Sounds of the River: A Young Man's University Days in Beijing

Sounds of the River: A Young Man's University Days in Beijing

by Da Chen

Undaunted by these hurdles, and armed with a dogged determination to learn English and "all things Western," he competes to win a chance to study in America -- a chance that rests in the shrewd and corrupt hands of the almighty professors.Poetic, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Sounds of the River is a gloriously written coming-of-age saga that chronicles a remarkable journey -- a travelogue of the heart.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Cultural
  • Rating: 4.00
  • Pages: 320
  • Publish Date: February 4th 2003 by Harper Perennial
  • Isbn10: 0060958723
  • Isbn13: 9780060958725

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This spring, I read Sounds of the River, a memoir written by the Chinese author Da Chen. Beyond the entertainment provided by the reading, Sounds of the River also is great food for thought; it introduces many interesting cultural discussions, as well as life lessons that anyone can learn from, making it an appropriate book for the thoughtful, annotating reader or the academic. Much of Sounds of the Rivers narrative centered on Da Chens attempts to branch out and make connections with more and more people in pursuit of his goals. (Sounds of the River 211) Just as Hong left Da alone at this point, and went off to sleep, Da in turn put Hongs role in the story to sleep.

Da Chen, a Chinese author, born in 1962 in Fujian, China, graduated from Columbia Law School in 1990, and Beijing Language and Culture University. Sounds of the River chronicles his late teenage years to young adult life, as a university student then worker in Beijing. Although it starts at a slow pace, together with the fact that, at times, it seems like the MC has life going too well for him stop it from being perfect, the characters, settings, and themes explored make this book excellent. The characters in this book have a unique quality to them that makes them especially easy to relate to, especially considering that they are very vulgar, talk and act like teenagers and young adults do today. This book also does a fantastic job of rotating out different characters, each having a different feel, which allows the cast to develop and become entertaining, while at the same time not getting stale or boring. In the stages of Das university life, there are two individual characters which remain extremely relatable, then his family. The next character is his roommate in the adult stage of his life, Lee. Lee is particularly entertaining for his bluntness and realism, but at the same time is a true friend for Da and helps him realize things that his more optimistic attitude lets him miss. This book goes through several stages of Das life, making for an extremely interesting adventure where it can be seen how he matures, changing from a naive country boy to a man, hardened and taught by the rigors of life. Das shaded past, although it is covered in other memoirs that he has written, is teased throughout this book as a very painful time that he still reflects on, that feels uncomfortable to even think about. Religion is presented in many different ways to Da, and the religions in this book are all paid respect to, helping him out in many ways, while at the same time pulling him in two different directions, mostly between Buddhism and Christianity. Sound of the River is a rousing adventure chronicling a young mans university years, his maturation, triumphs, and failings during this time. Although it starts off slowly and Das life may at times seem a bit too perfect,the way it has a beautiful, complex cast of characters and settings, as well as tieing into positive themes and observing societal and national differences, as well as a host of other things such as religion and government, makes this an excellent book.

This story is full of yielding to the reality and corruption in the Chinese society and getting to the goal no matter how hard the situation is. The book was full of miraculous turning points that amazed and interested me, but it to me feels like that the story is fictional for it has some events that should not be possibly happening at the time. (Sounds of the River 132) After he was told that he had little chance of being chosen to go to US among the classmates full of powerful backgrounds, the author pointed out the hope by writing about the prayers, which metaphorically represent to the bright future. The way author writes about the two themes brings ups and downs to the story and gives Da a reason to work hard, out of the depression by following the tiny bits of light in his life, which is the hope to the future. (Sounds of the River 291) The words out of a malice character in the book says what the situation was like in China, but Da achieves in both of them, having a dream and facing the reality.

Da's ambition towards academics propels him to be one of the best candidates for studying abroad in his college, but his dream is often challenged by the Communist Party of China. I recommend reading this book because one will be able to learn that his/her goals can be achieved although the process could be challenging, by watching Da's passion to make his dream come true. After reading the journey that Da went through, I was able to realize how humble one should be, and the amount of effort that one should put in during the process of reaching a goal. Stay humble, be positive, and put forth the best effort are the lessons that Da gives to the readers, and it is the reason why the book Sounds of the River is a good one.

What an experience it was for a young man from a small rural village to face the world of a city that was far beyond anything he had ever experienced in his life. Chens experiences remind me of some of the students I taught in China in 2005-2006. One student in particular came from a small village similar to the authors. Chens memoir was easy to ready, entertaining (he has a great sense of humor), and deals with the same issues that students everywhere face when growing up: confusion, anger, loneliness, hope and disappointment. I chose one passage where he talks about the beauty of words and his admiration for Jack London. The section described Martin Eden falling in love with Ruth, how his world had turned into a whirlwind and how helpless love had made him.

This book is about one young boy, who lives in a small village in China and is going to a university that is located in Beijing to study English by himself, and the life in the university will change him a lot. In this book, Da also learns about the cultural differences and how the Chinese people got treated differently. Only the foreigners buildings get hot water eight hours a day.(Sounds of the River 54) From this quote, I could tell that how the foreigners and Chinese people were treated unequally. The invitation was heartwarming, but I had already decided to stay on campus to save money and to study some more books while the rest of my classmates would be resting.(Sounds of the River 100) From this quote, I got to know how much he wants to improve his English even though he wants to go back to his home. This book taught me how hard to live in a different place that you are not familiar to even though I have experienced it already.

The way Da tells all of his emotions and life were very detailed. (STR p.299) In a part like this, I would read faster wanting to see the reaction of his parents. At the beginning of the book, I saw a lot of criticism towards China, especially when he is describing dream about the train to Beijing. (STR p.1) I thought the book is purely accusing the Chinese corrupted professor first, however, I found that he was really trying to convey the idea of never stop chasing dream beyond present life. Even though things were not the way they look like, Da looked inside the spoiled system of China. In the end, I really want to recommend this book to teenagers in high school or elder people. However, I would not recommend people who know little about China to read this book, since I found several exaggerated places about living in China as a Chinese who comes from the remote part of China like Da.

This spring, I read the book Sounds of the River by Da Chen. The author, Da Chen, is not a famous writer in China, and all his books dont have a Chinese vision even though he is Chinese. By that peoples act, readers can easily tell figures emotions and thoughts. For example, when one of the figures died in the book, he should his emotion by talking about his body language. (SR p.176) Da Chen shows us how he acted to a sudden bad news, and through the acts, we can easily tell his emotion. I enjoy this book a lot, and I found many similarities between Da Chens story and mine.