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12.The Child Learns

  Japanese Babies are not brought up in the fashion that a thoughtful Westerner might suppose。The arc of life in Japan is plotted in opposite fashion to that in the United States。It is a great shallow U-curve with maximum freedom and indulgence allowed to babies and to the old。Restrictions are slowly increased after babyhood till having one's own way reaches a low just before and after marriage。This low line continues many years during the prime of life,but the arc gradually ascends again until after the age of sixty men and women are almost as unhampered by shame as little children are。

  Both the American and the Japanese arrangement of the arc of life,however,have in point of fact secured in each country the individual's energetic participation in his cul-ture during the prime of life。To secure this end in the United States,we rely on in-creasing his freedom of choice during this period。The Japanese rely on maximizing the restraints upon him。The fact that a man is at this time at the peak of his physical strength and at the peak of his earning powers does not make him master of his own life。They have great confidence that restraint is good mental training and produces results not attained by freedom。But the Japanese increase of restraints upon the man or woman during their most active producing periods by no means indicates that these restraints cover the whole of life。Childhood and old age are“free areas。”

  A people so truly permissive to their children very likely want babies。The Japanese do。They want them,first of all,as parents do in the United States,because it is a pleasure to love a child。But they want them,too,for reasons which have much less weight in America。Japanese parents need children,not alone for emotional satisfaction,but because they have failed in life if they have not carried on the family line。Every Japanese man must have a son。He needs him to do daily homage to his memory after his death at the living-room shrine before the miniature gravestone。He needs him to perpetuate the family line down the generations and to preserve the family honor and possessions。For traditional social reasons the father needs his son almost as much as the young son needs his father。The son will take his father's place in the on going future and this is not felt as supplanting but as insuring the father。For a few years the father is trustee of the“house。”Later it will be his son。If the father could not pass trusteeship to his son,his own role would have been played in vain。This deep sense of continuity prevents the dependency of the fully grown son on his father,even when it is continued so much longer than it is in the United States,from having the aura of shame and humil-iation which it so generally has in Western nations。

  A woman too wants children not only for her emotional satisfaction in them but be-cause it is only as a mother that she gains status。A childless wife has a most insecure position in the family,and even if she is not discarded she can never look forward to be-ing a mother-in-law and exercising authority over her son's marriage and over her son's wife。

  Childbirth is as private in Japan as sexual intercourse and women may not cry out in labor because this would publicize it。A little pallet bed has been prepared for the ba-by with its own new mattress and bedcover。It would be a bad omen for the child not to have its own new bed,even if the family can do no more than have the quilt covers and this stuffing cleaned and renovated to make them“new。”The little bed quilt is not as stiff as grown-ups'covers and it is lighter。The baby is therefore said to be more comfort-able in its own bed,but the deeply felt reason for its separate bed is still felt to be based on a kind of sympathetic magic:a new human being must have its own new bed。The baby's pallet is drawn up close to the mother's,but the baby does not sleep with its mother until it is old enough to show initiative。When it is perhaps a year old,they say the baby stretches out its arms and makes its demand known。Then the baby sleeps in its mother's arms under her covers。

  For three days after its birth the baby is not fed,for the Japanese wait until the true milk comes。After this the baby may have the breast at any time either for food or com-fort。The mother enjoys nursing too。The Japanese are convinced that nursing is one of a woman's greatest physiological pleasures and the baby easily learns to share her pleas-ure。The breast is not only nourishment:it is delight and comfort。For a month the baby lies on his little bed or is held in his mother's arms。It is only after the baby has been taken to the local shrine and presented there at the age of about thirty days that his life is thought to be firmly anchored in his body so that it is safe to carry him around freely in public。After he is a month old,he is carried on his mother's back。A double sash holds him under his arms and under his behind and is passed around the mother's shoul-ders and fled in front at the waist。In cold weather the mother's padded jacket is worn right over the baby。

  The mother lays the baby on its bed whenever she is working and carries it with her wherever she goes on the streets。She talks to it。She hums to it。She puts it through the etiquette motions。If she returns a greeting herself,she moves the baby's head and shoulders forward so that it too makes salutation。The baby is always counted in。Every afternoon she takes it with her into the hot bath and plays with it as she holds it on her knees。

  For three or four months the baby wears diapers,very heavy cloth pads upon which Japanese sometimes blame their bow-leggedness。The Japanese baby usually talks before it walks。Creeping has always been discouraged。Traditionally there was a feeling that the baby ought not to stand or take steps till it was a year old and the mother used to prevent any such attempts。The government in its cheap,widely circulated Mother's Magazine has for a decade or two taught that walking should be encouraged and this has become much more general。Mothers loop a sash under the baby's arms or support it with their hands。But babies still tend to talk even earlier。When they begin to use words the stream of baby talk with which adults like to amuse a baby becomes more pur-posive。They do not leave the baby's acquiring of language to chance imitation;they teach the baby words and grammar and respect language,and both the baby and the grown-ups enjoy the game。

