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What are you reading?


skylee
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On 7/30/2022 at 9:41 PM, becky82 said:

Reading non-fiction is more my style: I'm not only learning/practicing Chinese, I'm also learning about other things.

 

This seems like an amazing way to learn Chinese, and if I had been able to access these kinds of textbook bundles in the beginning, I would have loved to do it that way. Like you said, you learn a lot of stuff beyond the Chinese language itself. Also, the books are written for the sake of clarity and teaching, so they're never too obscure or flowery in their language. They're filled with fun illustrations. They reflect the kind of education a Chinese person would have while growing up. They promote a knowledge of Chinese culture (especially those books about history and "morality and law").

 

I've only read a few non-fiction books in Chinese so far (most recently, a book on the history of quantum physics). The fun thing about reading those books is that I feel like I'm never the target audience. I sometimes wonder if the author expected some midwestern American guy with no Chinese ancestry whatsoever to pick up the book, read it through, and learn a lot from it. There are a lot of English language books about quantum physics, and the history of quantum physics is overwhelmingly European (though that's changing). Yet I learned about it through a Chinese source! My knowledge of that topic is indebted to an anonymous Chinese author who was writing for other Chinese people.

 

Fiction has been an extremely rich source of vocabulary acquisition, but maybe too much so. When I read more practical sources (like news stories on the internet), I don't encounter the flowery language I get from novels. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/21/2022 at 3:43 PM, realmayo said:

How long do you think each book will take you? Might you go on to 八年级 afterwards?

 

It varies.  The Chinese history textbook took me maybe a month, but the maths and geography textbooks took maybe 2 weeks.  The 语文 textbook is going to take longer; it's hard.  I'm guessing I'd get through the biology and 道德和法治 textbooks fairly quickly, but I'm hoping to time it so I finish the remaining 3 at the same time.  They're around 100-150 pages long (地理: 94; 数学: 152; 历史: 104; 道德和法治: 120; 语文: 141; 生物学: 138), and I'm getting faster as I go along.

 

My plan is to continue, but these are 上册, so next is 下册.

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Just finished Volume 1 of 平凡的世界. After I got used to the style of the writing, it turned out to be very easy to read. It might not be my favorite book so far, but it slowly grows on me as I read it. I think the author spends a lot of time in the first volume slowly developing the characters and setting the stage. In the beginning, I kept wondering, "Where are all these plot lines going? Will there ever be a cohesive story?" Indeed, the book engages in very strong realism, to the extent that it feels like it could be an ordinary (no pun intended!) journal of the happenings of a small rural Chinese town. One relatively mundane thing happens after another. But now I'm starting to sense that the author is tying the different threads together and developing a full story. I like how he uses restraint in his storytelling--it's never melodramatic, and the characters are allowed to experience happy things along with the sad things.

 

I don't think I want to start Volume 2 yet. I took an index card, wrote the major characters and plot points on it, and stuck it in the second book so it's waiting for me when I decide to continue. I just have a hard time dwelling on a single 1200+ page book for months and months, and I want to stretch myself across a wide variety of books.

My next book is a newly-published one, 力量从哪里来, by 李一诺. It's a memoir written by a woman who was appointed as the head of the China branch of Bill Gates' charitable organization. It also seems to have a self-help element to it: "This is how I did it, and you can, too!"  I normally avoid those books, but this genre seems like a fun way to practice my Chinese. It's non-fiction, very contemporary, very personal, and provides insight into the life of a Chinese person.

It's funny--I've read and watched a lot of stuff just for the sake of practicing Chinese, whereas I'm not interested in those things in English. As a result, learning Chinese has probably expanded my horizons a great deal.

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On 7/18/2022 at 3:04 AM, becky82 said:

I'm reading a year-7 Chinese history textbook:

 

794880722.thumb.jpg.87b507c429be1d1cf0564906668333a7.jpg

 

I don't know if this will be of any interest to anyone else, but I found a series of videos explaining this 7th grade History textbook, like an online class, and the spoken level seems ok. So if you can't get a copy of the book, but want to learn from it, it might be good listening practice.

