Tag Archives: myanmar books

Myanmar’s book trade on the up but challenges persist: publisher

Published in Mizzima Weekly on 18 May 2015

Dr Thant Thaw Kaung, CEO of Myanmar Book Center Ltd
Dr Thant Thaw Kaung, CEO of Myanmar Book Center Ltd

Dr Thant Thaw Kaung is the CEO of Myanmar Book Centre Co., Ltd and has more than two decades of experience in Myanmar’s book trade. He talks to Mizzima Weekly’s Jessica Mudditt about the problems facing the industry and why he remains optimistic about its future.

Until strict censorship laws were abolished in 2012, every title imported to Myanmar required the approval of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division. Many were banned, such as the biographies of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama – and of course, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Are book sales benefitting from a new era of liberalisation?

Certainly – sales are on the up. When my wife and I started our business in 1995, censorship was extremely strict, so we were so happy when the situation changed and we no longer had to obtain permission to import every single title.

Nowadays, political works which wouldn’t have seen the light of day are best sellers. There’s been an emergence of new writers, particularly in the Myanmar language, and many are the memoirs of former political prisoners. Ma Thangei and Ma Thida come to mind – and they’re very talented writers. Just last night I read an excellent book in Myanmar by Kyaw Zwa Moe, the editor of The Irrawaddy, which is titled You Need to Apologise to the People. He recounts a wide range of fascinating interviews he carried out – including an unnamed person who attempted to assassinate the former head of Military Intelligence, Khin Nyunt, as well as monks who were imprisoned for many, many years. I hope it will be translated so that English readers can also enjoy it.

Do you feel that writers practice self-censorship in any way?

No, I don’t. In fact what I would say is that things are completely different now than they were before 2010, but of course, not everyone is completely satisfied with the speed of progress. I think that some people may be expecting too much too soon, and that change needs to be gradual –Myanmar will eventually become fully democratic. Some feel that after living under oppression for so many years, now is the time to speak up – whenever they like, and sometimes in an extreme way. It’s usually in the form of personal attacks or hate speech – the former of which I read in the media and the latter, on Facebook. I think it’s a very big problem, but it’s not one I’ve found in books.

What types of books dominate Myanmar’s book trade?

If you think of it as a pie chart, books on English Language Teaching (ELT) take the biggest chunk. Myanmar Book Centre is the official representatives of the ‘Big Four’ – Oxford University Press, MacMillan, Pearson and Sage, the titles of which we print locally. Second to that are education titles for basic and higher education – it’s quite big business here. The reason why is because there is a huge appetite to learn English – just look at the British Council, which is always full. Our society’s aptitude for English is generational – those who are over 70 speak excellent English as many attended convent or missionary schools, while those born following 1960 lived in Ne Win’s era and cannot speak English well because the language was deliberately suppressed and everything was Burmanised. The young generation – and their parents – understand the value of learning English. But the problem is that there is a lack of skilled teachers in public schools, as they come from the previous generation. It’s a big problem, but the benefits of the government’s new policy towards the teaching of English will be seen in four or five years.

Another genre that’s doing very well are English language books that relate to Myanmar – whether it be guide books, historical fiction or biographies, as well as the political works as I mentioned. This is largely driven by the recent influx of tourists.

Pondering a vast second-hand collection
Pondering a vast second-hand collection

Is there are a shortage of quality translators as a result of past education policies?

Yes, there is most definitely a shortage of translators, which means that many talented Myanmar writers are unknown in the West, while many contemporary classics are inaccessible to Myanmar readers. There are so few reputable translators that they are overloaded and we sometimes have to wait a few months before they can take on a project.

There are also some inherent difficulties in translating Myanmar to English – the languages are totally different. Translating from Myanmar to English is more difficult, because the translator must be very good at English and be highly familiar with the subject matter. Many translators write well in English, but often their style is more like news reporting than literary.

Since setting up a publishing wing five years ago, Myanmar Book Centre has published ten books translated into Myanmar, including Dr Thant Myint U’s River of Lost Footsteps and Where China Meets India. We’re selective about the books we choose – only titles which will work here in Myanmar in that they speak to a local audience.

Is piracy a problem?

