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.
ORAC LE BONE S A Journey Between China’s Past and Present PETER HESSLER for my sisters: Amy Angela and Birgitta Contents Author’s Note Map vii ix PART ONE Artifact A: The Underground City 3 1 The Middleman 9 Artifact B: The Written World 33 2 The Voice of America 37 3 The Broken Bridge 57 Artifact C: The Wall 4 The Overnight City 75 77 PART TWO 5 Starch 101 6 Hollywood 114 iv Contents Artifact D: The Voice of the Turtle 135 7 At Night You’re Not Lonely 149 8
interview, he remembered one more thing. “I also want to add processing plants to make enriched starch,” he said. “And I hope that through these new industries we can create job opportunities for the peasants who might have trouble because of the lower corn prices.” i wrote the story in two hours. The article was one thousand words long, and I stuffed it with as many statistics as possible. I didn’t mention how the Dorr-Oliver machines sometimes jammed up, or the feud between Yellow Dragon and
cultures in this region—but bamboo deteriorates quickly in China’s central plains. Rainwater passes easily through the dry soil, and perishable materials don’t last long in a place like Anyang. This characteristic makes Chinese archaeology different from that in other parts of the world. Egyptian papyrus can survive for centuries, because of the arid climate. In the Near East, where ancient cultures wrote on durable clay tablets, excavations have uncovered a full range of documents: royal
less true. Polat explained that a number of Uighurs had settled near Oklahoma City, where some of them studied at a local college. A small community had also formed around Sidik Haji Rouzi, a Uighur intellectual who was based near Oklahoma City. He often contributed to Uighur-related broadcasts for the Voice of America. His wife, Rebiya Kadeer, had formerly been a successful entrepreneur in Urumqi, and for years 169 170 ORACLE BONES the Chinese government had praised her as a model of ethnic
wall of the compound, somebody had pasted an advertisement for the Beijing City Economic Crimes Exhibition—a deliberate touch of Chai nar irony, perhaps. Old Mr. Zhao and his wife had left the day before. They went quietly: no police, no ambulance. But even without their presence, the demolition became an event. Dozens of reporters, both Chinese and foreign, gathered before eight. At exactly 8:20, ﬁfteen court ofﬁcials arrived. They dressed identically: white shirts, black suits, black ties. Red