  Children are usually weaned after they can understand what is said to them。They have sat in their mother's lap at the family table during meals and been fed bits of the food;now they eat more of it。Some children are feeding problems at this time,and this is easy to understand when they are weaned because of the birth of a new baby。Mothers often offer them sweets to buy them off from begging to nurse。Sometimes a mother will put pepper on her nipples。But all mothers tease them by telling them they are proving that they are mere babies if they want to nurse。“Look at your little cousin。He's a man。He's little like you and he doesn't ask to nurse。”“That little boy is laughing at you be-cause you're a boy and you still want to nurse。”Two-,three-,and four-year-old chil-dren who are still demanding their mother's breast will often drop it and feign indiffer-ence when an older child is heard approaching。

  Teasing takes another form too。The mother will turn to her husband and say to the child,“I like your father better than you。He is a nice man。”The child gives full ex-pression to his jealousy and tries to break in between his father and mother。His mother says,“Your father doesn't shout around the house and run around the rooms。”“No,no,”the child protests,“I won't either。I am good。Now do you love me?”When the play has gone on long enough,the father and mother look at one another and smile。They may tease a young daughter in this way as well as a young son。

  Such experiences are rich soil for the fear of ridicule and of ostracism which is so marked in the Japanese grown-up。It is impossible to say how soon little children under-stand that they are being made game of by this teasing,but understand it they do sooner or later,and when they do,the sense of being laughed at fuses with the panic of the child threatened with loss of all that is safe and familiar。When he is a grown man,be-ing laughed at retains this childhood aura。

  The panic such teasing occasions in the two to five-year-old child is the greater be-cause home is really a haven of safety and indulgence。Division of labor,both physical and emotional,is so complete between his father and mother that they are seldom pres-ented to him as competitors。For both girls and boys alike the mother is the source of constant and extreme gratifications,but in the case of a three-year-old boy he can gratify against her even his furious anger。He may never manifest any aggression toward his fa-ther,but all that he felt when he was teased by his parents and his resentments against being“given away”can be expressed in tantrums directed against his mother and his grandmother。Not all little boys,of course,have these tantrums,but in both villages and upper-class homes they are looked upon as an ordinary part of child life between three and six。The baby pommels his mother,screams,and,as his final violence,tears down her precious hair-do。His mother is a woman and even at three years old he is se-curely male。He can gratify even his aggressions。

  To his father he may show only respect。His father is the great exemplar to the child of high hierarchal position,and,in the constantly used Japanese phrase,the child must learn to express the proper respect to him“for training。”He is less of a discipli-narian than in almost any Western nation。Discipline of the children is in the woman's hands。A simple silent stare or a short admonition is usually all the indication of his wi-shes he gives to his little children,and these are rare enough to be quickly complied with。He may make toys for his children in his free hours。He carries them about on oc-casion long after they can walk-as the mother does too-and for his children of this age he casually assumes nursery duties which an American father ordinarily leaves to his wife。

  The older brothers and sisters are also taught to indulge the younger children。The Japanese are quite aware of the danger of what we call the baby's“nose being put out of joint”when the next baby is born。The dispossessed child can easily associate with the new baby the fact that he has had to give up his mother's breast and his mother's bed to the newcomer。Before the new baby is born the mother tells the child that now he will have a real live doll and not just a“pretend”baby。He is told that he can sleep now with his father instead of his mother,and this is pictured as a privilege。The children are drawn into preparations for the new baby。The children are usually genuinely excited and pleased by the new baby but lapses occur and are regarded as thoroughly expectable and not as particularly threatening。

  All Japanese children have toys。Fathers and mothers and all the circle of friends and relatives make or buy dolls and all their appurtenances for the children,and among poorer people they cost practically nothing。Little children play housekeeping,wed-dings,and festivals with them,after arguing out just what the“right”grown-up proce-dures are,and sometimes submitting to mother a disputed point。When there are quar-rels,it is likely that the mother will invoke,noblesse oblige and ask the older child to give in to the younger one。The common phrase is,“Why not lose to win?”She means,and the three-year-old quickly comes to understand her,that if the older child gives up his toy to the younger one the baby will soon be satisfied and turn to something else;then the admonished child will have won his toy back even though he relinquished it。