It’s a huge problem – particularly for us, as our main line of business is in imports and distribution. In Myanmar, only books published which are published locally are protected by the Copyright Law of 1914. These pirate guys are clever – they don’t bother pirating local language books because they know it’s against the law – plus the prices of such books are so cheap that it wouldn’t be profitable. I heard recently of a local publisher who published a map that was pirated by a foreign company. The local publisher tried to sue the company but he couldn’t – they simply ignored him because they know there’s no legal remedy.

Piracy is divided into two sectors – the first is books on Myanmar aimed at the tourist market, and the other is English Language Teaching (ELT) and education books. As I mentioned, education is a big industry, so our business really suffers.

We’re literally losing money every day. There’s a guy who owns his own shop and comes to Myanmar Book Centre on a daily basis to buy single copies of our best-selling education books. Then, about two weeks later, we see those titles being sold for 20 percent less than ours. There are a number of people doing this – I know them well but we can’t take action against them because there’s no law against it. It’s terrible.

Could you not refuse to sell books to this person?

There’s no point – it would be too easy for him to just send someone else and I can’t refuse a customer.

With so much undermining the profitability of your business, how does Myanmar Book Centre manage to retain its viability?

We’ve developed close relationships with many private and international schools, such as Yangon International School and Myanmar International School. These institutions strongly support original books, so we import books on their behalf. We also work hard to provide excellent customer service at the retail level, such as by providing catalogues and free samples.

I’d also say that the mentality towards piracy is changing – of course there are still those who just want cheap books – but many now want quality. Fortunately there is a growing middle class who feel this way. We also work hard to offer the most reasonable prices we can. In this regard we’re very lucky, because as we’ve been in the book trade for many years, we’re fully supported by international publishers and they provide us with good discounts. We also source a lot of books from India as the prices there are very reasonable prices – we work with over 50 different publishers in India.

Browsing on 38th Street can be sweaty work!
Browsing on 38th Street can be sweaty work…

Are you confident that if the Intellectual Property Law is passed, it will put an end to piracy in Myanmar’s book trade?

I’m very confident in the draft law because it really supports investors and importers. It will be drive our local publishing industry to new heights and it’s expected to come into effect in 2016. I have given input into the draft during regular meetings with a committee which is led by the Ministry of Science and Technology, which is involved in design and trademark aspects. The Ministry of Information is handling the copyright side.

Do you think there will be any practical challenges in terms of the law actually being enforced?

Well, it will of course be the responsibility of the government to enforce it. But luckily for our industry, the pirating of books is done by small-scale players who own shops downtown. This is unlike the pirating of music, which is done on a mass scale and is linked to members of the military.

But when the law is passed, we will have to take action, whether we like it or not, because we are the official representative of various publishers and they will pressure us to do so. Many of the people involved in piracy are my friends – I’ve already spoken to Bagan Book House to ask them to reduce the number of pirated books. I offered to supply them with our imported books to avoid prosecution. However they didn’t really listen to me, because the law isn’t yet in force.

Are local writers and publishers familiar with contractual rights?

In general, knowledge is very low on both sides. My authors, such as Dr Thant Myint-U don’t need anything explained to them – in fact he himself secured personal copyright for each of his books, which was a very clever move.

But in the majority of cases, authors simply trust their publishers and don’t even discuss who will own the copyright – so the publisher takes everything. Nor are digital rights discussed, though they should be, because eventually e-versions will appear and the rights to them should belong to the author.

Is Myanmar ready for an e-book market?

It’s not the right time to introduce e-version of books. This is because they are already available online, free of charge. As soon as a book becomes popular or famous it is scanned and appears on one of a variety of sites in the Myanmar language. No one can take action against this, so as a business model it wouldn’t be viable. The people who are uploading scanned books aren’t doing it to make money and they don’t see any problem with ‘sharing’ free content – so a lot of education is needed to change such attitudes. The maximum number of copies of any single title published is just 1,000 because there is no demand, no market for more when a book can be downloaded for free. As a result, the writers are dying and the publishers are bleeding a lot. We cannot survive if it continues.

