China In Ten Words Book Summary By Yu Hua

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In his book, China in Ten Words, author Yu Huan takes us through a detailed exploration of modern Chinese culture and how it has changed over the years.

He focuses on ten key concepts that are unique to the nation, offering deep insight into its history, present and future.

The book provides an invaluable window into how Chinese society functions by examining certain core values believed to be integral to their national identity.

From the effects of revolution and modern economic growth to artistic influences and social pressure, this comprehensive work offers valuable perspective on a nation that is constantly evolving.

China In Ten Words Book

Book Name: China In Ten Words (The ten key concepts underlying China’s transformation)

Author(s): Yu Hua

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 29 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Yu Hua is an acclaimed Chinese author and winner of the prestigious James Joyce Award in 2002.

He has written a number of works, including four novels, six short story collections and three volumes of essays.

His work has been internationally recognised and has been translated into over 20 languages around the world.

Yu Hua is an incredibly talented author whose contributions to literature have earned him a great deal of respect both in China and abroad.

The Power Of Language: Learning Chinese Keywords To Understand The Culture And History Of China

Power Of Language

Want to get an inside look into China’s culture and history? Yu Hua dives deep into understanding China’s transformation through 10 key words of the Chinese language in his book, “China in Ten Words.” By exploring these ten words – renmin, yuedu, Tiananmen, and more – Hua uncovers a unique insight on how ancient values and practices are still remain relevant today.

Each of these concepts reflects the country’s tumultuous past—from Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution to the legacy of the Tiananmen Square protests.

By understanding these key words, we can better understand why so many Chinese people still romanticize Mao’s leadership; the tradition of teaching oneself through politically charged propaganda; and the prevalence of counterfeit products in modern China.

In short, “China in Ten Words” is essential reading if you want to gain an informed perspective on one of the world’s most powerful nations.

How The Concept Of “The People” Evolved In China From The Cultural Revolution To Tiananmen Square

The concept of “the people” was an essential part of Chinese culture and identity up until the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

The term first gained prominence during the Cultural Revolution, a tumultuous period where Communist Party ideas were embraced as the nation rebuilt itself.

Emphasizing collective over individual, “the people” served as a key slogan to help rally workers and students to engage in Mao Zedong’s mission of consolidating his rule.

At its peak, Mao even promoted himself as being one with the people: “Chairman Mao is the people; and the people are Chairman Mao”.

The term still remained important after that, however it was soon displaced by another event – the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

After Hu Yaobang’s death, students from across China gathered in Beijing’s grand central square to demand greater democracy freedom and an end to corruption.

Such a level of common purpose was achieved that even petty thieves stopped stealing when they decided to join the demonstration!

Unfortunately, these peaceful protests were put down when the army eventually entered and opened fire on demonstrators, killing many in the process.

After this incident, terms such as “the people” stopped being widely used; instead, citizens began to be identified by other categories such as migrants, stockholders or celebrity fans.

The Legacy Of Lingxiu: Appreciating Mao’S Influence On Perceptions Of Leadership In China

Mao Tse-Tung embodied the idea of a leader, or lingxiu, that was deeply respected by Chinese citizens.

This concept revolves around the idea that leaders should be close to the people – something Mao sought to demonstrate during his time in power.

He often made publicly appearances in order to show his support for certain causes, such as when he unexpectedly joined swimmers in the freezing Yangtze river at 72 years of age.

He also endorsed certain criticisms against state officials through his own “big-character posters”.

Unfortunately, following Mao’s death in 1976, this concept of a leader lost much of its significance due to political changes and new dynamics that defined the country.

The world leader is no longer just one person but instead an entire committee waving together in news conferences.

The meaning of the word ‘leader’ has changed from describing a nation’s figurehead to more humble roles such as youth leadership and beauty contest winners.

Consequently, lingxiu is not considered as important as it once used to be.

Despite this shift however, many Chinese still hope for a return of democracy and respect for their figurehead with 85 percent of the public responding positively if Mao were to miraculously come back one day.

Discovering A Love Of Reading In The Turbulent Times Of China’s Cultural Revolution

China's Cultural Revolution

The word for “reading” in China reflects the changing role of books since the Cultural Revolution.

In the early days, it was rare to find a book and even rarer to be able to read one.

People were limited to two books: The Selected Works of Chairman Mao and his Quotations, which they had to read with dry enthusiasm.

