Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China
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A century ago, outsiders saw China as a place where nothing ever changes. Today the country has become one of the most dynamic regions on earth. In Oracle Bones, Peter Hessler explores the human side of China's transformation, viewing modern-day China and its growing links to the Western world through the lives of a handful of ordinary people. In a narrative that gracefully moves between the ancient and the present, the East and the West, Hessler captures the soul of a country that is undergoing a momentous change before our eyes.
river from North Korea. But having the Hermit Kingdom next door changed everything. Dandong promoted itself as “China’s Biggest Border City,” and the riverfront was lined with telescopes that could be rented by tourists, most of whom were Chinese hoping to catch their ﬁrst glimpse of a foreign nation. Signs beside the scopes promised: leave the country for just one yuan! For ten, you could catch a ride on a speedboat and get a closer look at the North Koreans, who, during the heat of the
wore a new white button-down shirt and well-pressed slacks. He apologized profusely about the robbery, and introduced himself. “My name is 李鹏,” he said. I couldn’t believe it: “Li What?” “Li Peng.” “The same name as the former Premier?” “Yes,” he said. The man smiled in a tired way, and I could see that I wasn’t the ﬁrst person to have made this observation. In the summer of 1989, Li Peng had announced the ofﬁcial decree of martial law, and many average Chinese associated him with the crackdown.
alertness if they saw a cop. They were guerillas walking toy dogs. Regardless of what kind of problem an individual had, it was his problem, and only he could do something about it. Without the sense of a rational system, people rarely felt connected to the troubles of others. The crackdown on Falun Gong should have been disturbing to most Chinese—the group had done nothing worse than make a series of minor political miscalculations that had added up. But few average people expressed sympathy for
America.” ARTIFACT D The Voice of the Turtle 石璋如 the underground city, like so many other artifacts in anyang, was rediscovered through the power of writing. During the twentieth century, this region became the most carefully excavated in China, and all of the work can be traced back to the oracle bones. Generations of Chinese—archaeologists with maps, peasants with Luoyang spades—have come here in search of the earliest known writing in East Asia. The quest began with disease: a sick man, a
notions of morality had come from. “Most people say they came from the West, after Reform and Opening,” she said. “I think there’s probably some truth to this. Most people here in Shenzhen think that Western countries are better and Chinese traditions are backward.” But in Emily’s opinion, the book’s philosophy was too dark. “It’s saying that Shenzhen is a new city without any soul. Everybody in the book is in turmoil—they can’t ﬁnd calmness.” in february, after the Chinese New Year, Emily and