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Reviews 283 other non-Western countries, Taiwan's modernists offhe fifties and sixties endeavored to reinvent a form ofhigh art in a cultural environment ravaged by war and economic hardship. As a piece ofmature modernist fiction written in the Chinese language, the novel anticipated the more widely known modernist-influenced literaryworks in the People's Republic ofChina since fhe eighties. For general readers in this country who are not particularly concerned with the trajectories ofcross-cultural literary influences, the novel can be enjoyed as a first-rate work ofart. The poetic vividness with which the hero's chüdhood experience and die city ofTaipei in the early years ofits metropolitan transformation are depicted offers gratifying aesthetic pleasure. At the same time, the reader is invited to empathize with fhe constrained human condition in a modernizing "third-world" milieu and widi the way poverty, conjoined with a claustrophobic cultural ambiance, gnaws relentlessly at fhe delicate sensibility ofthe young would-be-artist hero. Finally, Family Catastrophe is ideal for adoption by coUege literature courses that transcend the boundaries offhe Western canon. Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang The University ofTexas at Austin Sung-sheng Y. Chang is an associateprofessor ofChinese and comparative literature specializing in contemporary Chinese and Taiwanese literature andfilm. im Yunxiang Yan. The Flow ofGifts: Reciprocity and Social Networh in a Chinese Village. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. 278 pp. Hardcover $45.00, isbn 0-8047-2603-5. Paperback $15.95, ISBN 0-8047-2695-7. Yunxiang Yan's The Flow ofGifts, an anthropological study of gift exchange in a contemporary Chinese vUlage, offers important insights into the complex structure of social relations and the dynamic process of social interactions and transformations in modern Chinese society. Yan's work is significant for at least two reasons. First, despite the fact that gift exchange and related social activities pervade everyday life in China, gift exchange as a topic in itselfhas been little study mversity -^ ^ne Qn^ excep^on t0 mjs neglect is the form ofinstrumental exchange known as guanxi.) Yan's study encompasses aU die aspects ofdaily activities that involve gift-giving, including visits between relatives, the exchange offood and labor , and gift-giving between friends. Second, previous studies of gift exchange ofHawai'i Press 284 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 have emphasized individual motivations and strategies in gift-giving without addressing the cultural aspect ofmeaning. WhUe trying to provide an empirical account ofgift-exchange customs in Xiajia, a viUage in northeastern China, Yan's study is explicidy designed to identify the moral meanings and cultural rules underlying gift-giving behavior in this vUlage, where social relations are shown to be highly contextual. Yan pays special attention to the hermeneutics ofChinese concepts, especiaUy guanxi and renqing, that are central to various forms ofreciprocity. Throughout, the author couples his analysis with an extensive literature review and comparisons between Chinese gift exchange and diat ofother societies. Yan is sensitive to local conceptions ofvarious gift-giving activities when constructing his classificatory categories. Unlike many gift-exchange classifications discussed in andiropological literature that tend to reduce die dynamic complexity of exchange relations to an abstract dichotomy, Yan's treatment takes the social events that regularly involve gift-giving activities as basic categories and considers social relations between the gift-giver and fhe recipient. The basic categories are then distinguished according to the functional features ofexpressivity and instrumentality (p. 45). The dimensions ofritualized and nonritualized gifts are further introduced into the classification. In a way, this kind ofclassification emphasizes fhat die meaning ofa gift is not derived from certain abstract principles, but is acquired in particular social events and within particular social relations. In addition , to situate gifts within a set of concrete social relations makes more sense in the context ofChinese culture, where liwu (sometimes just Ii), fhe Chinese term for "gift," marks the meaning of Ii (propriety) rather tiian the materiality ofa present, and propriety by definition is cultural, situational, and relational. As shown in chapter 4, Xiajia vülagers participate extensively in a gift economy . Within the viUage, one normaUy attends ceremonies and offers gifts without waiting for an invitation. Vülagers spend 10 to 20 percent oftheir income on gifts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 283-287
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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