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The World of a Tiny Insect

A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath

by Zhang Daye

Publication Year: 2013

From the cry of a tiny insect, one can hear the sound of a vast world. . . . So begins Zhang Daye’s preface to The World of a Tiny Insect, his haunting memoir of war and its aftermath. In 1861, when China’s devastating Taiping rebellion began, Zhang was seven years old. The Taiping rebel army occupied Shaoxing, his hometown, and for the next two years, he hid from Taiping soldiers, local bandits, and imperial troops and witnessed gruesome scenes of violence and death. He lost friends and family and nearly died himself from starvation, illness, and encounters with soldiers on rampages.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-ix

Map of Author’s Travels

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pp. x-2

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Translator’s Introduction

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pp. 3-34

The nineteenth century was a bad century for the Manchus, who established the Qing dynasty in 1644 and ruled over China until 1912. Internal and external problems beset the once powerful, prosperous empire. Among other things, the Qing government had to handle the...

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Preface by Zhang Daye

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pp. 35-36

From the cry of a tiny insect, one can hear the sound of a vast world. To speak of a tiny insect and the world as relative to each other is why the Great Hero is capable of containing the ancient and modern times in himself, and his outlook alone is different from the masses of...

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Part 1.

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pp. 37-78

In the nineteenth year—the guisi year—of the Guangxu era, beginning when the Emperor took the dragon throne, on the sixth day of the fourth month [May 21, 1893], this tiny insect took a trip to Tiantai. Thus the world came into being. I suppose the fruit of bodhi was about...

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Part 2.

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pp. 79-108

Taizhou has been a desolate spot on the distant seashore ever since ancient times. Its people are probably what Ban Gu’s work refers to as the “people of Eastern Ti.”1 During the Tang dynasty, Taizhou gradually became better known. And yet, when Zheng Qian was demoted to...

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Part 3.

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pp. 109-176

have given a full account of my experience during the chaos caused by the Yue bandits. As for Yuanjiang’s sufferings during the Nian Uprising, there are things I cannot bear speaking of. When the Nian bandits were advancing toward Yuanjiang, the director-general of the Grand Canal,...


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pp. 177-180

Appendix: A List of the Author’s Connections

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pp. 181-184

Works Cited

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pp. 185-188


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pp. 189-200

E-ISBN-13: 9780295804910
E-ISBN-10: 0295804912
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295993188
Print-ISBN-10: 0295993189

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 875447130
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The World of a Tiny Insect

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • China -- History -- 1861-1912.
  • Zhang, Daye, 1854-.
  • China -- History -- Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1864 -- Personal narratives.
  • China -- Biography.
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