Telling China's Story, One Life at a Time

New book presents Chinese society 'from the ground up'

NEW YORK, September 17, 2012 — UC Irvine History professor and Asia Society Associate Fellow Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author Xujun Eberlein, photographer and author Howard French (Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life) and writer and translator Megan Shank launched their provocative new anthology Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land here with a panel discussion that, like the book itself, set out to challenge broad generalizations about "what the Chinese think" and undercut familiar media stereotypes and "sound bites" about China and the Chinese.

Looking at Chinese society "from the ground up," Chinese Characters is populated by cab drivers, retirees, migrant workers, a car rental entrepreneur, and many others. The writers, drawn from the worlds of academia and journalism, challenged their own research and writing methods in an attempt to give voice to ordinary Chinese people and express some of the diversity of opinions and outlooks found in China today.

Reported by Cathy Han

Video: Highlights from the program (5 min., 30 sec.)


Related links:
Watch the complete program

Read an excerpt from Chinese Characters
Interview with Chinese Characters contributor Megan Shank
Interview with Chinese Characters contributor Peter Hessler