10 Words: literature by Yu Hua

Read 10 Words (link to Amazon) by Yu Hua last summer for the ASDP China summer institute.  I expected it to be practical introduction to the Chinese language and linguistics, but the thoughtful and personal recollection and exploration of Chinese culture pleased me, focusing more on the author’s experiences than on language.

Time‘s review is a bit cynical, the UK Telegraph ‘s review more objective, and wikipedia just has a stub.

I found a passage  from the Kindle version that sheds light on current nationalism in China.  In discussing the word “leader,” Yu Hua quotes a text message widely (?) circulated 2009 during dragon boat festival (early June), which reports that Mao Zedong had been cloned and was in age and physical condition that he had at the height of his power.  As a result:


This provides  a list of grievances or concerns that resonate with popular audiences.  See also images of violent nationalism from riots back in Sept. 2012.

See also my book report on Brothers, also by Yu Hua.