At the Teahouse Café: Essays from the Middle Kingdom

At the Teahouse Cafe book cover

“Each [essay] is brilliantly written”–Shanghai Talk magazine’s “Top 3 China Books for 2016”

“Funny, assumption-challenging, and above all unique…Cook steels his wonderfully iconoclastic opinions with a deep knowledge gained from two decades in Beijing”–Bookish Asia

“As an American who has lived in China for many years, Cook provides insights into a culture that is notoriously opaque to outsiders, its intricacies and quirks revealing themselves only after significant immersion.”–Kirkus Reviews

It’s 1949 at Revolutionary University. Chinese students spend all their waking hours in political meetings—when they’re not hauling feces from the latrines to the manure fields.

Jump to 2015. Chinese endure endless meetings at the hands of bosses and are required to keep their cellphones on around the clock and pick up at once—or be fined. They live in a technological utopia while enslaved by the same structures of psychological control of over half a century earlier.

Underlying the myth of a “New China” are the contemporary Middle Kingdom’s numerous continuities with its past. In this wide-ranging collection of essays, Cook reaffirms the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Preface [book only]
1    Honesty, diligence, obedience: Why I support China’s Great Firewall
2    The question of breeding (why foreign men get the “ugly” Chinese girls)
3    The many faces of Chinese “face”
4    From struggle sessions to public dressing-downs: China’s continuity of psychological control
5    Questioning China’s “5,000 years” master trope
6    The Chinese university: A primer for prospective foreign teachers
7    The Chinese art of noise
8    Black Forest cake blues: The customer service problem
9    How to have fun in China’s disposable cities
10    The poverty of the institutional imagination: The case of Beijing’s moats and canals
11  On harpsichords and white pianos: The challenge of music in China
12  The high priests of medicine: U.S. and Chinese hospitals
13  The Chinese-Japanese cultural chasm on display at Starbucks
14  The ventriloquist’s dilemma: Asexual Anglo travelogues of China
15  My lovely little oriental doll: On yellow fever

Now available in paperback, Kindle and Smashwords:



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