Item description for Officialdom Unmasked by Boyuan Li...
Officialdom Unmasked was written by Li Boyuan in the early years of the twentieth century as the Qing dynasty crumbled. Bizarre though they may seem, the stories told in the novel are based on true stories. Boyuan portrays an official class who placed their selfish interests above that of the state, and who were so devoid of any moral rectitude that one could but wonder how a once mighty empire had fallen into so complete a decline. From senior ministers to junior clerks, few were immune from taking bribes, stealing, philandering, dereliction of duty, or other wrongdoings. It has been said that the downfall of the Qing dynasty was due not so much to the 1911 Revolution but to the corruption and weakness within the Qing administration. The regime was rotting from within, and it did not take much to topple the three-hundred-year-old dynasty, as this novel reveals.
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Studio: Hong Kong University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.69" Width: 5.67" Height: 1.42" Weight: 2.73 lbs.
Publisher Hong Kong University Press
ISBN 9622095437 ISBN13 9789622095434
Reviews - What do customers think about Officialdom Unmasked?
Stories of corruption so sad that they're funny, but the writing is tedious Oct 5, 2009
I liked this book as a contemporary account of Qing bureaucracy. Some of the stories are so outlandish for the lengths of personal incompetence and cupidity revealed as to be both unbelievable and hilarious. The writing style and translation are tiring and repetitive, though, and you can get the gist of this book by reading a handful of the short chapters.
This book has the style of a tell-all written as a serial. At any given moment, you are presented a setting and a cast of characters: a local government office, its chief and his hangers-on; or the villa of a retired general with his competing wives and concubines. You watch these characters for a few pages as they attempt to swindle one another or dissipate themselves, then you follow one leaving the scene as the author segues into a new scenario. There are dozens of these transitions, which gives the book variety but also renders it discursive. Many stories are similar, contrasted by taking place at a different level of the hierarchy and having different twists.
The author hasn't any sympathy for most of the characters he portrays. The best stories first show the absurd lengths to which officials go to secure the most money with the least amount of legitimate work (illegitimate work can be exhausting, though), then show the fantastic unintended consequences.
The interest of the work rests entirely on these stories. The style is dry, often moralizing. There is no flowery description. The dialogue is haggling over bribes, nothing witty or poetic. The translation from Chinese into English (more British than American) is sometimes awkward.