Best books on Myanmar: My personal favourites

You won't be starved for choice when it comes to books about Myanmar
You won’t be starved for choice when it comes to books about Myanmar

As the third Irrawaddy Literature Festival draws near, I thought it timely to write a post about my favourite books on the fascinating country that is Myanmar. There’s so much good literature around that I won’t even limit myself to a top 10 (I’ll keep adding as I keep reading!). Aside from two exceptions, each of the books listed were published before Myanmar’s political and economic reforms began in 2011. The country has changed a great deal over the past few years, so I’m looking forward to reading new works that depict the “new” Myanmar (insofar as I know, none yet exist) as well as seeing greater literary freedoms utilised by Burmese writers. But of course it goes without saying that becoming familiar with Myanmar’s turbulent and complicated past is necessary to understanding the situation in the present day.

So here, in no particular order, are my favourite books…

1. The Trouser People, Andrew Marshall (2002)

Due to the country’s dictatorial and colonial past, a lot of books on Myanmar are distressing and depressing: this one is too, but there’s also a lot of humour in it. Marshall, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who currently works for Reuters, retraces the steps of a highly eccentric British civil servant and adventurer called Sir George Scott, who was knocking through Myanmar’s jungles back in the 19th century. The historical research is superbly intriguing and is paired well with what has and hadn’t changed in Myanmar over the last hundred years or so.

For example, the origin of the incredibly popular lotteries (the mobile versions of which play some great disco tunes nowadays) can be traced back to the reign of King Thibaw, who was Myanmar’s last monarch as he was deposed of by the British (FYI – a wonderful account of the king’s exile and life thereafter can be found in Amitav Ghosh’s A Glass Palace).

Marshall writes:

“Misruled by a feeble, gin-soaked tyrant and his evil queen, the kingdom slid towards anarchy. In a last-ditch attempt to refill the royal coffers, Thibaw’s ministers seized upon the idea of public lotteries. Tickets could soon be bought at booths on every street corner, although many people were bullied into buying them by roving thugs employed by lottery managers.”

2. The Burman – His Life and Notions, Shway Yoe (Sir George Scott), (1882)

Anyone who reads this book will understand Marshall’s fascination with Sir George Scott, who spent three decades of his life in Myanmar and travelled extensively – often with the purpose of “negotiating” deals with the leaders of ethnic minority groups to surrender to the British Empire. Scott was nothing short of obsessed with local customs, geography and history and this book is the product of his extremely copious note-taking skills. As the title suggests, Scott’s approach was simply to record his detailed observations, which makes it more of a book to dip in and out of than to read from start to end. Have a flick through – chapters such as “Ear boring,” “Lucky and unlucky days” and “Wizards, doctors and wise men” certainly piqued my curiosity… As did learning that when it comes to Burmese names, the more it rhymes, the better (hence the popularity of men called Ko Phyo [Ko-Pee-Oo]).

While some of Scott’s commentary strays into the cringe-worthy and antiquated, the Scottish journalist (who is also credited with introducing football to Myanmar) is for the most part entertaining and insightful.

He writes this of the dual education system in place in colonial-administrated Burma:

“In the English school you learned to make money, and in the Burmese school you learned to be happy and contented.”

3. Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess, Inge Sargent (1994)

This is an extraordinary and tragic memoir written by the Austrian wife of the prince of Hsipaw in Shan State. It opens dramatically when the couple arrive in Yangon by ship in 1953 – as it is only then that Sargent discovers her new royal role (and the regal name immediately bestowed on her, “Thusanda”). Her husband Sao Kya Seng embarks on a series of reforms to improve health and education and redistribute land in a non-feudal manner and as a result, quickly becomes a popular but “reluctant prince”. The couple have two children and “Thusanda” feels great affection for the mountains and peoples of Shan State – she describes everyday encounters with unabashed girlish delight. Unfortunately, a significant flaw in this otherwise captivating book is that it’s written in the third person – which makes for awkward passages of glowing self-description:

“It was Thusanda in her courtly splendor who stunned the assembled guests into admiring exclamations. As Sao led her through the assembled crowd, ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ were audible from all directions.”

Sargent’s fairytale life is shattered when her husband disappears shortly after a military coup led by General Ne Win takes place in 1962. He is never seen again, despite her desperate efforts to find him in the years that followed, both in Myanmar and Europe. The famed Sao Kya Seng  is presumed to have been tortured and killed in prison. It’s simply heartbreaking.

4. Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant, Benedict Rogers (2010)

Putting a biography together  about one of the world’s most notorious and reclusive dictators couldn’t have been anything other than an extremely tough task. Basic information such as Senior General Than Shwe’s date and place of birth are speculated rather than known – which arguably contributed to the aura of fear that surrounds him to the present day. Rogers never met his subject, who took over from Ne Win in 1992 and ruled with an iron fist until his resignation in 2011. However the writer and human rights advocate is clear about presenting rumours as such and acknowledges a natural temptation towards bias – fortunately his efforts to avoid it appear convincing. Nonetheless, Than Shwe’s resignation (just one year after his biography was published) was a stunning move and took many by surprise: general consensus was that power would not be relinquished other than in the event of his death, and certainly not then followed by the ushering in of a more democratic form of governance.

“Most people agree that if Than Shwe were to die tomorrow, Maung Aye would succeed him automatically, because of his position in the hierarchy. But if Than Shwe can transfer power to a person in a manner and timing of his choice, his successor is more likely to be General Thura Shwe Mann.”

Than Shwe ultimately handpicked President Thein Sein as his successor, however many claim that his retirement is partial at best and that he stepped down voluntarily in order to avoid the possibility of being prosecuted for human rights abuses committed under his watch.

5. Nor Iron Bars A Cage, Ma Thanegi (2013)

Ma Thanegi is a fesity, forceful writer: she’s sort of Myanmar’s answer to Germaine Greer. Her irreverent memoir recounts nearly one thousand days spent as a political prisoner under a harsh military junta – her “crime” was serving as Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal assistant. She was arrested in 1989, the year after the opposition leader’s election victory was declared null by authorities and followed by a violent crackdown against the nationwide pro-democracy protests. Ma Thanegi begins by asserting that the international media exaggerated Insein Prison’s reputation for torture and that some female prisoners falsely claimed to have been raped in the misguided belief that it would somehow further the cause of democracy in Myanmar.

“It does not matter to me whether readers believe my accounts or not; they have the right to believe what they want. What disgusts me is the number of people I have met who were actually disappointed or upset that we weren’t raped by the male guards.”

While the quality of writing is sometimes uneven, Ma Thanegi presents an intimate account of life as a female political prisoner with an eye for both the absurd and redeeming. The friendships she struck up with the sparrows and mice that sometimes entered her cell were among my favourite passages. Her voice is refreshingly authentic.

6. The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma, Thant Myint-U (2008)

The combination of genres this book comprises – memoir, travelogue, politics and history – makes it the perfect beginning to your Myanmar debriefing. It’s intensely readable and engaging – which makes the process of absorbing a vast quantity of information perfectly possible and not at all overwhelming. Thant Myint-U is a former UN peacekeeper and his grandfather was the third Secretary General of the UN from 1961 to 1971 (and is credited with playing a major role in averting the Cuban missile crisis). Thant Myint-U vividly describes how he felt as a young man returning to Myanmar to attend his grandfather’s funeral, which was turned into a nasty power play between the military and U Nu’s loyal supporters – many of whom were students. Thant Myint-U currently serves as the chairperson of Yangon Heritage Trust, a non-profit organisation that is working hard to protect Yangon’s architectural past. When Obama visited Yangon late last year, he and Thant Myint-U took a walk together to survey his plans. Impressive.

7. Finding George Orwell in Burma, Emma Larkin (2004)

There are three reasons why I really, really like this book. The prose is superb, it investigates the contradictions within George Orwell during the time he served as a jaded British policeman in colonial-administered Burma, as well as offering insightful commentary on the harsh realities of everyday life in Myanmar under junta rule. Emma Larkin is a pseudonym: little is known about the American journalist who made discreet, repeated visits to carry out research while managing to protect both herself and her sources. I was lucky enough to interview Larkin last year – you can read the full interview here.

When Orwell began his five-year stint in Myanmar in 1922, violent crime was so rife that it was considered one of the most dangerous places in Asia. The anarchy was almost always attributed to the so-called racial inferiority of the Burmese. While Myanmar nowadays has some of the lowest crime rates in Asia, Larkin points out a new and worrying trend of law enforcers once again distorting the truth:

“In order to please the central military command, the police leave crimes unreported, so that their division will look good and crime-free, at least on paper. When people go to the station to report crimes, the police often ask them if they are sure they want to file details and try to convince them not to do so. I once had my wallet stolen in Mandalay, and when I suggested to the friends that I was with that I should report it to the police they laughed.”