 

https://m.open.163.com/mobile/free/gb/video?plid=YGGLMNN90

 

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On 8/23/2022 at 4:57 AM, imron said:

Chinese novels are quite different in that many don’t have a story arc as such, but rather just give you a window in to the character’s lives for a short period of time. 

 

I have noticed a kind of development in the story, though it isn't a linear one. It's woven like a web, where you're given more context and you learn about the connections and political intrigues between the different characters, so it becomes more interesting and complex. The two narrative threads that feel like a more conventional "story" are those of Sun Shaoping and Sun Shao'an, who are both attempting to progress in life and figure things out. The other characters feel a little more secondary. 

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I started reading an abridged version of Honglou Meng (Dream of the Red Chamber) and about 40 pages in, I realized that one of the main characters, Jia Baoyu, has ambiguous gender.  When he was one year old, his father asked him to choose something in the room, and he went for the girls' toys.  His father was so disgusted at this that he refused to have anything to do with the kid afterwards.  As a boy, he was supposed to become a scholar but all he wanted to do was hang out with the girl cousins and girl servants in the family compound.  His grandmother spoils him and has an indulgent attitude toward the kid's eccentricities.  It sounded like he either wished he was a girl, thought females were superior to males or felt he really was a girl, inside.

 

I was so startled that I dropped the book and started researching online in English to see if I was misinterpreting what I was reading.  No, that gender bending really was in the original, written in the 18th century. 

 

I'm wondering if this sort of thing shows up in other pre-contemporary Chinese literature.  And anyone know, what did critics traditionally make of this character?  And does this aspect of the story show up in family-friendly Chinese popularizations of Honglou Meng?  (Apparently they even have theme parks in China built around the novel.)

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I don't know how to answer your questions but it seems really peculiar to call him "gender bending"! I remember him as a good looking, horny teenager who can't keep his hands off the ladies. But he, like the novelist, cares for the women as women: yes he wants to shag them all, but he's genuinely interested in them too, enjoys their company, is interested in the stereotypically girly things that they care about. A 'real man' (and maybe a typical writer of the time) would I guess be less interested in what made women tick, and more interested in their role/use (as matriach or wife or sex partner or maid).

And given that the author is supposed to have been really keen to write about all the good looking girls he knew when he himself was growing up in a similar household, having the central male character interested in hanging around women gives him that excuse to write so much about the women.

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Well, this was not my imagination.  The following link cites both passages in the novel and comments from literary critics supporting the idea that Jia Baoyu's gender identity is questionable.

 

https://josah-publications.sydney.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Jia-Baoyu-and-Essential-Feminine-Purity_Vol.2021-1988-89__Edwards.Louise.pdf

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just finished 力量从哪里来. It was okay--about what I expected. The author is talking about her life experience: Growing up in an extremely poor household, getting good grades, graduating from prestigious schools, becoming a McKinsey fellow in the USA, having three kids, being appointed to lead the Chinese arm of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and then finally starting her own experimental school for children in China (一土教育). The book is part autobiographical, part motivational, part instructional. There are discussion questions to ask yourself at the end of every chapter. "What are my deepest fears? What would I like to do? What is holding me back from my goals?" She shares a lot of advice regarding time management, parenting, decision making, career development, self-introspection, etc. I must admit that it was a bit stressful to read, as I'm more of a 佛系 type of person (or I like to think I am, anyway).

The book also serves as more evidence that my vocabulary acquisition is pretty firmly plateauing. Just over 300 pages, and I bagged about 54 new words. Could I have ignored those words and still understood the book? Yeah. But my most memorable new word is 立竿见影 (set up a pole and see its shadow--produce instant results).

Next up: 狼图腾 by 姜戎. It's a gargantuan, ambitious book, though upon a cursory glance, it doesn't seem too hard to read. I've heard from others on this forum that it isn't even very good. Nevertheless, I will attempt to power through it. I have a feeling that by the time I finish, I will have read more about wolves than I ever wanted to read. I will likely never want to hear about wolves again.

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