“I VENTURE to foretell,” says Prof. Malinowski in opening his interesting preface to this book, “ that ‘Peasant Life in China’ by Dr. Hsiao-Tung Fei will be counted as a landmark in the development of anthropological field-work and theory.” Later he quotes Sir Denison Ross in a statement in which he defines the position of this work in scientific literature and says “I regard this treatise as quite exceptional. I know of no other work which describes at first hand and with intimate understanding the full story of life in a Chinese village community. We have had works dealing with statistics, economic studies and novels full of local colour—but in no book have I found the answer to every enquiry, which the curious stranger might make”. Commendation could not well go further. These authorities, each selecting for mention a quality and aspect of this piece of field-work, which offers to him a special appeal, emphasizes its two-fold interest for the reader. On one side the book is a first-rate study of social conditions, which though drawn from a limited area, may be taken as applying with local modifications to a preponderance of the population of China immediately before present Japanese aggression; on the other side it is a practical demonstration of the contribution to be made by anthropological studies in the field towards a planned approach to the solution of the problems, political, social and administrative, which arise from cultural contacts, when Western civilization impinges on other, and in a material sense, less advanced forms of civilization.
Peasant Life in China
A Field Study of Country Life in the Yangtze Valley. By Dr. Hsiao-Tung Fei. Pp. xxvi + 300 + 14 plates. (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1939.) 12s. 6d. net.
About this article
Journal of Economic Issues (1978)