38th Street is home to Bagan Book House and a collection of open air bookstores
38th Street is home to Bagan Book House and a collection of open air bookstores

8. From the Land of Green Ghosts, Pascal Khoo Thwe (2002)

Pascal Khoo Thwe’s memoir is rooted in the mysticism of his childhood and the dramatically painful struggles of his early adulthood. While most books tend to divide readers into those who loved or loathed, this book (at least anecdotally speaking) seems to be roundly adored. I’ve never heard a bad word said about it.

Pascal was born in a remote area of Myanmar: so remote that the installation of a lone traffic light almost immediately caused an accident and was promptly removed. However it was less his village’s physical remoteness than the regime’s iron clad grip on the flow of information that created the time capsule conditions in which he grew up. Below is one of many examples:

“In 1977 we were finally told that the Americans had landed on the moon… We also heard that Elvis Presley was dead.”

News of the death of The King caused intense public grief and non-stop musical renditions. The socialist government felt so threatened by this outward display of pro-Americanism that it issued a decree stating that guitar players were decadent “street ghosts.”

Pascal was born into the Padaung tribe, which is arguably one of the world’s most identifiable. Female Padaungs (or at least, those conferred with the honour) wear brass coils around their elongated necks, which has led to them being dubbed ‘giraffe necks’. His own grandmother’s neck was 14 inches long, which no doubt added to the aura that surrounded her while she told incredible ancestral tales.

Pascal’s life is turned upside down when Myanmar’s political situation takes a series of deeply sinister turns. He joins a guerilla army after his girlfriend is raped and murdered, and manages to survive the hellish conditions of jungle warfare before fleeing to Thailand. A chance encounter eventually lands him in Cambridge University. You simply couldn’t make it up.

9. The Road to Wanting, Wendy Law-Yone (2010)

Could there be a dreamier title for a book? It’s doubtful – particularly as this particular ‘wanting’ is an actual town on the Chinese-Myanmar border (and FYI ‘Muse’ is another border town imbibed with a similarly haunting melancholy). This is the story of Na Ga, who was separated from her poverty-stricken family at a young age and endures slap after slap in the face (often quite literally) in quick succession. She forms a relationship in Thailand with a farang of questionable intent, and who sets her off on a long journey – the purpose of which this resilient woman questions every step of the way. The introduction is unforgettable and the prose is particularly well-crafted: I struggled to put it down long after I should have been asleep.

The Road to Wanting was long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2011.

10. Golden Parasol: A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma, Wendy Law-Yone  (2013)

Wendy Yaw-Yone was 16 when her father, the founding editor of the prominent English language newspaper The Nation, was thrown into prison. General Ne Win had seized control of Myanmar in a coup d’etat the year before, in 1962. Despite her father’s requests to read his manuscript in the 1970s, Law-Yone refrained from doing so until he passed away in 1980. She discovered a wealth of incredible anecdotes and an intimate rendering of her father’s dreams and frustrations – perhaps most notably his thwarted attempt to overthrow the regime and restore democracy following his release from prison in 1968. Law-Yone’s memoir interweaves her own experiences, which began in her birthplace of Mandalay. She  too was interrogated at length and incarcerated briefly before fleeing the country. Her encounter with the dreaded MIS is worth quoting at length:

My interrogations lasted from nine at night until nine in the morning; the inquisitors working in teams of four and changing shifts at 3am. Exactly what they were hoping to find out was difficult to pinpoint. Again and again I laid out my reasons for wanting to leave the country… I saw no reason for concealing the facts… The colonel in charge had the names of every foreigner I had ever met, and reminded me of the precise details of each and every meeting. What could I tell him about any of these foreign friends?

“But Colonel,” I said at one point, “don’t you already know everything about everyone in the country?” I was careful to appear sincere and not sarcastic.

“We are not God,” he replied, apparently flattered.

To understand the impact Ne Win’s despotic rule had on individuals and families, there is arguably no better book than Golden Parasol – which like all Law-Yone’s books, was banned in Myanmar until as recently as three years ago.

