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Four Sisters of Hofei: A History Hardcover – October 22, 2002

2.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Countless authors have chronicled the lives of people who survived the trials of 20th-century China, but few bring as much knowledge and style as Chin (Children of China: Voices from Recent Years) does. The esteemed Yale historian successfully combines an academic's interest in the big picture and a novelist's attention to the finest detail in limning the lives of the title characters of this excellent account. The history of the Chang sisters is heavy with episodes of injury and inhumanity, yet Chin has found affecting anecdotes of how the sisters fought to "make mirth" in the face of anguish and loss brought by imperial collapse, foreign invasion, civil and world war, revolution and famine. The first half of the book details the history of the prosperous Chang family from the turmoil of the Taiping Rebellion in the 1860s to the birth of Yuan-ho, the oldest sister, in 1907. From there, rather than writing conventional biographies of the four sisters, Chin mimics the structure of k'un-ch'i, a refined form of Chinese performance that showcases only a few scenes of an opera. In this style, drawing on voluminous family correspondence, diaries and interviews (all four sisters are still alive), Chin chooses each sister's most significant experience and expands upon it to depict their life-long struggle for constancy in the throes of violent political transition, and stirringly conveys the universal ability to endure and prevail despite adversity.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Born between the years 1907 and 1914, the four Chang sisters openly shared their earliest recollections of Chinese society and details of their aristocratic upbringing with the author, Annping Chin. It was on the occasion of a dinner at Chin's home that Annping first began a discourse with the youngest daughter, Ch'ung-ho, which would inspire her and lead her to chronicle the lives of these intellectual, artistic sisters. Their great-grandfather, Chang Shu-Sheng, brought honor and wealth to the family in the 1860s by defeating the Taiping rebels during China's civil war. From that time on, the Chang family wielded its power and influence with great consideration for those under their jurisdiction and maintained a keen eye for the importance of education and enlightenment. Chin provides a myriad of political and literary information on China from the late-nineteenth through the twentieth century, and the chapters that provide glimpses into the ancient rhythms of marriage and the household rituals are particularly fascinating. It is unfortunate, however, that many of the sisters' earliest memories are vague and translate dispassionately. Elsa Gaztambide
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (October 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068487377X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684873770
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,134,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By SL on September 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Annping Chin narrates the tale of a family of 4 daughters in this book and each chapter is devoted to a part of the life of a member of the family. There is very little dialogue and lots of dry narration. It could do with more photos and perhaps structured in such a way that it is an interview session between the author and the various characters. The only interesting part is the story of the marriage of the 3rd daughter to Shen Congwen, a well-known Chinese author. It provided some valuable and unknown insights into the minds of Shen.

I have just seen a Chinese translation of the work in a bookshop a few days ago. I wonder whether Chinese readers will find this take too superficial.
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Format: Hardcover
This would be a great book for someone interested in qualitative information about life in old china. It was well-written and not so uninteresting - but it is not a novel or a story. There was no dialouge and only a little plot, and so it's best for a history person as opposed to someone who likes Pearl Buck or Amy Tan.
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