Another way to learn about China is through Chinese literature and film. Jiang Rong is the pen name for Lu Jiamin, a Chinese citizen. Set during the Cultural Revolution, Wolf Totem describes the education of an intellectual living with nomadic herders in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.
The publisher of Wolf Totem says this novel is an epic Chinese tale and that is true. Wolf Totem taught me a lot about this almost extinct culture. I learned about the fascinating connection between wolves and Mongols and why this connection may have been the reason why Genghis Khan was so successful in his conquests.
I recommend this novel to anyone that wants to learn more about the life of the Mongols and another aspect of the Cultural Revolution. However, the philosophy of maintaining a balance with nature is a bit overdone. I got the message the first time the characters talked about it but then the topic comes up over and over and over—a bit to much for my taste.
I won’t give away the ending, but don’t expect it to be a happy. Most Chinese novels don’t end with happy endings.
A defense of Wolf Totem By Timothy Weston