to a day or two in my past (read pre-kids) life. Besides reading the amazing Lisa Snow novels, here’s whats on my list:
Insepctor Chen series (by Qiu Xiaolong-I’ve read “A Case of Two Cities)
The Good Earth Triology (by Pearl S. Buck)
Stateless in Shanghai (by Lillian Willens)
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (by Leslie T. Chang)
Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century (by Orville Schell and John Delury)
China Airborne (by James Fallows)
The Ugly American (by Eugene Burdick)
Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love (by Xinran)
1421: The Year China Was Discovered (by Gavin Menzies)
And I’m sure there are many more, but these are a good place to start.
Have you read any of these? Have anything to add to the list? I’d love to know!