  Besides the techniques of admonition and teasing,distracting the child and turning his mind away from its object has an honored place in child-rearing。Even the constant giving of candies is generally thought of as part of the technique of distraction。As the child gets nearer to school age techniques of“curing”are used。If a little boy has tan-trums or is disobedient or noisy his mother may take him to a Shinto or Buddhist shrine。The mother's attitude is,“We will go to get help。”It is often quite a jaunt and the cu-ring priest talks seriously with the boy,asking his day of birth and his troubles。He re-tires to pray and comes back to pronounce the cure,sometimes removing the naughtiness in the form of a worm or an insect。He purifies him and sends him home freed。“It lasts for a while,”Japanese say。

  Besides these means of dealing with obstreperous children,there are conventions for teaching necessary physical skills。There is great emphasis on the instructor's putting chil-dren with his own hands physically through the motions。The child should be passive。

  In the traditional teaching of writing,too,the instructor took the child's hand and made the ideographs。It was“to give him the feel。”The child learned to experience the controlled,rhythmic movements before he could recognize the characters,much less write them。In modern mass education this method of teaching is less pronounced but it still occurs。The bow,the handling of chopsticks,shooting an arrow,or tying a pillow on the back in lieu of a baby may all be taught by moving the child's hands and physi-cally placing his body in the correct position。

  Except among the upper classes children do not wait to go to school before they play freely with other children of the neighborhood。In the villages they form little play gangs before they are three and even in towns and cities they play with startling freedom in and out of vehicles in the crowded streets。They are privileged beings。They hang around the shops listening to grown-ups,or play hopscotch or handball。They gather for play at the village shrine,safe in the protection of its patron spirit。Girls and boys play together un-til they go to school,and for two or three years after,but closest ties are likely to be be-tween children of the same sex and especially between children of the same chronological age。These age-groups,especially in the villages,are lifelong and survive all others。

  These pre-school children's gangs are very free with each other。Many of their games are unabashedly obscene from a Western point of view。The children know the facts of life both because of the freedom of grown-ups'conversation and because of the close quarters in which a Japanese family lives。Besides,their mothers ordinarily call attention to their children's genitals when they play with them and bathe them,certainly to those of their boy children。The Japanese do not condemn childish sexuality except when it is indulged in the wrong places and in wrong company。Masturbation is not re-garded as dangerous。“Children,”the Japanese say,their eyes smiling benignantly,“know no shame。”They add,“That is why they are so happy。”It is the great gulf fixed between the little child and the adult,for to say of a grown person,“He knows no shame”is to say that he is lost to decency。

  The child learns in the home his attitudes toward the supernatural。The priest does not“teach”him and generally a child's experiences with organized religion are on those occasions when he goes to a popular festival and,along with all others who attend,is sprinkled by the priest for purification。Some children are taken to Buddhist services,but usually this too occurs at festivals。The child's constant and most deep-seated ex-periences with religion are always the family observances that center around the Buddhist and the Shinto shrines in his own home。The more conspicuous is the Buddhist shrine with the family grave tablets before which are offered flowers,branches of a certain tree,and incense。Food offerings are placed there daily and the elders of the family announce all family events to the ancestors and bow daily before the shrine。In the evening little lamps are lighted there。

  The serious business of fitting a boy into the circumspect patterns of adult Japanese life does not really begin till after he has been in school for two or three years。Up to that time he has been taught physical control,and when he was obstreperous,his naughtiness has been“cured”and his attention distracted。He has been unobtrusively admonished and he has been teased。But he has been allowed to be willful,even to the extent of using violence against his mother。His little ego has been fostered。Not much changes when he first goes to school。The first three grades are co-educational and the teacher,whether a man or a woman,pets the children and is one of them。More empha-sis at home and in school,however,is laid on the dangers of getting into“embarrass-ing”situations。The job of their elders,indeed,is not,at this point,themselves to use ridicule on the children,but gradually to integrate the fact of ridicule with the moral les-son of living up to giri-to-the-world。The rules are particularistic and situational and a great many of them concern what we should call etiquette。They require subordinating one's own will to the ever-increasing duties to neighbors,to family and to country。The child must restrain himself,he must recognize his indebtedness。He passes gradually to the status of a debtor who must walk circumspectly if he is ever to pay back what he owes。

  This change of status is communicated to the growing boy by a new and serious ex-tension of the pattern of babyhood teasing。By the time he is eight or nine his family may in sober truth reject him。If his teacher reports that he has been disobedient or disre-spectful and gives him a black mark in deportment,his family turn against him。If he is criticized for some mischief by the storekeeper,“the family name has been disgraced。”His family are a solid phalanx of accusation。

