I have an interest in China and things Chinese for sometime now. Although I take interest in countries, people and cultures in general, my interest in China seems to have an obsessive character to it.
I have read articles on Chinese culture, history, politics and, of course, China's rise to global prominence. But, I guess, fictions provide the best view of people and societies.
I am reading a Chinese fiction, The Eye of Jade, a detective thriller where the protagonist is trying to unravel a complex plot to trace a missing antique piece – an eye of jade – which dates back to the Han dynasty.
I don’t know whether or not the search will be successful as I haven’t finished the novel, but the novel has provided me with some interesting insights on how China and Chinese society work. Some of the things are common place and some unique.
The society is cleaved into two broad classes: first, people who stay in the cities and second, the provincial population.
For example, if you are an eligible bachelor but hail from provinces, your provincial upbringing is enough to disqualify you as a groom of a girl who comes from a city. Provincial peculiarities are looked down upon by the by urbanites.
There is a premium on staying in Beijing.
Arranged marriage is an established practice. The prospects are generally put in touch with each other by common social contacts.
Some resent the Communist party for its miserable human-right records while others are thankful to the party due to personal stability acquired through loyal service in government positions.
There is no press freedom; the media, used as a propaganda tool, is part of the Communist party and completely controlled by it. The people working in the media are party loyalists.
There are noodle bars everywhere and of different varieties - small, large, up-market and dingy. The noodle bars sometimes double up as sex parlors.
Going through this maze, the protagonist is trying to find her way to the eye of jade. The story is interesting and the language is very simple.