Review: Chinese Measure Word Dictionary

Chinese Measure Word DictionaryChinese Measure Word Dictionary: A Chinese-English English-Chinese Usage Guide by Jiqing Fang and Michael Connelly (Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich

CAFAM’s own Mike Connelly is co-author of a unique and just-published learning tool and reference guide for Chinese language learners. It has to do with “measure words.”

Measure words are found in many languages. Native speakers employ them without a second thought. When you go to get a “loaf” of bread, you never say, “Give me a bread.” You use the measure word “loaf.” Similarly with a “pair” of pants or a “grain” of sand. Now actually, the vast majority of English nouns, the ones that name individual things, don’t require measure words. You can simply say “a computer,” “a pen,” or “a horse.” More

Review: Journey to Xiamacun

By Mason Philip Smith (Provincial Press 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich

Early in 2008 I received an email from my friend Ma Tongchun inviting me for lunch at his ancestral farm northwest of Kunming, Yunnan. So in May I returned to China, accompanied by Brian Dorsk a friend from Cape Elizabeth.

Before proceeding to Xiamacun, “Mr. Ma” accompanied us to Heijing, on the rail line between Kunming and Chengdu. This is one of the best-preserved, and little-touristed, towns in Yunnan. For over 1,000 years the surrounding hills were mined for salt. At its peak in the Ming Dynasty, Heijing provided more than 70% of the imperial salt. It is still small, with a single main street running parallel to the Longchuan River. The town combines a strong sense of history with a pleasing lack of commercialism. Popular with visitors from Kunming on weekends, it is a gem, a place lost in time, rarely visited by Westerners (although Marco Polo knew it). More

Review: Authenticating Tibet

Authenticating TibetEdited by Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille (Univ. of Ca. Press 2008)

Review by Craig Dietrich from May 2008 CAFAM Newsletter

For people outside China, the Tibetan situation typically appears black and white. Probably most non-Asian Americans sympathize with the Dalai Lama and the exile Tibetans. Mostly it is a question of human rights and repression of Tibetan culture and religion. They see no problem with the Tibet reporting of Western media.

They are probably unaware that, many people in the Chinese-American community are inclined to take a view closer to the Chinese government’s. It asserts China’s right to Tibet, points out China’s assistance to Tibet, and criticizes the intransigence of Tibetan separatists inside and outside of China. This view charges that Western media are almost always negative in their reporting on China. More

Review: Shadow of the Silk Road

Book coverShadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron (HarperCollins 2007)

Review by Craig Dietrich from November 2007 CAFAM Newsletter

The “Silk Road” has taken on much glamour and romance as a tourist destination in recent years. One notable book that provides a glimpse into the halcyon years of the old trading routes between China and the Near East is Susan Whitefield’s Life Along the Silk Road (University of California, 1999). Another interesting take on the subject is Peter Hopkirk’s Foreign Devils on the Silk Road (University of Massachusetts, 1980). Hopkirk tells the story of the principal Western scholars, discoverers, and antiquarians who combed many of the ancient Xinjiang sites in the early years of the twentieth century and either “saved” or “looted” much of what they found, depending on one’s point of view. More

Review: Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China

Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China, by Zhengguo Kang (W. W. Norton 2007)

Review by Cynthia Setchell

Not long ago I read the autobiography of a Chinese Christian pastor of a “house church” in central China. House churches are illegal and have been suppressed by the government. The book told of imprisonments and tortures.

More recently, I came across another autobiography, this one written by a Chinese Buddhist who finally escaped to the USA in the mid 1990s. He is Kang Zhengguo, and he now teaches language and literature at Yale University. His book is Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China. More

Review: Oracle Bones

Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present, by Peter Hessler (HarperCollins 2006)

Review by Craig Dietrich from September 2006 CAFAM Newsletter

Hessler is a talented observer, researcher, and writer, whose first book, River Town, documented his two years as an English teacher in Sichuan province. (It is very much worth reading.) While teaching, Hessler learned Chinese and began his work as a reporter. His approach is simple. He lives in China and pursues interesting stories wherever they lead. He freelances these writings to various publications, while is also writing books. More

Review: War Trash

Book coverWar Trash, by Ha Jin (Vintage 2005)

Review by Craig Dietrich from May 2005 CAFAM Newsletter

Ha Jin, Professor of English at Boston University, is a rare writer who can work successfully in a second language. He learned English as an adult. His novel Waiting won the 1999 National Book Award and the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award, and he has published books of poetry and short stories and won other prizes. War Trash will be his last “Chinese” novel, according to the author.

It is an extraordinary book. As is the case with much recent Chinese fiction, War Trash evokes the Maoist years. But it takes up a forgotten subject, Chinese prisoners of war during the Korean conflict. It is both a novel and a kind of history. As the author says, “This is a work of fiction and all the main characters are fictional. Most of the events and details, however, are factual.” More

1421: The Year China Discovered America

1421 coverBy Gavin Menzies (Harper Perennial 2004)

Review by Craig Dietrich

CAFAM members may know that for several years a book by Gavin Menzies, 1421: The Year China Discovered America , has been causing controversy. On January 19, 2003, Ed Gargan reviewed the book in Newsday. Here are a few paragraphs:

Gavin Menzies, a former British Navy submariner turned amateur historian…is convinced that fleets of Chinese ships [separated from one of Zheng He’s famous naval expeditions and] crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the Americas, that their crews established colonies here, erected lighthouses, built factories, swam in the Caribbean and captured long-extinct animals, all in the year 1421. Wonderful stuff, except it never happened. More

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The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine provides forums and outreach that promote cultural interchanges between the US and China.

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