KATE MERKEL-HESS on two new histories of rural China
and MAURA ELIZABETH CUNNINGHAM on Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions
Empty Stools of Rural Village Life in China (Xinhua) from All-China Women’s Federation http://bit.ly/nF7Ack
The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past
University of California Press, August 2011. 472 pp.
Eating Rice from Bamboo Roots: The Social History of a Community of Handicraft Papermakers in Rural Sichuan, 1920-2000
Harvard University Asia Center, 2009. 335 pp.
Until recently, “China” brought to mind for most Americans farms, farmers, and the rural countryside, not the factories and mass industrialization we think of today. This view of a more rural China is what also once dominated the most widely read books about the country, from the hardworking impoverished villagers of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, to the rural rebels of journalist Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China. It’s easy to forget about the rural facets of this populous nation in the midst of its freeways and fast trains, skyscrapers and construction sites. This isn’t surprising, since China has more urban centers of a million-plus residents than any other country on earth and, for the first time in its history, as many people living in cities as in villages. Last year, Chinese scholars predicted that its rural population would halve by 2030, from today’s 900 million to 400 million. Meanwhile, the gap between wealthy urban areas and their poor rural counterparts grows ever wider: 99 percent of China’s most impoverished citizens hail from the countryside.