Students made copies by hand because getting hold of a banned book was such a precious commodity.

Even posters–big-character posters–were transformed into stories with an active imagination.

The end of the Cultural Revolution brought about changes and with it came access to more books – something that had not been seen before in China.

The momentous queues snaking around the block bear testimony to just how eagerly people waited for their first opportunity to get their hands on a text in 20 years.” Yu’s story perfectly captures this sentiment; still captivated by the prospect of reading, he spent hours waiting in line hoping he would get one of 50 book tokens that day so he could pick up two prized volumes from this new shipment.

Indeed, these past decades have seen progress in China’s reading culture on all fronts: from access to books becoming easier than ever before, to increased awareness in young generations that instills a deep love for reading within them.

It’s clear that reading has gained its due prominence – reflected by learning its name (yuedu) – and is here to stay as an important part of Chinese life today.

How Yu Xiangyang’S Early Experiences During The Cultural Revolution Sparked His Writing Career

The Cultural Revolution had a major impact on the writings of young people like Yu Hua.

A school girl by the name of Huang Shuai wrote to the Beijing Daily, criticizing her teacher and was soon a minor celebrity.

Yu himself became known as a “red pen”, writing big-character posters attacking his school’s faculty and even plays that mirrored Communist ideals.

Writing was an integral part of how he identified with the moving political atmosphere of the time.

It quickly became apparent that Yu’s real passion lay in writing rather than dentistry, the job he had taken.

His dream was to become part of the cultural center, so he sent off stories for publication in Beijing Literature magazine, which eventually paid off when his work was published in 1983 – at which point he moved to Beijing to revise it before returning home.

Going forward into his career as a writer, Yu realized that focusing too much on violence in his writing took its toll on him mentally, hence why some of his later work flowed away from depicting bloodshed and carnage like earlier pieces had done.

He just wanted to make sure he got enough sleep without having night terrors!

Writing was clearly crucial for Yu during this time; it helped him become immersed in an up-and-coming generation’s identity and brought him fame and financial stability at a time where these two were rarely aligned together.

Appreciating The Legacy Of Lu Xun: How People Come To Appreciate A Writer’S Work

When he was growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution, there were only a handful of authors that Yu knew – Mao Zedong and Lu Xun being by far the most prominent.

Mao was a huge admirer of Lu’s work, with its pointed critique of his society making it particularly appealing to the Communist Party.

In turn, this made Lu one of the most widely quoted humans on the planet – second only to Mao himself.

However, despite his influence, Yu didn’t really appreciate his work until much later in life.

This was partly due to being made to study him extensively in school and never having much of an opinion on him either way.

It wasn’t until years after the Cultural Revolution that opinions began to shift and people argued that actually he had never been any good.

It wasn’t until 1996 that Yu came to genuinely praise Lu’s writing when he read it again for adapting his stories for film; only then did he develop a mature and sensitive eye towards appreciating it.

Today he believes that Lu definitely deserved the reputation he has, but can only be truly appreciated if one does so with patience and understanding.

The Spirit Of Geming Shapes China’S Impressive Economic Growth, But It Is Also Built On Unstable Political Foundations

Economic Growth

Revolution has had a tremendous effect on modern Chinese history, from the mid-twentieth century to the present.

The concept of geming, or revolution, has shaped China’s political culture and its growth in recent years.

This can be seen in events such as the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to industrialize the nation while simultaneously collectivizing agriculture.

Though promised with a grand display of communal feasting, this policy was ultimately a failure which led to famine and serious loss of life in Sichuan Province alone.

Though it may not be as obvious today, China continues to embrace daring risk-taking fuelled by economic and political dynamics which often don’t reflect reality.

From claims that construction projects are in high demand despite little evidence they can succeed, to fivefold increases in tertiary education enrolments that leave graduates with no employment prospects – revolution and geming remains an integral part of Chinese government.

The spirit of revolution is still evident today: in 2008 an example saw a party secretary overthrow the chairman of the board by hiring thugs to steal his official seal.

Revolution has been a huge part of modern Chinese history, shaping economics and politics both then and now!

The Widening Gap Between The Rich And Poor In China: Desperation Breeds Resistance

The concept of disparity between the rich and the poor is key to understanding modern China.

This can be seen through a simple example that happened during 2006 World Cup.

A film crew visited a rural village in Southwest China to celebrate the soccer tournament, and decided to teach the kids about this game even though they had never heard of it before.

