What to Read and Watch Before Going to… China

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So you’re planning a trip to China? Why not indulge in some of the country’s finest literature and most representative cinematic pieces before you go? Here are my recommendations:

Books

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie 

Semi-autobiographical, this novel recounts the story of two young men who covertly discover literature during the years of the cultural revolution.

The Analects of Confucius

Confucius is considered the single most important influencer of classical and modern Chinese thought. To truly understand the Chinese mindset, this collection of Confucius’ sayings is a vital read.

The Two Mas by Lao She

In the early 20th century, Mr Ma and his son travel to London to start a new life. This book explores the cultural differences and stigma they face.

I really enjoyed this book, particularly as the author wrote it after moving to London himself and took up a teaching position at my alma mater, The School of Oriental and African Studies.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

This novel depicts the relationship four American born daughters have with their Chinese born mothers in a modern USA. It explores their cultural differences and communication difficulties, and was also made into a film.

There is quite a bit of Chinese diaspora literature, however this piece struck a cord with me, perhaps as I grew up in a country different to the one my parents grew up in.

Films

1942

Film showing the devastating effects of the Japanese invasion on the country.

For fans of historical and war films, this is a must watch. It also helps explain Chinese/Japanese lingering tension.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

One of the most famous martial arts films, you really can’t not see this movie.

Lost in Thailand

Comedy showing the mishaps of a Chinese tourist abroad. After this film came out, Thailand was inundated with Chinese tourists.

Go Lala Go!

Romantic comedy that shows a young professional learning to balance her love and work lives. I thought this film was modern, easy to follow, and not a bad film to watch to practice your Mandarin.

Got any other suggestions? Add them below in the comment section!

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