China in Ten Words by Yu Hua

(Describing) China in Ten Words

  • Book:  “China in Ten Words”
  • Author:  Yu Hua
  • Publisher:  Anchor Books, 2012

Yu Hua was born in China in 1960, five years before the violent turmoil by the name “Cultural Revolution”, initiated by the (in)famous political leader, Mao Zedong, took place.  He is the author of a number of award-winning fictional books about China, however, this particular publication is a work of non-fiction.

“China in Ten Words” is a semi-biographical volume in which the author discusses his personal experience from the past fifty years, around ten simple words, such as: people, revolution, copycat, disparity, and others.  Each word represents a common theme describing Chinese society as a whole.  The book is filled with numerous intimate life episodes, historical events, private observations, as well as humor and sadness, which will certainly supply its reader with a much deeper insight into the fast-growing, vast, yet so mysterious country that is China.

“Just look at China today: the urban high-rises shooting up like forests under a gray and murky sky; the thick mesh of expressways, far outnumbering our rivers; the dazzling array of merchandise in shopping centers and supermarkets; the endless lines of traffic and pedestrians in the streets; the constant glitter of advertisements and neon signs; the nightclubs and massage parlors, beauty salons and foot-washing joints, lining every block; not to mention the luxury restaurants three or four floors high, each floor the size of an auditorium, rimmed on all sides by sumptuous private rooms, two or three thousand people all wining and dining, shiny-faced with satisfaction.

But just thirty years ago, before we took that leap, we saw no high-rises, apart from one or two in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai; we had no concept of expressways or advertisements; we had very few stores, and very little to buy in the stores we did have. We seemed to have nothing then, though we did have a blue sky.” (p.147)

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