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180 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 that appear in the book. The author offers no explanation as to why the Press chose not to provide a glossary. 2.Wan Kuang-chi, Hanfu t'ung-lun (Ch'eng-tu: Pa-shu shu-she, 1989), pp. 309-316. 3.See Chung-kuo ku-tien wen-hsüeh yen-chiu nien-chien: 1984 (Shanghai: Shanghai Ku-chi ch'u-ban she, 1987), p. 8, $ $ ® Perry Link. Evening Chats in Beijing: Probing China's Predicament. New York: W W Norton & Company, 1992. xiv, 321 pp. Hardcover $24.95. "Chats" can cover anything under the sun and "evening chats" even more so. The main title of this book suggests that its readers are in store for some lighthearted, lively, and entertaining stuff. This, however, is only half fhe truth. The other, more important half is conveyed by fhe subtitle: Probing China's Predicament, which necessarily calls for serious, intense thinking and qualified scholarship. It is to the author's credit that he manages to fuse the two qualities in one book. The fusion is evident throughout the whole book, but first of all it is manifested in the very choice of the main title itself: Evening Chats in Beijing. For several reasons the deceptively lighthearted tide carries a heavy and even tragic weight for those familiar with Chinese history and culture. First, it is chosen purposely by the auAior in reminiscence of a courageous writer named Deng Tuo. Deng, then editor of the Communist Party's major organ People's Daily, was driven to suicide in 1966 for daring to challenge Mao Zedong's authority with a collection of erudite essays titled "Evening Chats in Yanshan [another name for Beijing] ." Moreover, the personal persecution of Deng was used by Mao to trigger the Cultural Revolution, perhaps the greatest tragedy ever experienced by the Chinese people. The tragic death of a man of courage and independent thinking coupled with Aie vast historical tragedy it helped to foment lends to the book's title an underlying tone of brooding and sobriety typical of the book as a whole. Second, as Aie author stresses, in the historical context of post-Mao China, "evening chats" was not simply a distinct form of conversation, but more important , it represented a distinct language, the "unofficial language," as the author terms it, that challenged the hegemony of the "official language" set up during the Mao era. The discussion of the division and interplay between "official" and "unofficial " modes of discourse in this book constitutes what another reviewer, Timothy Tung, describes as a "gem,"1 the craftsmanship of which requires a deft mastery of the Chinese language. "Chats" were thus not merely a form of"private" conversation. As a distinct "language game," they became a distinct "form of life," Reviews 181 terms it, that challenged Aie hegemony ofAie "official language" set up during the Mao era. The discussion ofthe division and interplay between "official" and "unofficial" modes of discourse in this book constitutes what another reviewer, Timothy Tung, describes as a "gem,"1 the craftsmanship ofwhich requires a deft mastery of the Chinese language. "Chats" were thus not merely a form of "private " conversation. As a distinct "language game," they became a distinct "form oflife," to borrow from Wittgenstein.2 The "chat" in fact turned into a special mode of"public" discourse, an "open" political and cultural forum that competed witii Aie official discourse for symbolic influence. With the loosening ofpolitical control in the eighties this "unofficial" discourse continued to expand. Furthermore, Aie drive for expansion was fueled by a culturally entrenched, unAagging sense of "moral-social responsibility " unique to Chinese intellectuals. By engaging himself in this special kind of "evening chats," the author managed to probe to a considerable degree the predicament and destiny of China as seen by some ofher most brilliant and sensitive minds. The following passage shows how the author tried to penetrate what he calls elsewhere "China's 'core' problem,"3 which is also the Aieme ofthe book.4 The "unofficial" sphere [of discourse] grew ever larger as the intellectuals I encountered got to know me better. It struck me that Chinese scholars in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 180-192
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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