Daily Life for the Common People of China, 1850 to 1950: Understanding Chaoben Culture

Suleski, Ronald. Daily life for the common people of China, 1850 to 1950 : understanding chaoben culture. Leiden : Brill, 2018. 464 p. (Coll. « China Studies » ; 39) ; (Coll. « Brill’s Asian Studies E-Books Online »). ISBN : 978-90-04-36103-4 (e-book) . DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004361034 (consulté le 8 février 2019)


In this exciting book, Ronald Suleski introduces daily life for the common people of China in the century from 1850 to 1950. They were semi-literate, yet they have left us written accounts of their hopes, fears, and values. They have left us the hand-written manuscripts ( chaoben 抄本) now flooding the antiques markets in China. These documents represent a new and heretofore overlooked category of historical sources.
Suleski gives a detailed explanation of the interaction of chaoben with the lives of the people. He offers examples of why they were so important to the poor laboring masses: people wanted horoscopes predicting their future, information about the ghosts causing them headaches, a few written words to help them trade in the rural markets, and many more examples are given. The book contains a special appendix giving the first complete translation into English of a chaoben describing the ghosts and goblins that bedeviled the poor working classes.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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