Books

03.01.10

Spectacle and Sacrifice

David Johnson
This book is about the ritual world of a group of rural settlements in Shanxi province in pre-1949 North China. Temple festivals, with their giant processions, elaborate rituals, and operas, were the most important influence on the symbolic universe of ordinary villagers and demonstrate their remarkable capacity for religious and artistic creation. The great festivals described in this book were their supreme collective achievements and were carried out virtually without assistance from local officials or educated elites, clerical or lay. Chinese culture was a performance culture, and ritual was the highest form of performance. Village ritual life everywhere in pre-revolutionary China was complex, conservative, and extraordinarily diverse. Festivals and their associated rituals and operas provided the emotional and intellectual materials out of which ordinary people constructed their ideas about the world of men and the realm of the gods. It is, David Johnson argues, impossible to form an adequate idea of traditional Chinese society without a thorough understanding of village ritual. Newly discovered liturgical manuscripts allow him to reconstruct North Chinese temple festivals in unprecedented detail and prove that they are sharply different from the Daoist- and Buddhist-based communal rituals of South China.  —Harvard University Press

Books

03.01.10

China In the 21st Century

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
The need to understand this global giant has never been more pressing: China is constantly in the news, yet conflicting impressions abound. Within one generation, China has transformed from an impoverished, repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse. In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jeffrey Wasserstrom provides cogent answers to the most urgent questions regarding the newest superpower and offers a framework for understanding its meteoric rise. Focusing his answers through the historical legacies—Western and Japanese imperialism, the Mao era, and the massacre near Tiananmen Square—that largely define China's present-day trajectory, Wasserstrom introduces readers to the Chinese Communist Party, the building boom in Shanghai, and the environmental fall-out of rapid Chinese industrialization. He also explains unique aspects of Chinese culture such as the one-child policy, and provides insight into how Chinese view Americans. Wasserstrom reveals that China today shares many traits with other industrialized nations during their periods of development, in particular the United States during its rapid industrialization in the 19th century. Finally, he provides guidance on the ways we can expect China to act in the future vis-a-vis the United States, Russia, India, and its East Asian neighbors.  —Oxford University Press