When the cameraman accidentally kicked their ball into some cow dung, he washed it in a small pond before kicking it back to penalty spot – and surprisingly, the kids mimicked his action, proving they had understood what was at stake.

This story illustrates how there is still great economic inequality between urban and rural areas in China.

In 2010, while China jumped ranks to become the world’s second-largest economy, its per capita income only ranked hundredth place due to such imbalance.

This has driven people on desperate measures – selling goods without permits just like Yu remembered during Cultural Revolution days when people sold food stamps for survival; or even worst today where one vendor stabbed an arresting official in rage.

These disparities were less profound for Yu’s generation as Mao’s progress towards greater equality was slow but steady.

Nevertheless, the current gap between “haves” and “have-nots” is so dramatic that many individuals feel they have no other choice than commit desperate acts of desperation out of despair.

Thus, we are reminded that understanding the concept of disparity between rich and poor is crucial to comprehend contemporary China’s situation properly.

How Rising To The Top Can Lead To A Swift Reversal Of Fortune

The ability of the so-called “grassroots” to climb up the social ladder in China has its roots in the ideology of the Cultural Revolution.

History has shown that it was possible for people from humble beginnings to rise quickly through the ranks and become important Party members during this turbulent period.

A famous example is Wang Hongwen, a security guard at a textile mill who rose to become the third most influential figure in the Communist Party in just seven years!

Today’s economic boom has again seen power shifted towards the grassroots.

Self-made billionaires like “button kings” and “sock kings” are proof of this, reclaiming their wealth by buying trash from street sorters and reselling it to factories.

Though some succeed and stay at the top, others face similar struggles as those experienced by Wang in 1976, with many falling from grace due to dodgy financial deals or corrupt practices.

It is clear that climbing up the social ladder is not easy – neither then or now – but if you have perseverance and harness your determination, success may be yours!

The Rise Of Shanzhai – The Chinese Buzzword That Challenges The Status Quo

Chinese Buzzword

“Copycat,” or shanzhai in Chinese, is a buzzword that has become increasingly popular in today’s China.

It often refers to imitation products which are cheaper than the original ones.

This practice has grown so popular it is now widely accepted and even seen as a useful service at worst and mild inconvenience at best.

However, the term “copycat” itself is fairly new and the behaviour it refers to has much deeper roots – as far back as Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution of 1966.

Back then, Mao famously declared that “to rebel is justified” and ambitious copycats soon emerged who sought to reshape society and redistribute power downwards.

Ideological passions have since died down but there is still a mass movement shaking things up today – copycats driven by money intent on overthrowing the state-owned economy rather than its political leaders!

So while the buzzword may be relatively new, the concept of “copycatting” indeed has a long history rooted in China and its turbulent past.

The Lighter Side Of Bamboozling: How ‘Huyou’ Has Been Normalized In Chinese Culture

“Bamboozle” is the hottest verb in contemporary China and it’s making deceptive behavior socially acceptable.

The term huyou, which originally referred to an unsteady swaying motion, quickly transformed into a phrase that explained conning someone, usually by overhyping something with no negative intentions.

This new interpretation of the word was popularized by comedian Zhao Benshan in a skit called “Selling Crutches”.

Since then, many Chinese people have embraced huyou as a way to mask their own acts of deception or exaggeration.

For example, when Yu’s father relocated to another city he wrote letters home about its great qualities – yet when his wife moved there she realized she had been deceived.

This made her angry at first but these days she sees is an amusing example of huyou.

Worse still, some even use the term to refer to outright fraud like the case of a money-strapped entrepreneur who promised more than he could deliver when bidding for an expensive advertising slot – before then blackmailing local officials for financial support in case his plan went wrong.

Unfortunately for Yu, his attempt at bamboozling once backfired so badly that his father thought he had appendicitis and took him to hospital where he removed his appendix!

Wrap Up

China In Ten Words by Yu Hua is a fascinating book that examines the changes in China over the past several decades through its language.

The author looks closely to find hidden connections between two periods – the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and the more modern economic growth and conservative rule.

He takes a look at old concepts like “reading” and “the people”, as well as more recent ones such as “bamboozling” and “copycat”.

These words provide interesting insights into China’s past, present and future, giving readers a better understanding of this country and its people.

Ultimately, through his analyzes of language, Yu Hua provides an informative view on how China has shaped into what it is today.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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