A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman

Ning Lao T’ai-t’ai lived a full and difficult life; she bore and buried children, worked as a maidservant, begged for food, and felt pride in her old age by sharing a home with her son and his family. A lively, driven woman who wants only to provide for her family, Ning Lao wonders how life would have been different with a formal education: "I might have been somebody in the world." When her husband sells their kitchenware, she gets it back; when he sells their daughters, she gets them back, then must give one up because she’s unable to feed her. As a maidservant she often works for Christian missionaries but refuses to accept their religion. She describes the importance of neighbors and self-reliance in the life of a peasant, stating bluntly: "I am not afraid of hard work but I am afraid of hunger..." Her life is recorded in conversations with Ida Pruitt over a two-year period. — From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith
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264 pgs.
Kessinger Publishing, LLC
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Average: 5 (1 vote)


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A timeless and extremely valuable primary resource for understanding China between 1867 and 1937

Field of Interest/Specialty: East Asia
Posted On: 06/13/2014

I used DAUGHTER OF HAN in Chinese history courses taken primarily by high school sophomores and juniors. Lao Ning (old lady Ning) was illiterate and told her life story to Ida Pruitt, who, thankfully, wrote it down. Since these were tumultuous times for China (wars with Japan, Russia, a revolution in 1911, and then the internal conflict between the nationalist government and the Communist army before WWII) her personal views are invaluable. You also learn a lot about her opium-addicted husband, her children and grandchildren. This is an essential resource for understanding China.