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on 22 June 2003
Adeline Yen Mah, author of "Falling Leaves", has written this book primarily to teach people about the origin and meaning of Chinese proverbs and thus let us gain an insight into "the way the Chinese think". She does this through telling us the history of the first Emperor of China and the subsequent bloodletting and struggles of the Qin and Han dynasties from when many Chinese proverbs and life wisdom have their origins.
The text alternates between telling this history to then applying the proverbs to anecdotes and memories from her own childhood and family antagonisms, which readers of her first book will be familiar with.
Despite the historical focus of the book, in actual fact I found her personal stories much more accessible and interesting to read and felt that she did not have quite the same gift for telling Chinese history than she does have for telling her own personal story. Having said this, I think it is a book I will definitely need to read twice to properly understand the history but perhaps that is down to my own ignorance rather than the style.
The historical accounts were interesting but I did find it difficult to follow all the characters and to be aware of who was who.As an aid for newcomers to ancient Chinese history, the book could have included pictures of the people she was referring to so that readers could visualise them and gain a clearer understanding.
All in all a very interesting concept for a book and I praise Adeline Yen Mah for tackling Ancient Chinese history which I think more Westerners should know about. The proverbs she chose succeeded in giving me a good idea of how people think and use them in everyday life.
Chinese history is a fascinating area and she attempted to bring it alive in a very interesting way. I look forward to her next book.
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on 9 March 2005
Adeline Yen Mah succeeds in weaving a fascinating period of history with her own, more modern personal experiences through the incorporation of ancient Chinese proverbs that are equally applicable to life now.
By using the time of the First Emperors of China as a backdrop to the events in her own life, the reader is introduced to a time long ago, whilst at the same time forever focussed on the present. This is perhaps one of the most important features of a book that could easily go unnoticed by many, throughout the reading the reader will find themselves stumbling across proverbs written over two thousand years ago that carry some meaning to their own lives. They will recognise character traits of long dead personalities that are still tied to basic human nature. Reflecting on the book after reading, I have to ask myself, if these proverbs are still applicable hundreds of years on from their inception, in a culture so very different from China BC, have we, as a race, really evolved or changed that much?
Aside from the bigger questions that the book may lead to, at the same time it provides a wonderful introduction to a period of history, that the western world is perhaps not as familiar with as it could be. With this in mind I would recommend it to anyone who may be interested in learning about ancient China.
The book is informative, whilst at the same time inspirational. We are, after all, at heart, "Little Sparrows with Dreams of Swans".
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on 24 April 2003
This book is a wonderful mix of ancient chinese history and wonderful story telling, making it an incredibly interesting and easy book to read. The author tells the story of events from around the era of chinas first empora and how these came to form proverbs that she demonstrates are still used today in modern china. By interspersing the story telling with accounts from her own life she prevents the book from turning into a history lesson and makes it a great read. My only critisism would be the occassional blatant advertising of her other book 'falling leaves'. I would highly recomend A Thousand Pieces of Gold to anyone with an interest in chinas history, proverbs or people.
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on 17 May 2003
The books really moved me. I cried with her and felt like I was sharing her sorrow. Adeline Yen Mah is a talented author and I love her books. She makes you feel like you are that unwanted girl. I recommened this book to everyone it is a book that you will cherish forever.
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on 9 April 2010
As the student of Chinese is aware, the language is full of idioms and sayings drawn from history. Adeline Yen Mah weaves these into what would otherwise be an ordinary account of the the rise of Qin Shi Huang Di and the beginnings of the Han empire, heavily drawing on Sima Qian's 'Shi Ji', and recounts interludes from her own life to demonstrate their relevance to her and modern Chinese thought. The result is a narrative that, although for the most part is perfectly readable, at times seems a little contrived. The flow of the text is disturbed as she seeks to introduce idioms in pinyin (followed by English translations) into a variety of situations while she flits from ancient history to her experiences and back again.
The author's stated aim, however, is to offer an insight into the way the Chinese think. Here, she has had limited success. She has demonstrated a reverence for the past (which hitherto has probably hindered China's progress) but has not delved deeply enough into Confucian, Daoist and Legalist thought to allow the reader a reasonable understanding of the Chinese.
On a separate issue, I personally found the author's references to her own life distracting. To me, she comes across as a slightly arrogant, self-righteous, bitter woman, flushed with her own success, who needs to get over her past. What family, Chinese or otherwise, could forgive being vilified in public by one of its own, even if what was written is true?
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on 22 August 2003
For one who has not much background on Chineses History, one would agree that this does give an insight into Chinese History. However for one who has some background of Chinese History, this is a kind of "history is written by the winner". The inclusion of personal accounts by the author seems to distort the objectivity of the history - history is a subjective matter anyway. Inclusion of her personal tragic account creates the "sympathy vote" effect. I think this is best suited as a biography or real story type fiction. I don't think the book has done enough justice to the title nor the proverbs.
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on 2 August 2003
Adeline yen mah, well known for her previous releases falling leaves and watching the tree, has within this book produced the best and most digestable introduction into acient chinese history and the birth of the middle kingdom.
She uses her own life and the experiences of 20th century china to illustrate the past of over 2000 years ago. Her main reference is shiji (grand history) and turns the stories of everyone from the first emperor, his rise and fall at the hand of some of his most trusted advisers and his won son, to the struggle of liu bang the pesent who would later establish china with his brillantly moral method of cpturing the hearts and minds of the people.
What makes this book great is firstly that there is no real introduction which general reader can pick up and just read, and few in depth ones (just try getting hold of shiji in english). Secondly it's the way it's written the stories are presented in personalised accounts making them compelling and easy to read and understand. thirdly it's a very practical reason it's very cheap and acessible and well presented.
If there is any problem it may be that it is hort and she only consults one source properly. however chinese history is one of the oldest still survivng in the world and considering china has the largest population in the world this is and invaluable book that requires your attention if have the slightest interest on chinese history or culture.
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on 9 March 2013
An excellent informative guide on Chinese proverbs. Another great book from the amazing Adeline yen mah. Well worth getting. I would recommend to anyone who is interested in china.
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on 23 March 2016
good read
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on 28 August 2003
This is a book worth reading if you do not much background to Chinese history. However the mixture of personal accounts with history seems not to have done much justice to the proverbs themselves. Beginners to Chinese history will find this book interesting.
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