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Shorter Book Reviews 115 R. David Arkush and Leo 0. Lee, trans. and eds. Land Without Ghosts: Chinese Impressions of America from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Present. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. ix+ 309pp. Since the "gold rush" in the middle of the last century, Chinese have been coming to America as sojourners, visitors, students and, more recently, as immigrants. America, if not so much of a mystery to the Chinese as China is to the Americans, remains for the Chinese a strange land. The sense of strangeness is particularly strong for newcomers. This book, a collection of thirty-seven essays by thirty-five authors covering almost all aspects of American life, deals with strangeness, differences and even with similarities. It serves many purposes. Land Without Ghosts is readable and full of interest; one is immediately attracted by the several illustrations depicting the Western social customs and behaviour that intrigued the Chinese visitors: a female doctor removing a tumor on a woman's chest, or nineteenth-century Grand Minister Li Hongzhang's curiosity and fascination with a beautiful young woman on a unicycle. One might not remember everything one reads in this book, but few would forget Zhao Ning's cartoon of Chinese students posing in front of a billboard of a half-nude woman, their frustration at ballroom lights going dark, their response to being invited to dinner, and their nostalgic memories of a noodle stand when they have to get their food from a vending machine. Ye Qianyu's 1940s satirical cartoon on the Chinese "free port" experience, descriptions of a skyscraper, the size of fruits, a self-service newsstand, parking problems, consumption and Chinese restaurants in the United States make a long-lasting impression on the reader. The essays themselves are interesting and of reasonable length. The accounts of America come from writers in various occupations, including government officials, diplomats, journalists, essayists, sociologists, novelists and so on, and they cover a wide range of topics, from presidential elections to women's issues, from education to science and technology,from professors to students, from the upper-class to the lower-class, from value concepts to American life-styles and eating habits. Depending on when it was written and on the place from which the writer came, each article fallsinto one of six categories of description: exotic America, menacing America, model America, flawed America, familiar American and America rediscovered. Readers can choose to read the essays that appeal to them most, since this is 116 Shorter Book Reviews the kind of book they can pick up and read without feeling pressure, but which is hard to let go without finishing. It is also an excellent guide-book for Chinese tourists or students. Unlike guide-books which give tourists specific directions on where to get what, this book provides cultural rather than physical orientations (if I may use the word) to American society. "Strange Customs," "How to Cope with Western Dinner Parties," "Eating in America" and "Six Don'ts for Chinese Students in America," regardless of the time they were written, all offer help to those unfamiliar with American culture, preparing them to accept the many differences, and lessening the kind of culture shock they would otherwise experience. The book not only introduces students to many aspects of American society, but also provides good material for students, teachers and American scholars in China. It provides an interesting study, not of how Americans have perceived themselves, but of how the Chinese have viewed Americans. One sees how Chinese impressions of America were formed and how they have changed over the years, and it is therefore, among other things, a valuable account of Chinese intellectual history. The various Chinese impressions of America differ because of the personality and the interests of individual writers, because of their angles of observation, and because of their differing degrees of assimilation. Many were impressed with American democracy, often symbolized for them by presidential elections. The concept of the casting of ballots to select a leader of the state to serve a limited term, instead of having a king or emperor coming to the throne through hereditary succession and staying in power for life...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 115-117
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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