Anthropology Essays & Paper Examples

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The House Of Lim Essay Sample

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Wolf, Margery 1968 The House of Lim. Englewood Cliffs. Prentice Hall Reviewed by: The House of Lim by Margery Wolf is a first hand account of the daily lives and family structure of a Chinese family living in Taiwan in the early 1960s. Margery Wolf, a wife of an anthropologist who specializes in Chinese studies, declares herself as not being an anthropologist but in the book she wanted to accomplish three things: to present a case study for the social scientist interested in the strains inherent to the form of family considered ideal in China, to provide another account of village life for those with a more general interest in China, and to tell a good story (Wolf 1968: preface). The House of Lim was written based on a two year live in study of a Chinese family that Margery Wolf and her husband resided with. The couple shared a farmhouse with the Lim s of Peihotien, a small country village in Northern Taiwan, from 1959 to 1961. She was aided by a good many informants who gave here information about the people of the town and the background information she need to present the data gathered during her 2 years of living with the Lims. Margery Wolf s goal was to provide and account of the village life of the Lims and the trial and tribulations that are inherrent with families of that particular region in Taiwan. She also writes about the customs and culture that are very different from what we westerners deem normal. This book is not particular hard to read but it is probably intended for high school and college level readers, it is not sophistically written or hard to understand. Margery Wolf provides family tree of at the beginning of the book to clear up any confusions about the names and people that are involved in the study. Beginning anthropology students could benefit greatly from this book due to the fact that it is written based on a first hand account field study that gives insight to the lives of a family from a different culture. The House of Lim was a very enjoyable book to read. Margery Wolf did an excellent job in tracing back the ancestry of the Lims, which incidently was traced back to 1770, when two Lim brothers left mainland China for the prospect of free virgin land. By giving the background information and a diagram of the family tree of the Lims, Margery Wolf reduced confusion in the reading that would have been associated with this kind of reading. The start of the book Margery Wolf gave the reader descriptions on the cities and market places, were villagers of Taiwan go to buy sell and barter food and other necessities. Then she goes on to describe how the village of Peihotien is setup with its houses and farming fields. Myths and legends about ghosts and the supernatural are also discussed as everyday folklore amongst the people of Peihotien. After that she delves into the history of the Lim family and gives detailed information about the histories of the descent of the Lim and certain family members. Her style of writing helps the reader draws up vivid pictures of the people and village that she and her husband called home for two years. The Lims allowed Margery and her husband to live with them but they had to pay rent, by living with the Lims she collected a lot of information about the customs and culture of their families. They took part in everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning and other household chores. The Lims took them in and eventually they were like part of the Lim family. So anything they did reflected on the Lims as a whole, if they were invited to go to a dinner banquet they were to go, by not going that showed the inviting party a lot of disrespect, which reflect on the Lims. Margery Wolf and her husband were not there to interfere but to observe the rituals and customs that the Lims took part in. She was there when the family celebrated and she was there when they fought. In some cases she was the mediator between the fighting family members. Margery Wolf covered a wide range of topics that dealt with the every day lives of the Lims as farmers than as business people, that gave us insight into the human side of the Lims. She started out painting a portrait of the eldest Lim, Lim Han-ci as a respected member of the village and more importantly a very respected man by his family. From there she goes on to indulge the reader with the biological sons, daughter and adopted daughters that Lim Han-ci had. Each chapter of the book has a specific topic that was covered usually it was about specific members of the Lim family. For example chapter 5 was about Lim Hue-Lieng, the eldest son of Lim Han-ci. In this chapter Margery Wolf gives us details on how Lim Hue-Lieng was brought up by Lim Han-ci and how strict and forceful the elder Lim raised the younger Lim, which eventually lead to the younger Lim s rebelling and leaving the household. Lim Hue-Lieng eventually became successful but it was through Lo ma that he was. Lo ma is the equivalent of a gang here in America. Another topic covered by Mrs. Wolf was the importance of family to the Chinese culture. All with the exception of a few member of the Lim lived together in the same building. When a Chinese family builds a house it starts out as a rectangle but then as the family grow additional parts of the house were built. It is not common for 3 generations of a Chinese family to live under one roof, sharing chores and money, but the head of the household usually decides how to spend the money. In this case the head of the Lim s household after the elder Lim died was Lim Chieng-cua.. He made all the important decision dealing with the family s finances. Margery Wolf did an excellent job in conjuring up topics that in our society we would consider unaccpetable such as it was deemed permissible for women to earn a living as a prostitue. And it was not uncommon for a man to have a mistress. It was to this fact that Margery witness a confrontation with Lim Chieng-cua and his wife Lim Chiu-ieng, who caught him with a mistress. Consequently the wife was beat, in Chinese culture it was normal for men to beat their wives. Margery Wolf here did a good job in showing the reader the inequalities that women in Chinese society face. Women was not considered part of the household until they bore their husbands a son. If a daughter was born she was usually given up for adoption. With regards to the subjuct of marriage in Chinese families, they were usually arranged by the parents, with the individuals involve not having any say so in the matter. It was fairly common for a family to adopt a daughter to marry their son when she got older. At first I was not very interested in this book, it didn t seem to keep my attention span really well. As I got further into my reading I discovered this book to be very interesting. I was amazed at the difference in culture that took place in Taiwan and the United States. It was also interesting to compare and contrast what was acceptable behavior in the Chinese culture and the culture that we live into today. I would diffinitely recommend this book as a tool for anybody interest in learning about another culture.

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