Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing

Overview

Ten Thousand Things explores the many forms of life, or, in ancient Chinese parlance "the ten thousand things" that life is and is becoming, in contemporary Beijing and beyond. Coauthored by an American anthropologist and a Chinese philosopher,
the book examines the myriad ways contemporary residents of Beijing understand and nurture the good life, practice the embodied arts of everyday well-being, and in doing so draw on cultural resources ...

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Overview

Ten Thousand Things explores the many forms of life, or, in ancient Chinese parlance "the ten thousand things" that life is and is becoming, in contemporary Beijing and beyond. Coauthored by an American anthropologist and a Chinese philosopher,
the book examines the myriad ways contemporary residents of Beijing understand and nurture the good life, practice the embodied arts of everyday well-being, and in doing so draw on cultural resources ranging from ancient metaphysics to modern media.

Farquhar and Zhang show that there are many activities that nurture life: practicing meditative martial arts among friends in a public park; jogging, swimming, and walking backward; dancing, singing, and keeping pet birds;
connoisseurship of tea, wine, and food; and spiritual disciplines ranging from meditation to learning a foreign language. As ancient life-nurturing texts teach, the cultural practices that produce particular forms of life are generative in ten thousand ways: they "give birth to life and transform the transformations." This book attends to the patterns of city life, listens to homely advice on how to live, and interprets the great tradition of medicine and metaphysics. In the process, a manifold culture of the urban Chinese everyday emerges. The lives nurtured, gathered, and witnessed here are global and local, embodied and discursive, ecological and cosmic, civic and individual. The elements of any particular life -- as long as it lasts, and with some skill and determination -- can be gathered, centered, and harmonized with the way things spontaneously go. The result, everyone says, is pleasure.

Zone Books

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935408185
  • Publisher: Zone Books
  • Publication date: 3/16/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,023,907
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Farquhar is Max Palevsky Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences and Chair of the
Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Knowing
Practice: The Clinical Encounter of Chinese Medicine
, Appetites: Food and Sex in
Post-Socialist China
, and Beyond the Body Proper: Reading the Anthropology of
Material Life
.

Qicheng Zhang is a Professor of Classical Medical Chinese and Cultural Studies at the Beijing
University of Chinese Medicine and the author of many books on the Chinese heritage of life nurturing.

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