Wolf Totem


2017-07-13 12:00

Jiang Rong



Title: Wolf Totem

Author: Jiang Rong

Publication Date: March 2008

ISBN: 9787535436696



An epic Chinese tale in the vein of The Last Emperor, Wolf Totem depicts the dying culture of the Mongols-the ancestors of the Mongol hordes who at one time terrorized the world-and the parallel extinction of the animal they believe to be sacred: the fierce and otherworldly Mongolian wolf

Published under a pen name, Wolf Totem was a phenomenon in China, breaking all sales records there and earning the distinction of being the second most read book after Mao's little red book. There has been much international excitement too-to date, rights have been sold in thirteen countries. Wolf Totem is set in 1960s China-the time of the Great Leap Forward, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution.

Searching for spirituality, Beijing intellectual Chen Zhen travels to the pristine grasslands of Inner Mongolia to live among the nomadic Mongols-a proud, brave, and ancient race of people who coexist in perfect harmony with their unspeakably beautiful but cruel natural surroundings. Their philosophy of maintaining a balance with nature is the ground stone of their religion, a kind of cult of the wolf.

The fierce wolves that haunt the steppes of the unforgiving grassland searching for food are locked with the nomads in a profoundly spiritual battle for survival-a life-and-death dance that has gone on between them for thousands of years. The Mongols believe that the wolf is a great and worthy foe that they are divinely instructed to contend with, but also to worship and to learn from. Chen's own encounters with the otherworldly wolves awake a latent primitive instinct in him, and his fascination with them blossoms into obsession, then reverence.

After many years, the peace is shattered with the arrival of Chen's kinfolk, Han Chinese, sent from the cities to bring modernity to the grasslands. They immediately launch a campaign to exterminate the wolves, sending the balance that has been maintained with religious dedication for thousands of years into a spiral leading to extinction-first the wolves, then the Mongol culture, finally the land. As a result of the eradication of the wolves, rats become a plague and wild sheep graze until the meadows turn to dust. Mongolian dust storms glide over Beijing, sometimes blocking out the moon.

Part period epic, part fable for modern days, Wolf Totem is a stinging social commentary on the dangers of China's overaccelerated economic growth as well as a fascinating immersion into the heart of Chinese culture.


About the Author:

Jiang Rong was born in Jiangsu in 1946. His fathers job saw the family move to Beijing in 1957 graduating from the middle school attached to the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1966
  His education cut short by events in China the twenty-one-year-old Jiang volunteered to work in Inner Mongolias East Ujimchin Banner in 1967 where he lived and labored with the native nomads until the age of thirty-three. He took with him two cases filled with Chinese translations of Western literary classics and spent eleven years immersed in personal studies of Mongolian history culture and tradition. In particular he developed a fascination for the mythologies surrounding the wolves of the grasslands spending much of his leisure time learning the stories and raising an orphaned wolf cub.
  Following his return to Beijing in 1978 Jiang embarked on postgraduate studies in political science at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Jiang received a Masters degree in law in 1982 and assumed an academic position at a Beijing university. Now retired he lives in Beijing with his wife.


2017-07-13 09:53
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