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The Porcelain Thief Searching the Middle Kingdom for Buried China review ´ 3 Hsu a first generation Chinese American returns to China to discover the fate of his great great grandfather's long buried porcelain collection and in the process unearths the key to understanding his family's history over the past one hundred years of Chinese history In the tradition of the best works of history that uncover a forgotten family story such as The Hare with Amber Eyes or The Lost The Porcelain Thief recounts journalist Huan Hsu's journey through the old and new worlds of China to find hidden treasure reconnect with his ancestry and come to terms with his hyphenated identity In 1938 when the Japanese arrived in Hsu's great great grandfather's Yangtze River hom I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers ProgramThis is a rare case where reading this as a galley doesn t really give an adeuate picture of the book Hsu has penned a book that s part memoir part genealogy uest part history lesson on China As he says at one point trying to explain Chinese history is like trying to get a drink while drowning The beginning of the books has placeholders for maps and charts and that content would have helped immensely to understand the geography and the convoluted connections within Hsu s family which often confuses and surprises the author as wellHsu is American born and raised in Utah He had to deal with frustrating comments from other people the compliments on his English the way he stood out in lily white Mormon Utah but also didn t fit in with his Chinese family He was largely ignorant of the language and history Even so he s fascinated by stories of his mother s family and of the wealth of porcelain they once had and he takes a job in China at a volatile uncle s company so he can find out The beginning of the story is a bit whiny as he describes China as it is now it sure doesn t make me want to travel to Shanghai even as the content is intriguing from the start Hsu brings a great perspective readers are likely to be ignorant of China as it is now or was in the past and I felt like I got to learn along with him Once it started to delve into the past and the often contradictory stories within his family it became a gripping book Hsu isn t searching for buried treasure to get rich It s of a sense to recover something lost His mother s family struggled through all the turbulence of the 20th century from the Sino Japanese War through World War II through communist and the horrible whims of Mao His grandmother escaped some of the worst by being a teacher in missionary schools and then immigrating from the mainland but other cousins were not so fortunate The book does a good job of showing the terrible nature of Mao and what he put the people through and Hsu with his American sensibilities struggles to understand how they endured It s not just that the porcelain was lost Almost all family pictures books and artifacts were also lost in immigration or through cultural purges There s also the historical thread about porcelain itself how it was made and where and how that industry has so drastically changedI liked the book much as I read even as I had to utterly give up on keeping track of who was who I have trouble remembering names in English so the similarity of the Chinese names and that some people had a few names was utterly confusing Maps would have been an enormous help as Hsu travels all over China and also describes where his family was and is nowIf you have any interest in China seek for this book when it s out in March At heart it s about a genealogical search for self an it s a fascinating journey

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The Porcelain Thief Searching the Middle Kingdom for Buried China review ´ 3 Etown of Xingang the family was forced to bury their valuables including a vast and prized collection of antiue porcelain and to flee on a decades long trek that would splinter it over thousands of miles and countless upheavals Hsu raised in Salt Lake City and armed with mere strands of a family legend moves to China to work in his uncle's semiconductor chip business and begins to understand his family's history as he never has before A conversation with his grandmother the last living link to his family's life in dynastic China ignites his desire to learn about not only his ancestral heirlooms but also porcelain itself Mastering conversational Chinese enough to launch hims I have mixed opinions about this book I liked how the author added Chinese history as a way to put his family s story into context both in terms of dates and how the bigger picture affected his family personally After finishing the book I was put off by the likelihood that the compelling details of his great grandfather burying his valuables were imagined and not necessarily real Also the multi page details of the personal stories of distant family members didn t add much to the story and slowed down the story I did find the author s research on porcelain history interesting as well as his views and insights on Chinese culture

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The Porcelain Thief Searching the Middle Kingdom for Buried China review ´ 3 Elf into the countryside Hsu sets out to separate the layers of fact and fiction that have grown up around both his family and China and finally complete his family's long march back home Melding memoir travelogue ethnography and social and political history The Porcelain Thief takes the reader along with Hsu as he travels throughout mainland China and Taiwan to learn about his family's fabled porcelain collection and as a result about the great great grandparents and estranged aunts and uncles he never knew The Porcelain Thief is an intimate and personal way to understand the bloody tragic and largely forgotten events that defined Chinese history in the 19th and 20th centu The book is interesting and the insights into China are great There are some lovely historical tangents I felt like the end was sudden and I also don t feel like it was finished or rounded up properly which earns it three stars for an abrupt slightly unsatisfying ending But I think it s still worth a read for anyone interested in Chinese cultural history

  • Hardcover
  • 400
  • The Porcelain Thief Searching the Middle Kingdom for Buried China
  • Huan Hsu
  • English
  • 14 March 2019
  • 9780007479436