The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man's Life in a North China Village, 1857-1942

The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man's Life in a North China Village, 1857-1942

The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man's Life in a North China Village, 1857-1942

The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man's Life in a North China Village, 1857-1942

Synopsis

In this beautifully crafted study of one emblematic life, Harrison addresses large themes in Chinese history while conveying with great immediacy the textures and rhythms of everyday life in the countryside in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Liu Dapeng was a provincial degree-holder who never held government office. Through the story of his family, the author illustrates the decline of the countryside in relation to the cities as a result of modernization and the transformation of Confucian ideology as a result of these changes. Based on nearly 400 volumes of Liu's diary and other writings, the book illustrates what it was like to study in an academy and to be a schoolteacher, the pressures of changing family relationships, the daily grind of work in industry and agriculture, people's experience with government, and life under the Japanese occupation.

Excerpt

These days one can get to Chiqiao village by bus. the first time I came, in 1996, the bus driver let me off at the end of the track that runs across the rice paddies to the village. Many of the buses are owned and operated by Chiqiao families, but the bus crew was surprised that I wanted to go there. the village lies on the edge of the plain and its main street, which winds up the hill, is the old road that ran from Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi, to the southern part of the province. Most of the houses along the road are low traditional courtyards and, like the long-abandoned shops, are much the same color as the dirt road along which they are built. One of these was the home of Liu Dapeng, which I had come to see. Before Liu’s father bought it the house had been a pawnshop, and it is solidly built with a small gateway over the entrance. the talkative old man who took me into the house told me that hanging under the eaves of the gateway there was once a large board saying “Father and Son are both graduates.” Today the board is gone and the elaborate carving on the wall behind the gate has been hacked off and . . .

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