The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath

Paperback | November 18, 2013

byZhang DayeTranslated byXiaofei Tian

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"From the cry of a tiny insect, one can hear the sound of a vast world...."

So begins Zhang Daye’s preface to The World of a Tiny Insect, his haunting memoir of war and its aftermath. In 1861, when China’s devastating Taiping rebellion began, Zhang was seven years old. The Taiping rebel army occupied Shaoxing, his hometown, and for the next two years, he hid from Taiping soldiers, local bandits, and imperial troops and witnessed gruesome scenes of violence and death. He lost friends and family and nearly died himself from starvation, illness, and encounters with soldiers on a rampage.

Written thirty years later, The World of a Tiny Insect gives voice to this history. A rare premodern Chinese literary work depicting a child’s perspective, Zhang’s sophisticated text captures the macabre images, paranoia, and emotional excess that defined his wartime experience and echoed through his adult life. The structure, content, and imagery of The World of a Tiny Insect offer a carefully constructed, fragmented narrative that skips in time and probes the relationships between trauma and memory, revealing both history and its psychic impact. Xiaofei Tian’s annotated translation includes an introduction that situates The World of a Tiny Insect in Chinese history and literature and explores the relevance of the book to the workings of traumatic memory.

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From the Publisher

"From the cry of a tiny insect, one can hear the sound of a vast world...."So begins Zhang Daye’s preface to The World of a Tiny Insect, his haunting memoir of war and its aftermath. In 1861, when China’s devastating Taiping rebellion began, Zhang was seven years old. The Taiping rebel army occupied Shaoxing, his hometown, and for the...

Zhang Daye (b. 1854) is known only as the author of The World of a Tiny Insect. Xiaofei Tian is professor of Chinese literature at Harvard University. Among her recent publications is Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-Century China.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:November 18, 2013Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295993189

ISBN - 13:9780295993188

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Map of Author’s Travels Translator’s Introduction Preface by Zhang Daye

Part 1"Trip to Tiantai" An Account of Taizhou Prefecture The Six Counties of Taizhou The "One-Headed Woman" at Huangyan Ten Poems on Xianju The Birds of Xianju

Part 2Birth and Early Childhood On the Run: 1861–1863 "Flames of War," Ghost Troops, and Other Strange Happenings Epidemic, Greed, and the Woman Dismembered at Lu’s Dyke The Occupation of Shaoxing and Its Aftermath Edible Flora and Fauna The Pleasures and Horrors of Childhood Narrow Escapes on Water Reunion with Father and Father’s Death

Editorial Reviews

"From the cry of a tiny insect, one can hear the sound of a vast world...."So begins Zhang Daye’s preface to The World of a Tiny Insect, his haunting memoir of war and its aftermath. In 1861, when China’s devastating Taiping rebellion began, Zhang was seven years old. The Taiping rebel army occupied Shaoxing, his hometown, and for the next two years, he hid from Taiping soldiers, local bandits, and imperial troops and witnessed gruesome scenes of violence and death. He lost friends and family and nearly died himself from starvation, illness, and encounters with soldiers on a rampage.Written thirty years later, The World of a Tiny Insect gives voice to this history. A rare premodern Chinese literary work depicting a child’s perspective, Zhang’s sophisticated text captures the macabre images, paranoia, and emotional excess that defined his wartime experience and echoed through his adult life. The structure, content, and imagery of The World of a Tiny Insect offer a carefully constructed, fragmented narrative that skips in time and probes the relationships between trauma and memory, revealing both history and its psychic impact. Xiaofei Tian’s annotated translation includes an introduction that situates The World of a Tiny Insect in Chinese history and literature and explores the relevance of the book to the workings of traumatic memory.The author and narrator recounts his terrible experiences and miraculous survivals with a child’s curiosity and in a vivid, straightforward way. But he also embeds what happened to him in a larger historical, philosophical, moral, and aesthetic context. No comparable primary source available in English does anything like this for the Taiping Rebellion. - Judith Zeitlin, University of Chicago