China (or Gyna if you’re a certain orange-faced leader) is one of the biggest players in the global economy with a huge diaspora, a formidable army and an ever growing economy. However, the language barrier, ‘The Great Firewall of China’ which restricts internet access, gives us little scope into the hot soup of diversity that is The People’s Republic of China. Just like a game of ‘Chinese Whisper’ most of what we hear is either distorted or propaganda so while everything may be made in China, we look into what China is made of. Here is a list of 6 books to guide your journey through China!

The Land of Five Flavours: A Cultural History of Chinese Cuisine

by Thomas o. Hollmann

01Chinese food is an integral part of our modern culture. We have spent a significant chunk of our childhood- weekends, birthdays and wedding celebrations at Deshi Chinese restaurants which had “Careless Whisper” playing on repeat. Like our nation, Chinese food has been embraced globally and blended into the mainstream food culture. Hollmann discusses the variations in Chinese food around the world, facts and myths of Chinese food culture, traditions and customs. From the invention of noodles (reminisces late night Maggi Noodles) to an array of Chinese recipes which you could prepare and shock your family. You can now justify all those hours you spent watching Masterchef!

02The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers

by Richard McGregor

Chinese politics is a tumultuous rollercoaster ride of revolutions, reforms and interventions. The Communist China has been unbound from the shackles of its man-made poverty and famine but the Communist Party still wields totalitarian power in China. How do things get done in China? How can a country be ‘communist’ and ‘capitalist’ simultaneously? The Party shows the intricacies of the Communist Party that dictates every aspect of your life in China. Every. Single. Aspect. Is development worth the cost of freedom?

03Celebrating Chinese Festivals: A Collection of Holiday Tales, Poems and Activities

by Sanmu Tang

Yes, this is a children’s book. Yes, we know you are readers of content heavy, contemporary literature. However, to truly appreciate the vibrancy and the folklore that dictates the Chinese cultural festivals, it is best to view it from a child’s perspective. It explains the traditions with fun, colourful illustrations; the customs with an amusing tone. Tang shows us the multitudes of festivals and the varieties of food they offer. If you want to know the origin of the Chinese New Year and horoscope, it’s instantly more fun to do so with caricatures of dragons and rabbits than analysing the metaphorical usage of the animals to create a pseudo-scientific metric to evaluate an individual’s psychological comportment based on the movement of celestial bodies. (See, adulthood is boring.)

04Youth Culture in Chinese Language Film

by Xuelin Zhou

It is a difficult task to find a person who hasn’t LOL-ed while watching ‘Shaolin Soccer’. Most of us were awed by the mind boggling stunts of Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee’s divine prowess of the martial arts. If not anything else we would always have a laugh at the absolutely hilarious English dubbing of the Chinese movies or simply at their crude and childish form of comedy. However, movies reflect the youth of the nation and the ideas they grow up with. Zhou shows how new directors and movies are bringing changes to the cinemas and shaping a more liberal youth. But propaganda is rampant too. Will the modern Chinese movies bring in a new dynamic to the youth of China?

05The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory

by He Zhen

While we believe Feminism to be a mostly Western ideology, He Zhen was quite ahead of her time with criticisms of patriarchy, imperialism, gender disparity and subjects which remain taboo till this date. This book is particularly well structured as it compares the essays of Zhen to two of her male contemporaries. It gives responses and newer perspectives to Asian feminism. Thus, we get a more comprehensive coverage of the feminism in a nation that is notorious for the maltreatment of women.

06China In 10 Words

by Yu Hua

This book is a general summary of modern day China. The industrialisation and the rampant rise of the manufacturing industry are well documented. The revolutions and the abundance of the violence it brought about are well documented. It goes into the depths of the copy industry- ripping off of popular brands to make cheaper products. The cunning of the modern Chinese businesses and the disregard for the environment all are beautifully structured into short self-unfolding stories. The decadent soul in striving to become successful pushes people down a rabbit hole of misery. The race makes debauchery the new normal and “Chinese Miracle” doesn’t seem as blissful as before.

by Ishmamul Hawk