Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing

Judith Farquhar and Qicheng Zhang. Zone Books (MIT, dist.), $34.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-935408-18-5
This intriguing study of yangsheng (life nurturing) practices in contemporary Beijing by University of Chicago anthropologist Farquhar (Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-Socialist China) and Zhang, a Beijing professor of Chinese medicine and culture, draws its title from a Chinese expression for life’s myriad forms of self-realization. Yangsheng encompasses a wide (indeed nebulous) range of daily mind-body exercises held for the most part in public places, with common activities including calisthenics, group singing, martial arts, kite flying, landscape painting, and walking or jogging. Building (with minimal academic jargon) on the work of urban theorists like Henri Lefebvre, contemporary Chinese scholar Duanfang Lu, and filmmaker Ning Ying, as well as a decade of engagement with the city’s amateur and professional life-nurturers, the authors attend to an urban landscape in rapid transformation, in which popular intentions and top-down planning conflict and converge around issues of tradition and modernity in a globalized, Olympics-era Beijing. A suggestive addition to current studies of urban realities in a neoliberal age, the book takes account of massive structural changes affecting Beijing life while emphasizing the unknowable future of a multivalent city ever in the process of being born. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 353 pages - 978-1-935408-31-4
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