cover image The Burning Forest: Essays on Chinese Culture and Politics

The Burning Forest: Essays on Chinese Culture and Politics

Simon Leys. Holt McDougal, $0 (257pp) ISBN 978-0-03-005063-3

The forest of the title is a metaphor for the classical culture of China, set to the torch by the Communists. In this collection of essays, Leys celebrates that heritage and decries Maoismwhose leaders he terms ""an incompetent and half-literate ruling class.'' The book's most rewarding passages examine aspects of Chinese history and culture, showing an acute appreciation of the Chinese worldview and its traditional expressions. The author's analysis of contemporary China, recounting abuses of the Communist regime (particularly during the Cultural Revolution), analyzing its major figures and projecting its future, is informed and articulate. Too often, though, his commentary descends from the sharp to the splenetic, particularly when critiquing other China watchers and academics. In all, a provocative look at China and its prospects by the author of Chinese Shadows. Leys is the pseudonym of Pierre Ryckmans, who teaches at an Australian university. January