Zhang’s World of a Tiny Insect is a book in which the author retells of his experiences and reactions regarding the Taiping rebel group. The book describes most events that the author has witnessed, telling how he perceived them at that time and the time of writing. The Taiping Rebel group killings took place when the author was seven years of age and he writes at the age of forty. This difference in witness and recording time makes the book interesting. Zhang focuses on the process of the war, the aftermath of the war, taking several themes into details. Zhang does not cover the causes or reasons behind the war. The author uses extensive description and narration to bring into book the incidents that took place during that war. This essay will look into the book in relation to the amount of historical information it presents to the readers.
The unique nonlinear structure of the book affects the message of the book since as the author writes he depends on how well he could recall the incidents. Writing at forty, the author also incorporates what he knows into the book apart from what he experienced during those years. The fact that he witnessed the happenings gives the information he writes some degree of reliability as well as concrete evidence. The case would be different if the author would write only what he found out from other books. The fact that the author writes in adulthood gives the message some weight since as an adult he can understand things better than he could at the time of witnessing. At age forty, Zhang is entitled to more sound judgment and narration (Zhang, 2014).
Zhang writes about his experience addressing all readers of history and, more specifically, readers of Chinese history. The book is not limited to Chinese history since the experiences that Zhang went through are similar to what other people all over the world went through. The documentation of these experiences gives many people some background information about the occurrences of those years. Before the foundation of democracy, many nations in Asia and other regions had similar experiences as Zhang’s. Zhang writes his experiences and reactions to shed light on the turmoil people went through in the hands of the militia groups. The book contains information that even twenty-first-century Chinese history students can relate to and connect with (Zhang, 2014).
The events of the narrative resonate with several other recordings of the Taiping Rebellion and the late Qing. As Zhang retells the story of his separation from his father and later reuniting with him, Spence texts also write about family separations during the Taiping rebellion. Secondly, Zhang tells of Taiping Rebels brutality and cruel treatment, which resonates with lecture notes, which give an account of the brutality of the rebels during that war. Third, Zhang writes about the cruel, ill-motives and brutal treatment of the shorthair rebels, agreeing with both Spence’s texts and lecture notes concerning several rebel groups in operation during the war (Spence,1996). Fourth, economic depression has resulted from the war, affecting the common citizens who were not beneficiaries of the war. Similar to many other texts on the Taiping Rebellion, Zhang writes concerning the mass killings and mass atrocities during that time by all warring groups. Both the rebels and the legal military groups were killings hundreds of individuals. In addition, mass property destruction was the order of the day, according to Zhang, lectures and Spence. Many people were left homeless after the destructions while others were on the run throughout the war (Zhang, 2014).
Zhang’s story to some extent diverges from the typical accounts of the events of that period. The divergent in the story results from the point of view from which Zhang witnessed the events. As a small child, Zhang witnessed only things revolving around him and his family. This divergent gives a point of view of the common people in villages during the war (Platt, 2012). Typical accounts concerning the Taiping Rebellion mostly come from professionals, writing from a research point of view. On the other hand, Zhang’s story represents the the common village people at that time. However, in relation to the usefulness of the information in historical bases, Zhang’s story fails to give a wide concept about the war (Reilly, 2004). Readers of this story in search of historical information about the Taiping Rebellion can hardly benefit from narrow narration of a witness. History students require wide coverage of the incidents of the Taiping rebellion, hence finding World of a Tiny Insect less helpful (Zhang, 2014).
This book misses the inclusion of research facts explaining the causes leading to the Taiping Rebellion. The author explains in detail the occurrences of the war, as well as the aftermath of the same, but fails to explain what were the real causes of the war. If these reasons are present in the book, it could be more important to historians.
From the way Zhang presents facts and fiction about the Taiping war; readers can gather some important historical bits regarding these events. However, the book fails to really convince the readers that it is a good source of historical information. The small scope of the writer’s point of view is a major limitation in the book. While searching for historical information, readers search for vast, detailed information. All the same, World of a Tiny Insect is an interesting book, in which readers can get detailed information about family separation, desperation pain and murder during the Taiping Rebellion. The chronicle in this book offers a broad touch on the outcomes of battle, not distinctive to the Taiping revolt, but mutual to all customs of war. The book is thus beneficial not only to individuals fascinated with Chinese narration, but to all persons. The unique way of narration in the book makes it interesting to read, hence easy to get the information therein. Conclusively, the book contains important information concerning the Taiping Rebellion in China, but it would have been more helpful if it involved a wide scope. Therefore, the book may be interesting to people reading for general purposes while it may contain little helpful information to people interest in Chinese history. Since the book seems to target literature readers, it considerably meets the aimed goal, while it fails to meet the need of historians.
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