Appearance vs. Reality

LD Isabella Agostino

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外观与现实 Wàiguān yǔ xiànshí

The King of Trees (树/Shù) by Ah Cheng (阿城/Ā chéng)

Student Engagement Activity (活动/Huódòng)

*I volunteer as tribute* x3

Overview

  • The King of Trees
  • Maoist intentions
  • Social and economic realities

Appearances

  • "It turned out they were all political works...the future depends on us having a solid foundation" (Cheng, 5)
  • "Li Li took the ax from him, saying he would do it himself." (Cheng, 8)
  • “We’re here to be re-educated by the poor and lower-middle peasants, to build up and defend our country and to eliminate poverty and ignorance.” (Cheng, 11)
  • "The point is to educate the peasants...old things must be destroyed." (Cheng, 43)
  • "Once it falls, a concept will be destroyed." (Cheng, 43)
  • "Knotty's head had dropped to one side and hung down..." (Cheng, 54)

Reality

  • "His first blow was off center...it landed right in the fork of a branch and wouldn't come out." (Cheng, 8)
  • "Knotty came over, planted one foot on the log and one hand on the ax handle, and the axhead slipped out nice and easy." (Cheng, 8)
  • "...I had no idea what kind of life was in store for us." (Cheng, 9)
  • "We concluded that the King of Trees must be a counterrevolutionary." (Cheng, 15)
  • "Complained that there wasn't enough of it..." (Cheng 33)
  • "I couldn't figure out if we were right to cut down the tree or not." (Cheng, 49)
  • "...Knotty's grave had burst open: the white coffin was raised high above the grave, gleaming in the sunshine." (Cheng, 55)
  • " It turned out that a tangled mass of shoots were growing vigorously from the earth in which the coffin had been laid." The earth here was loose so the new roots naturally grew fast." (Cheng, 56)

Takeaway

  • Many things in TKOT that appear to be true but aren't
  • Cheng displays appearance vs. reality in juxtaposing quotes
  • We can see the true nature of the re education process by examining the difference in these quotes

Lit Crit


  • Walking toward the World: A Turning Point in Contemporary Chinese Fiction



    Michael S. Duke

    World Literature Today, Vol. 65, No. 3, Contemporary Chinese Literature (Summer, 1991), pp. 389-394


  • Beauty lies in language and description of life of youth during revolution
  • Contrast between rural peasants' simplicity and urban youths' restlessness
  • Discards maospeak for traditional Chinese

Discussion Questions

  1. To what extent was Li Li the poster child for the desired attitude of the re-educated youth?
  2. What did Knotty represent? To what extent did what he represent actually die? Use historical examples if you have them.
  3. Explain the relationship between Li Li and Knotty.
  4. To what extent are the warring countries nowadays displaying their events in a way that doesn't depict the reality?
  5. What impact did having unrealistic expectations have on the re-educated youth during their time in the rural land?

Bibliography

  • McDougall, Bonnie S.. The king of trees. New York: New Directions Books, 2010. Print.
  • Walking toward the World: A Turning Point in Contemporary Chinese Fiction


    Michael S. Duke

    World Literature Today, Vol. 65, No. 3, Contemporary Chinese Literature (Summer, 1991), pp. 389-394