Robert J. AntonyApr 26, 2023
Rats, Cats, Rogues, and Heroes
Glimpses of China's Hidden Past
Rowman & Littlefield 2023
History has many untold stories. In Rats, Cats, Rogues, and Heroes: Glimpses of China's Hidden Past (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023), the author Robert J. Antony provides glimpses into China’s hidden past through the native’s point of view. Rather than simply writing about ordinary people, this book is written from the perspective of ordinary people, how they told their own stories about themselves, their communities, and their pasts. The author examines historical consciousness as revealed in people’s everyday lives and as expressed through customary rituals, sociocultural conventions, language, and the complex symbolism of common human experiences. The focus is on ethnic groups and individuals who have been routinely discriminated against in mainstream society and treated by officials as rogues and criminals. They were denizens of the underworld of “rivers and lakes” (jianghu), a sociocultural category that includes bandits, sorcerers, conmen, and prostitutes. To get at their silent history the author spent decades conducting field research in rural areas of southern China, collecting rarely used unconventional sources—folklore, legends, myths, rumors, and hearsay—that reveal nuggets of new information and insights not found in the conventional sources in libraries and archives. This book challenges many commonplace assumptions about how academics write history by offering alternative possibilities for China’s past.
Huiying Chen is an Assistant Professor in History at Purdue University. She is interested in the circulation of people, goods, and ideas and how societies in history and today cope with the challenges wrought by increased travel in aspects of culture, politics, commerce, law, science, and technology.