Though China is currently in the global spotlight, few outside its borders have a feel for the tremendous diversity of the lives being led inside the country. This collection of compelling stories challenges oversimplified views of China by shifting the focus away from the question of China’s place in the global order and zeroing in on what is happening on the ground. Some of the most talented and respected journalists and scholars writing about China today profile people who defy the stereotypes that are broadcast in print, over the airwaves, and online. These include an artist who copies classical paintings for export to tourist markets, Xi’an migrant workers who make a living recycling trash in the city dumps, a Taoist mystic, an entrepreneur hoping to strike it rich in the rental car business, an old woman about to lose her home in Beijing, and a crusading legal scholar.

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The essays cover a panoply of issues facing modern China, and the book’s combination of scope and intimacy is central to its achievement.” Publishers Weekly

“For an outside audience that still sometimes sees the Chinese as the faceless masses, Wasserstrom and Shah have assembled a collection of faces and names and fascinating life stories of a range of Chinese people. The contributors are some of the best-known writers on China today, and from every layer of society and every walk of life, the Chinese characters they have portrayed give readers a privileged glimpse inside a country that is bubbling with diversity and change.” – Rob Gifford, China Editor, The Economist and author of China Road

“What makes Chinese Characters such an enjoyable read is that it is a mosaic of engrossing portraits that allows the endless paradoxes of China to come alive in myriad enthralling ways. While the contributors obviously possess a depth professional and scholarly knowledge about China, what distinguishes their offerings here is vivid and evocative writing that shows rather than tells. You will not only learn from this book, but enjoy it.” – Orville Schell, The Arthur Ross Director, The Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society, New York City

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