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Chinese Village Close-up

Aria

2024-02-29 02:39

Fei Hsiao Tung

 

Title: Chinese Village Close-up

Author: Fei Hsiao Tung

Press: New World Press

ISBN: 9787510465833

Foreword:

The major part of the present book comprises my research findings from field studies in Kaixian’gong Village on three different occasions, once in 1936, again in 1957, and once again in 1980. These three years happen to mark three distinct historical periods in modern Chinese history. The year 1936 came right on the eve of the War of Resistance Against Japan; 1957 was the first year after the completion of China’s socialist rural collectivization; and 1980 saw the initial success of the new economic policies adopted at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 1978, which had set to rights many things distorted during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).

In a time of such political upheaval and social transformation as during the last fifty years in China, I can only consider myself fortunate to have been able to carry out systematic studies on a single village in different periods. These three visits, widely separated in time, have allowed me to personally witness and record the various stages of social transformation as reflected in the microcosm of Kaixian’gong. My intention in incorporating my previous findings in one book is to present the historical context of the ongoing reforms so that the reader may better understand and appreciate their far-reaching significance.

By way of introduction, I would like to acquaint my readers with my original purpose in studying sociology and the circumstances under which I undertook these studies. Why I Took up Sociology as a Profession My original ambition was to become a medical doctor. I had actually finished all the preparatory courses at Dongwu University for entrance to the Peking Union Medical College. But I changed my mind later and entered the Sociology Department of Peking University instead. One may perhaps wonder why I did this. Medicine is concerned about people’s health conditions rather than their social environment. A doctor would generally do no more than diagnose the patient’s illness and write out the appropriate prescription. He would not, nor should he, delve into questions concerning the patient’s livelihood and the various social factors that may have contributed to the illness. For me this was far from sufficient, considering social conditions at that time. I was of the opinion that people’s diseases were attributable not only to viruses and germs, but even more to poverty, malnutrition and other social ills. Therefore the elimination of disease would be out of the question without first eliminating the causative social factors.

However, I had never even heard of sociology before I entered Peking University. But the introduction into this new science by Professor Xu Shilian, dean of the sociology department, was so impressive that I decided on the spot to become his student. The extent of my knowledge at that time was that few people living in this society had a clear understanding of it. More often than not, we proved helpless in the face of the myriad omnipresent social customs, living our lives in a passive manner. As a student of sociology, I started to scrutinize society objectively and constantly pried into the reasons for conventionally accepted values and social phenomena, hoping to discover a universal law underlying them all. Take for example the terms of address used by children for their parents. Why may Westerners call their parents by their given names, whereas Chinese children would never think of doing so? The easiest answer might be that they live in two different societies. But how did the differences between the two societies originate? When did the whole process start? I was more and more convinced that questions like those were not mere coincidence, but problems concerning sociology. Things change and develop in accordance with their respective laws. Each nation has its own social customs and norms which appear natural and commonplace to its own people, which are in fact the inevitable results of its specific social conditions. In them we can trace the general pattern of social development.

The first person to take a given people’s kinship terminology as a subject for academic research was Mr. Lewis Henry Morgan, the 19th century American anthropologist. He discovered after living among the American Indians for many years that Indian children invariably called all their male elders “father” and their female elders “mother.” Linking these terms of address with their marriage system, he worked out his theory of social change and a system of social evolution. Inspired by Morgan’s discoveries, Engels wrote his famous book The Origins of Private Ownership, Family and State, one of the Marxist classics. My intention here is not to elaborate their theories. I merely point out that we must not belittle the significance of even so small a thing as terms of address.

In our social life, once we begin to perceive ourselves as objective beings and start to study our lives in a detached manner, our understanding of many things will become much deeper and we ourselves may become more tolerant and open-minded. Many of my friends have wondered how I could possibly have borne all the political and personal slanders I suffered previously. It is true that no one could have enjoyed the groundless, vicious slander to which one was subjected. But I found in the painful experience an opportunity to study human behavior and society. Indeed could you ever penetrate more deeply into the human soul than under the circumstances in which a person one day treats you with great respect and civility, and the next day with hatred and contempt? In fact such behavior will not only open our eyes to that person’s innermost being but will also shed light as well on a variety of human activities.

The chaotic years of the “cultural revolution” gave us the opportunity to see many phenomena appear in so blatant a manner that we would otherwise have never had the chance to witness. Therefore, rather than passively being criticized, I regarded it as an stage from which to observe society.Man evolved from a state of unconsciousness to the state of consciousness, from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. This process was a process of man’s self-realization. Man was at first a part of nature itself. The evolution of Peking man to modern man could never have been projected by the primitive Peking men themselves. Nor could they have ever.

Contents:

FOREWORD ·····I

PEASANT LIFE IN CHINA (ABRIDGEMENT, 1936)·····1

AN INTERPRETATION OF CHINESE SOCIALSTRUCTURE AND ITS CHANGES (1946)·····143

KAIXIAN'GONG REVISITED (1957) ·····187

PRESENT DAY KAIXIAN'GONG (1981)····· 238

FINDINGS OF THE KAIXIAN'GONG VILLAGE RESEARCH GROUP (1981) ·····256

CHANGES IN PEASANT LIFE IN KAIXIAN'GONG DURING THE PASTFIFTY YEARS·····257

A LOOK AT KAIXIAN'GONG'S MARRIAGE ANDFAMILY PROBLEMS·····300

FAMILY STRUCTURE AND MOTHER-IN-LAW-DAUGHTER-INLAW RELATIONS IN KAIXIAN'GONG·····316

INDEX·····324

 

 


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2024-02-29 10:39
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The Chinese Ethnic Minority Literature