The astounding pace of change in China presents a daunting obstacle to any attempt to present an overview of its contemporary culture. The easier of his two preliminary tasks, notes editor Davis, was to justify 1979 as a starting point for "contemporary" China. This date coincides roughly with the beginning of the post-Mao, post-Cultural Revolution, or "reform era," which continues to the present. The more difficult task, for purposes of this encyclopedia, was to define Chinese.
Davis's decision was to focus on the People's Republic of China while still including "long entries on aspects of the culture of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore" and shorter ones on native Chinese cultural producers who now live abroad.
Entries range from a long paragraph (Literary awards, Recreational associations, the actress Pan Hong) to several pages (Cars and taxis, Cinema in Taiwan, Tiananmen Square). More than 200 contributors have provided nearly 1,200 articles on architecture, education, ethnic identity, food and drink, language, performing arts, political culture, religion, sports, and more. The literally hundreds of entries for individuals begin with year and place of birth and, if appropriate, year of death. Many entries are followed by see also references and a list of English--language sources for further reading. Some Web sites and non-English-language sources are also cited. Main entry terms within other entries are boldfaced, as are page numbers of main entries in the thorough index.
Writers were encouraged, beyond simply stating the basic facts, "to analyze, to make judgments, and even to editorialize." Thus, for instance, contributor Lionel M. Jensen writes eloquently on the joyful and tragic history of Tiananmen Square and its evolution into the planned site of beach volleyball in the 2008 Olympics. Highly recommended for the reference sections of academic and larger public libraries, and a pleasure for the curious to dip into at random. Craig Bunch
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'It will serve as a welcome introduction to all facets of Chinese studies. Highly recommended.' - Library Journal
'Highly recommended for the reference sections of academic and larger public libraries, and a pleasure for the curious to dip into at random.' - Booklist
'An excellent reference work for anyone with an interest in contemporary Chinese culture.' - The China Journal