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A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman Paperback – June 1, 1967


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1967)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804706069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804706063
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai, born in the seventh year of T'ung Chih, 1867, lived a full and difficult life; she bore and buried children, worked as a maidservant, begged for food, and felt pride in her old age by sharing a home with her son and his family. A lively, driven woman who wants only to provide for her family, often without the support of her opium-addicted husband, Ning Lao wonders how life would have been different with a formal education: "I might have been somebody in the world." When her husband sells their kitchenware, she gets it back; when he sells their daughters, she gets them back, then must give one up because she's unable to feed her. As a maidservant she often works for Christian missionaries but refuses to accept their religion. Her tongue costs her many positions: told she should thank God for her strong arms and legs, she responds that she had them before she'd ever heard of God. She describes the importance of neighbors and self-reliance in the life of a peasant, stating bluntly: "I am not afraid of hard work but I am afraid of hunger..." Her life is recorded in conversations with Ida Pruitt over a two-year period. Unfortunately, the book ends in 1938 with the Japanese occupation of Peking, and the rest of Ning Lao's life is unknown. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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It is a light read and it is very interesting.
"ml320chula"
I was interested in Chinese history and culture because my Mother is full blooded Chinese, and I found this book to be helpful, its a great reading.
Nancy's Den
A very insightful book into the peasant life of a chinese woman.
Alex

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "ml320chula" on May 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
I had to read this book for a core class in college and I thought that I would have hated it. Actually, I really liked it. It told of a Chinese working woman's life. It even gives the reader an insight into her lifestyle and her struggles during this tumuluous time in history. The story even touches on the japanese invasion. I didn't think this biography would be interesting but it was. I would recommended this book to anyone. It is a light read and it is very interesting.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jana R. Russ on August 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ida Pruitt's biography of Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai (literally "old lady Ning"), a peasant woman of northeast China born in 1867, is a fascinating anecdotal retelling of Ning's personal history as she related it to the author over the course of their two year long friendship. The storyline of Ning's life: childhood, marriage, work, and children, is laid out in a chronological history, broken into separate sections at particular turning points; and yet a cohesive theme of hardship, oppression and poverty, of strong-willed women and weak men is carried throughout not only Ning's tales but also through the stories she relates of her ancestors and neighbors.
Pruitt writes in the voice of Ning as if she is translating, but what she is really doing is recalling Ning's stories of her life in the first half of the 20th century. Ning was born into an educated middle class family which had fallen on harder times. Her father wants a better situation for her marriage, but the older husband he choses for her becomes addicted to opium driving the family into poverty. To survive and feed her children Ning must become first a beggar, then a servant to various households: military, Muslim, bureaucrat, and finally to Christian missionaries. And Ning's voice does come across clearly; speaking against concubinage and prostitution, about the penury of employers, the need to support and keep family together.
By using a first person retelling of the stories Pruitt gives the impresssion of accuracy, yet there were 7 years between the conversations with Ning and the writing of the book. Also the apparent bias against Japanese in prologue and last chapter together with the pub. date of the book indicate a hidden agenda on the part of the author. Still, although limited to the view of this one woman's experience, Ning's story is reflective of the hardships of life for Chinese women before the Communist era.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By wolverine librarian on December 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
China always seems to have a veil of mystery around it. This book give a rare glimpse of life at the turn of the 19th century as the empire was dying and the nationalists and communists were gearing up for battle. I read this book for a class on Chinese women and absolutely loved it. I will always remember the part of having her feet bound and how her mother would lay on her legs at night so that she could sleep. Unfortunately I lost the book after many years. It wasn't until now, as I was conducting inventory of our biography collection at the library where I work, that I came across the sequal to this book. For those who could not get enough of Lao Tai-tai, there is a second book by Ida Pruitt titled "Old Madam Yin: a memoir of Peking life 1926-1938." The copyright date is 1979. The Daughter of Han is now a wealthy widow struggling to adapt to the new order. If you can't find it on amazon you can always Inter-library loan the book, I know there's at least one library in the midwest that has it ;).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lena on December 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
Gives a rare insight into the lives of ordinary Chinese women at the end of the imperial, beginning of the republican, era. Gripping account of the suffering the traditional Chinese family customs imposed on its members, its women in particular, and how ingrained notions of parental authority and son preference was even among those who had to bear the cost of these values.
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Format: Paperback
A plain Chinese woman tells a missionary the story of her life. All work, suffering grandees and an opium sot for a husband who sold their daughter into slavery. Along the way, some of the finest folklore in print.

This is an excellent portrait of Chinese life in the period prior to Sun-Yat Sen's reforms.
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By Jason T. Scroggins on June 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Had to read it for school. Easy to read but slightly boring at times. The poor woman with such a tough life.
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By Alex on April 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very insightful book into the peasant life of a chinese woman. It's often difficult to find biographies of people who weren't nobility or otherwise famous in history.
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By Deborah on April 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most interesting book about Chinese history in English that I have ever read and the book is in good condition.
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