11. Burmese Days, George Orwell (1934)

Literary legend George Orwell took no prisoners when he penned this scathing account of life in Myanmar under British colonial rule. He wrote the novel almost seven years after returning to England from his five-year stint as a police officer serving the Indian Imperial Police Force in various parts of what was then Burma. Yet even despite the lag-time, his novel first made its debut in the United States, as Orwell’s descriptions of a fictional town (based on Katha in Sagaing Region) were so starkly realistic (as indeed were many of his characters), that his British publisher shied away in fear of a potential libel law suit.

Essentially, this is a story about the racial bigotry that prevailed virtually uncontested in the dying days of British Burma. It centres around a friendship between an Indian doctor called Veraswami and – gasp – a European teak merchant. Thirty-five-year-old Flory has become utterly disenchanted with colonial rule and admires much of Myanmar’s culture – and as a result, finds himself alienated from the likes of those who frequent the British Club – a club Dr Veraswami desperately wants to join. When a deputy commissioner, who is also Kyauktada’s club secretary, posts a notice suggesting that Dr Veraswami’s request be considered because, “as yet there are no Oriental members of this club, and as it is now usual to admit officials of gazetted rank, whether native or European…” the reaction from a junior officer, Orwell writes, is this:

“He’s asking us to break all our rules and take a dear little nigger-boy into this club…. That would be a treat, wouldn’t it? Little pot-bellied niggers breathing garlic in your face over the bridge table.”

Burmese Days is painfully poignant; its characters flawed and confused – and all the more disturbing by virtue of Orwell’s observational prowess. It attracted a significant amount of criticism from his colonial contemporaries when it appeared – and to which he replied: “I daresay it’s unfair in some ways and inaccurate in some details, but much of it is simply reporting what I have seen.”

12. Another Man’s War, Barnaby Philips (2014)

This is a true tale that is both tragic and heart-warming, as it describes how two African soldiers were hidden for nine months by a Rohingya family during the Second World War – and reunited almost six decades later. The two young men, Isaac Fadoyebo and David Kargbo, arrived in Yangon a year after it had fallen to the Japanese forces, who would have advanced all the way up to Calcutta unless the Allied Forces were able to defeat them in strategically-located Myanmar. It’s essential reading for those seeking to come to grips with the impact of the Second World War in Myanmar – and will undoubtedly lead to ruminations on the oddities of war itself. Veteran foreign correspondent Barnaby Philips tells the story through the eyes of Isaac Fadoyebo, who was left stranded in enemy territory following a surprise attack by the Japanese in Rakhine State. He writes:

“It would only take one person to betray David and Isaac, with fatal consequences. So they needed to do everything within their limited powers to ingratiate themselves with the villagers. They had no money or possessions to hand over, but they did have faith. Or at least, they could pretend to have it. The villagers had already asked them several times if they were Muslim. Now, David and Isaac set out to convince them this was indeed the case.”

13. Land of Jade: A Journey from India through Northern Burma to China, Bertil Lintner (1995)

Bertil Lintner has been reporting on Myanmar since the 1980s, with Land of Jade being the first of several books he’s penned. In the early 1980s, he and his pregnant wife set out from India to travel overland into Myanmar and through to China. The journey spanned 2,200 kilometres, took 18 months and involved crossing the northern rebel-held areas – where a ceasefire continues to elude the country. Lintner was determined to access these remote, dangerous and malarial infested villages and jungles in order to report back to the world on what was happening inside the troubled nation. Whilst this is certainly a noble pursuit, at times it is difficult to swallow the author’s decision to bring along his wife and newborn child (who is most often referred to as “the baby”). Although Lintner is at pains to point out that his wife, an ethnic Shan, had longed wished to return to her homeland, the timing still seems incongruous and it is unfortunate that the reader learns so little about her character (which must have been undoubtedly strong). Furthermore, Lintner’s presence endangered locals (sometimes fatally) and is problematic in terms of seeming to imply that only an outsider (or Westerner even) was up to the task of reporting the “truth”. He writes:

“The news was not good. The Burmese Army was closing in on three sides, presumably aiming for 2nd brigade headquarters. It was uncertain whether the offensive had been prompted by our stay of more than three weeks in the camp.”

Despite these moral ambiguities, Land of Jade contains some valuable insights that still resonate 20-odd years later.