“There’s a grand narrative of the Chinese Revolution. It’s about how the Communist Party made this triumphant, Long March to escape from the Nationalist Party after it was almost extinguished. They ended up in North China living in isolated redoubts, one of the most famous of which is Yan’an. That’s where the idea of Mao as a sacred figure, the idea of the Communist Party having this miracle-filled, epic quest to save the country comes from. For the Communist Party, it’s a celebratory myth, a powerful story of victory over impossible odds…This is a story that scholars—but not just scholars—want to complicate by bringing in such things as internecine fighting that went on, the struggles between different groups. It wasn’t predetermined that one version of communist ideology would take hold. By posing ‘accidental’ with ‘holy land’ in the title, the book is suggesting that this was driven so much by contingency, by personalities, by the structures of the time. So it’s a case of retelling a grand narrative from a different perspective. That won’t shock scholars, but he does it with a granular detail and feel for the setting and the personalities that is special.” Read more...
The Best China Books of 2022