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The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture Paperback – October, 1992

12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (October 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1863731164
  • ISBN-13: 978-1863731164
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Guo Zicheng on December 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
First of all, a confession. This reviewer has only read the original Chinese version of the book. However, assuming that the English translation has been faithful to the original, the comments apply to both versions equally.
Bo Yang had a particular purpose in his mind when he wrote the book. His target audience was his fellow Chinese, especially those living in Taiwan, who at the time were still lulled in the belief that Chinese culture (or at least as it was preserved in Taiwan) was the best among all civilizations. While everyone acknowledged that the West was technologically superior, many felt that spiritually and culturally China still triumphed over the decadent West. No one disputed that Chinese society had severe problems. But prior to Bo Yang's work, it was customary to blame these ills either on Westernization or a departure from China's true values. Bo Yang turned the tables by arguing that the culture itself was the source of these ills. It is as earth-shattering as William Bennett coming out and identifying Judeo-Christian values as the source of much that is wrong with the West.
When Bo Yang's work crossed the seas and entered the mainland, the effect was somewhat different. Mainland China had always blamed China's evils on the "feudal" (whatever that term means) culture of ancient China, so in many ways Bo Yang's criticism of Chinese culture resonated with what the communist government and mainland intellectuals believed at the time (this anti-tradition stance had reached its height in the 1919 May 4th Movement, and continued ever since on the mainland. In Taiwan, however, the ruling government returned to a staunchly pro-tradition, neo-conservative stance).
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book helped me very much to understand many actions and attitudes I encountered while living in Hong Kong in the late nineties. Before reading it, I had thought the bad manners in the shops, and the rude, pushy behaviour of the crowds were simply due to the tragic fate of the Hong Kong Chinese, having to live as refugees after fleeing from their homes in China. Hong Kong is a tiny place and to have millions of refugees pour in over the past several decades, well, who wouldn't be cranky?
But Taiwanese journalist Bo Yang showed me that the problems go much deeper than any woes created by the present regime in China, or the ending of British protection in 1997. Bo Yang argues the problem goes back centuries, a long period of repeated stultification within Chinese society - a combination of repressive leaders, static social systems and a reverence of doing exactly what your ancestors did, nothing more, nothing new.
I felt I understood China and Hong Kong a little bit better after reading this. The crowds along Des Voeux Road in Central, Hong Kong, may still be one of the most offensive social phenomena in the world; people may still laugh when old ladies slip in the blood of the Wanchai Wet Market; spitting, belching and wind-breaking may still be dealt out with nonchalance, but Bo Yang showed me there was a very good reason for this. A very moving, sad and poignant reason. I couldn't stay angry or annoyed after reading this.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lois M. Schlabach on April 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Reading this book is like eavesdropping on a family feud that is too interesting to turn away from, but also a little embarrassing. It would be easy to dismiss Bo Yang as a dyspeptic crank, if it were not for the 9 years he spent in prison for writing what he believed to be true. He was not writing for a Western audience, and he did not claim to present a fair or balanced view of Chinese culture. Let other writers praise the virtues of the culture--he wanted to challenge his countrymen to be better.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Peter Chan on May 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
First of all let me gravely announce the obituary of the author Bo Yang:

Bo Yang died in hospital on 29th April 2008 of pneumonia complications at the ripe age of 88, at 1:10AM Taiwan local time (GMT+9) in Sindien City, Taiwan. He will be sadly missed.

I rate and recommend Bo Yang's "The Ugly Chinaman" highly, indeed second only to the Bible alone.

Each and every individual Chinese and all others who have any exposure or connection to the Chinese culture should read it at least THRICE. Have some background knowledge on Chinese history, open up your mind with a rational thinking . . . and you will actually WANT to read it over and over again. You will then wonder why Confucius has been regarded for millennia as the greatest Chinese philosopher ever. Now we have one greater than Confucius by leaps and bounds - Bo Yang.

Bo Yang was stating the grim fact that (at least part of) the Chinese culture has long rotten. So rotten that generations after generations of Chinese people under it are so much influenced that they have lost their own identities, lost their individual ways of thinking, lost their abilities to judge, lost the power to unite, and ultimately, lost their very own dignities.

He further points out the saddest and most appalling thing under this rotten culture: that any individual who dares to show his individual way of thinking or his ability to judge would be treated as an outcast, a "cultural traitor", a pariah of society, which, in ancient China, could be punishable by imprisonment of arbitrary periods. Or even death.

The author was NOT attacking the Chinese people in general.
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