Summary: A rare look at life at the turn of the century in China
Comment: China always seems to have a veil of mystery around it. This book give a rare glimpse of life at the turn of the 19th century as the empire was dying and the nationalists and communists were gearing up for battle. I read this book for a class on Chinese women and absolutely loved it. I will always remember the part of having her feet bound and how her mother would lay on her legs at night so that she could sleep. Unfortunately I lost the book after many years. It wasn't until now, as I was conducting inventory of our biography collection at the library where I work, that I came across the sequal to this book. For those who could not get enough of Lao Tai-tai, there is a second book by Ida Pruitt titled "Old Madam Yin: a memoir of Peking life 1926-1938." The copyright date is 1979. The Daughter of Han is now a wealthy widow struggling to adapt to the new order. If you can't find it on amazon you can always Inter-library loan the book, I know there's at least one library in the midwest that has it ;).
Summary: Superb documentation of a Chinese working woman
Comment: This riveting book details an area of Chinese life seldom touched by written records. The remarkable friendship between Ida Pruitt and Ning Lao Toai-Toai has led to this very readable, and beautifully textured description of Ning Lao Toai-Toai's life in the late 19th and early 20th century. I found it both an enjoyable read and a valuable source of information about my research related to Chinese family life.
Summary: A Slice of Life
Comment: Ning Lao Ta'i-ta'i. _The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman. Translated and Transcribed by Ida Pruitt. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967.
Every now and then I read an entire book in one for one or two reasons a) I have to read a book that I have put off for the time period in which I had to read it b) I become completely engrossed in it. I must say that, in the case of this book, it started off as the former and it ended up being the latter, although I still have to write a paper on it by tuesday.
This memoir was was orally transcribed by Ida Pruitt over a two year period in which Mrs. Ning visited her from 1936-38. Pruitt was forced to leave Beijing in 1938 when the Japanese invaded the series. In the brief introduction of the book, Pruitt informs the reader that she does not know what happened to Mrs. Ning after she returned to America. The brutallity of the Japanese army was not as great in Beijing as in such areas as Nanjing and Shanghai,but one can not help wondering about Mrs.Ning who the reader, or at least I, becomes quite attached to.
Mrs. Ning begins her tale by detailing how her family became established in the town of P'englai her family history is both entrenched in history and folklore and makes for a fascinting read. The book continues following her life from her childhood, marriage, hard times, working both for government officials and missionaries, and finally living in Beijing. The greatest thing about this book is the extraordinary detail Mrs. Ning goes into describing her everyday life. One can almost see oneself removing the fourth wall of the past and being able to see late Ching China. One gets to see a good picture of opium addiction and the dealings inside yamen, political offices, that are no longer controlled by skilled officials. A great book.
Summary: I Really Liked this book!
Comment: I had to read this book for a core class in college and I thought that I would have hated it. Actually, I really liked it. It told of a Chinese working woman's life. It even gives the reader an insight into her lifestyle and her struggles during this tumuluous time in history. The story even touches on the japanese invasion. I didn't think this biography would be interesting but it was. I would recommended this book to anyone. It is a light read and it is very interesting.
Summary: life of one Chinese woman
Comment: Ida Pruitt's biography of Ning Lao T'ai-t'ai (literally "old lady Ning"), a peasant woman of northeast China born in 1867, is a fascinating anecdotal retelling of Ning's personal history as she related it to the author over the course of their two year long friendship. The storyline of Ning's life: childhood, marriage, work, and children, is laid out in a chronological history, broken into separate sections at particular turning points; and yet a cohesive theme of hardship, oppression and poverty, of strong-willed women and weak men is carried throughout not only Ning's tales but also through the stories she relates of her ancestors and neighbors.
Pruitt writes in the voice of Ning as if she is translating, but what she is really doing is recalling Ning's stories of her life in the first half of the 20th century. Ning was born into an educated middle class family which had fallen on harder times. Her father wants a better situation for her marriage, but the older husband he choses for her becomes addicted to opium driving the family into poverty. To survive and feed her children Ning must become first a beggar, then a servant to various households: military, Muslim, bureaucrat, and finally to Christian missionaries. And Ning's voice does come across clearly; speaking against concubinage and prostitution, about the penury of employers, the need to support and keep family together.
By using a first person retelling of the stories Pruitt gives the impresssion of accuracy, yet there were 7 years between the conversations with Ning and the writing of the book. Also the apparent bias against Japanese in prologue and last chapter together with the pub. date of the book indicate a hidden agenda on the part of the author. Still, although limited to the view of this one woman's experience, Ning's story is reflective of the hardships of life for Chinese women before the Communist era.