A close look at Inner Mongolia through “Wolf Totem”

June 17, 2014

Another way to learn about China is through Chinese literature and film. Jiang Rong is the pen name for Lu Jiamin, a Chinese citizen and author. 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’s 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 who wants to learn more about the life of the Mongols and another perspective of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

However, the theme that runs through the novel 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 repeatedly—a bit too much but an insignificant criticism of a book worth reading

I won’t give away the ending, but don’t expect it to be happy. Most Chinese novels don’t end with happy endings.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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