Summary Of Michael Loewe's Bing

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There are little to no direct accounts of how individuals’ lives were a couple thousand years ago in Ancient China. With a wealth of information on the rise, decline, and fall of empires, Michael Loewe, a sinologist who specializes in oriental studies and theology, writes an imaginary story about a hero named Bing set around 70 BCE. Bing: From Farmer’s Son to Magistrate in Han China is Loewe’s fictional portrait of life during the Han Empire. It is by no means a comprehensive historical account of Han times, in fact, it was written with those readers who are not familiar with Chinese in mind, however through the life of Bing we can gage how the lives of laborers, those involved in military service, merchants, and government officials might …show more content…

We learn that Bing is his parents’ third child, and as such he was named after the third Heavenly Stem, 丙 Bing. The Heavenly Stems was part of a basic principle of classical Chinese cosmography, and was utilized as part of divination practices of the Shang emperors. The Chinese believed that “Heaven is round, Earth is square” -- an old, but common, metaphor for heaven and earth was “the shells of a turtle; heaven covers earth as the round carapace covers the ‘square’ plastron.” This implies that the beliefs of the Shang have influenced Han thought. The downfall in this noteworthy epiphane during my reading is that Loewe completely glazed over this correlation, which is one of the disadvantages of historical fiction. Even so, Loewe presents other valuable historical …show more content…

Loewe also paints an idea of what life on a farm may have been like during the Han. Not only did farmers have to measure everything, “down to the fraction of the last bushel of the crop”, should they have not done so they would have been punished by officials from the district, or superiors of the county. In one of Bing’s early memories, our protagonist recalls his father inspecting their bountiful harvest on one late afternoon in the summer, and going on a journey of several days away in order to sell their fruits and vegetables for extra money. Bing’s memories illustrate the traditions of, and laborious and tedious dedication many ordinary people in Han society

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