1250 word (Modern Chinese History) Review of: Pa Chin's; Family - Book Report/Review Example

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This essay about book names Pa chin’s family, it is a highly celebrated autobiographical literature produced by Li Yao Tang but was published under his well-known pen name , Pa Chin. He belonged to a family of scholars and was taught how to read and write at an early age with the help of various tutors…
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1250 word (Modern Chinese History) Book Review of: Pa Chins; Family
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Download file to see previous pages Essay Pa Chin's family decribing life of autor. During his youth, he became a proponent of anarchism and subsequently joined the anarchist organization called the Equality Society. As a matter of fact, Pa Chin’s pen name was derived from the names of two very famous Russian anarchists, Bakunin and Kropotkin. His political ideology has been the prime inspiration behind his book, The Family, and is also a commentary, which highlights the events that transpired in the Chinese society during the early 20th century.
Pa Chin’s Family: Book review
Pa chin’s family is a highly celebrated autobiographical literature produced by Li Yao Tang but was published under his well-known pen name , Pa Chin. He belonged to a family of scholars and was taught how to read and write at an early age with the help of various tutors. Besides being learned, his family was also actively involved in the politics of China. During 1920 he enrolled in Chengdu Foreign Language Specialist School, where he studied English and three years later joined university. (Lang, 1968, p.p 37-44)
Pa Chin showed great interest in literature and his ideology was molded by eminent writers of the western world. During his youth, he became a proponent of anarchism and subsequently joined the anarchist organization called the Equality Society. As a matter of fact, Pa Chin’s pen name was derived from the names of two very famous Russian anarchists, Bakunin and Kropotkin. His political ideology has been the prime inspiration behind his book, The Family, and is also a commentary, which highlights the events that transpired in the Chinese society during the early 20th century. (Lang, 1968, p. 47)
Though, Pa Chin has denied being present in the novel, but has stated that the character of the younger is closely associated with his personality. China underwent some major societal and political changes in the early 1900’s that is the prime theme of the novel; it also tells the experiences of various Chinese families during that era. The story is set in Pa Chin’s hometown, Chengdu that is located in the province of Szechuan. It follows the lives of three brothers, who are called Chueh-hsin, Chueh-min and Chueh-hui. They are central characters in the novel, whose lives illustrate the society’s move towards modernity, with a touch of tragedy as well. The premise provides an immense amount of insight in to the Fengjian system that formed the basis of the Chinese society during the 20th century.
Pa Chin has tried to embed a number of themes in its plot, from the feudalistic familial make-up in China that requires all the members to conform to the demands of their elders. The social stratification actually roots from the domestic structure that has been hierarchized according to age. Chueh-hsin is the eldest son, who is given the responsibility over his younger brother following the death of their father.
Chueh-hsin is portrayed as extremely meek and does not even possess a domineering personality to help him assert his will over his brothers. Besides the huge estate, the family consists of Chueh-hsin’s brothers, uncles, aunts, concubines and cousins. The elder one is often manipulated by his grandfather and other elders in the house that Chueh-hsin was supposed to assume the responsibility of. It is filial piety that is often taken advantage of and the younger brother, Chueh-hui has a temperament that is in stark contrast with that of his brother.
Grandfather or Yeh-yeh is a very autocratic figure in the family, whose actions and motivation is primarily based on Confucian ideology and principles that were rapidly becoming extinct. The younger brother is symbolic of a true revolutionary character and a humanitarian, as he refuses to sit in a sedan chair, considering it to be too inhuman. The older brother holds the same views, but his protests are quickly silenced by Yeh-yeh through affection or elderly domination. Chueh-hsin’s temperament is more or less like that of the early revolutionaries, who acknowledged the flaws of the Confucian system, but were optimistic enough to believe that they can be fixed and co-exist with progressive movements. Thus, the dynamics of his relationship with his grandfather can be compared to the embryonic stages of revolution in China against the Qing dynasty.
The stance of the brothers is often ambiguous and in many scenarios their ambivalence towards the traditionalist Chinese society is quite ostensible. For instance, Chueh-hsin believes that the conventional system is dying and modernity is the only panacea to the shortcomings in their society, but he lacks the courage to stand up for his beliefs. All three of the brothers are at the threshold of modernity, but are shackled by the old value system. Out of all three of them Chueh-hui is the only one, who is quite overt in his display of loathing for the old system and the following quote from the novel demonstrates it accurately. It says:
That book Yeh-yeh gave me – “On filial piety and the shunning of lewdness” – was still on the table. I picked it up and skimmed through a few page. The whole thing is nothing, but a lesson on how to behave like a slave. It’s full of phrases like “The minister who is unwilling to die at his sovereign’s command is not loyal: of all virtues, filial piety is the best”. (p. 84)
The traditional system was often dubbed as legalized form of slavery; it stripped an individual of his basic right to exercise his own free will. On the other hand, the traditional method dictated that all individual must bow down to authority. Even if the authoritative is at fault then the philosophy of “compliant bow” is to be implemented to establish harmony while also reinforcing the hierarchy in the society. The latter ideology was adopted by the elder brother, whereas the younger one tore the book apart after being greatly infuriated by the unfairness of the system. (p. 84)
As a matter of fact, Pa Chin described his reaction as the more he read; the angrier it made him, which eventually led him to take such an extreme measure. He believed that one less copy of the book would save some people from this corrupt ideology (p.p 84-86). Chueh-hui is a major proponent of western values; he advocates for them without fully understanding it, but he is one of the few the few people who do understand how dilapidated the traditional system is. This earns the ire of his family, who believed in adhering to the views of their elders that involved enslavement at the hands of dead ancestors and bureaucracy.
Not only Chueh-Hui, but Chueh-min seemed to have shared similar views on the matter of modernization. The history of modern China has been smeared with blood and the remaining part of the novel covers the spread of war across the city of Chengdu taking the Kao family in its fold as well. It was indeed a tragic outcome for all the members, but also marked an epiphantic moment for the three brothers. However, they understood that revolution and change comes at a heavy price and requires a lot of sacrifices to propel the society forward.
The three brothers represented a handful of Chinese youth who desperately favored the move towards modernity during the twentieth century. Historically, China had established its reputation on an international front for its ethnocentricism that triggered xenophobic tendencies in the masses. Despite the obvious disadvantages of the old system, the Chinese people took a lot of pride in them and shunned western practices.
Life of autor was not so easy. The traditional system was often dubbed as legalized form of slavery; it stripped an individual of his basic right to exercise his own free will. On the other hand, the traditional method dictated that all individual must bow down to authority. Even if the authoritative is at fault then the philosophy of “compliant bow” is to be implemented to establish harmony while also reinforcing the hierarchy in the society. The latter ideology was adopted by the elder brother, whereas the younger one tore the book apart after being greatly infuriated by the unfairness of the system.
After the struggle, they had embraced modernization but soon there was a need to find balance between traditionalism and modernity, so that the people could retain their identities. The three brothers did not really concur with each other on their chosen method for implementing, they all had one thing in common that they did acknowledge the fact that the society was in dire need of change. Due to the peoples’ strict adherence to their traditionalist beliefs, it took a long while for China to finally see eye to eye with western philosophy and incorporate progressive ideology into the framework of their society.
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