  The girl's training up to this point does not differ in kind from the boy's,however different in detail。She is more restrained than her brother in the home。More duties are put upon her-though the little boy too may be nursemaid-and she always gets the little end of the horn in matters of presents and attention。She does not have the charac-teristic boys'tantrums,either。But she has been wonderfully free for an Asiatic little girl。Dressed in bright reds,she has played in the streets with the boys,she has fought with them and often held up her own end。She,too,as a child“knew no shame。”Be-tween six and nine she gradually learns her responsibilities to“the world”much as her brother does and by much the same experiences。At nine the school classes are divided into girls'and boys'sections,and boys make a great deal of their new male solidarity。They exclude girls and object to having people see them talking to them。Girls,too,are warned by their mothers that such association is improper。

  Boys,however,have not yet,when they have learned jicho and giri-to-the-world,acquired all that is incumbent upon an adult Japanese male。“From the age of ten,”Japanese say,“he learns giri-to-his-name。”They mean of course that he learns that it is a virtue to resent insult。He must learn the rules too:when to close with the adversary and when to take indirect means to clear his honor。

  For those boys who continue their schooling beyond the six-year elementary school the time when they are becoming responsible for giri-to-their-name falls when they are suddenly exposed to the fierce competition of middle-school entrance examinations and the competitive ranking of every student in every subject。There is no gradual experience which leads up to this,for competition is minimized almost to the vanishing point in ele-mentary school and at home。The sudden new experience helps to make rivalry bitter and preoccupying。Competition for place and suspicion of favoritism are rife。This com-petition,however,does not figure so largely in the life stories as does the middle-school convention of older boys tormenting the lower classmen。The upper classes of middle-school order the younger classes about and put them through various kinds of hazing。They make them do silly and humiliating stunts。Resentments are extremely common,for Japanese boys do not take such things in a spirit of fun。A younger boy who has been made to grovel before an upper-classman and run servile errands hates his tormentor and plans revenge。The fact that the revenge has to be postponed makes it all the more ab-sorbing。It is giri-to-his-name and he regards it as a virtue。

  For those boys who do not go on to middle school,the same kind of experience may come in their Army training。In peacetime one boy in four was drafted,and the hazing of first-year recruits by second-year recruits was even more extreme than in the middle and upper schools。

  These modern Japanese situations in middle school and in the Army take their char-acter,of course,from old Japanese customs about ridicule and insult。The middle and upper schools and the Army did not create the Japanese reaction to them。It is easy to see that the traditional code of giri-to-one's-name makes hazing practices rankle more bitterly in Japan than they do in America。It is also consistent with old patterns that the fact that each hazed group will pass on the punishment in time to a victim group does not prevent a boy's preoccupation with settling scores with his actual tormentor。

  Women do not lean the code of giri-to-one's-name and they do not have the modern experiences of boys'middle schools and Army training。Nor do they go through analo-gous experiences。Their life cycle is much more consistent than their brothers'。From their earliest memories they have been trained to accept the fact that boys get the pre-cedence and the attention and the presents which are denied to them。The rule of life which they must honor denies them the privilege of overt self-assertion。

  The responsibility for the restraints that are required of them,too,is placed squarely upon them,and not vested in an arbitrarily authoritarian parent。Parents exer-cise their prerogatives not by corporal punishments but by their calm,unswerving expec-tation that the girl will live up to what is required of her。

  A boy too receives careful habit training by example and imitation,though it is less intensive than the girl's。When he has“learned,”no alibi is accepted。After adoles-cence,however,he is left,in one important field of his life,largely to his own initia-tive。His elders do not teach him habits of courting。The home is a circle from which all overt amorous behavior is excluded,and the segregation of unrelated boys and girls has been extreme since he was nine or ten。The Japanese ideal is that his parents will ar-range a marriage for him before he has really been interested in sex,and it is therefore desirable that a boy should be“shy”in his behavior with girls。In the villages there is a vast amount of teasing on the subject which often does keep boys“shy”。But boys try to learn。In the old days,and even recently in more isolated villages of Japan,many girls,sometimes the great majority,were pregnant before marriage。Such pre-marital experi-ence was a“free area”not involved in the serious business of life。The parents were ex-pected to arrange the marriages without reference to these affairs。Most Japanese young men learn sex behavior in other ways。In any case,they do not learn through meticulous adult tutelage。This difference in training underscores for the young man the Japanese tenet that sex is an area removed from that serious business of life over which his elders preside and in which they painstakingly train his habits。It is an area of self-gratifica-tion which he masters with much fear of embarrassment。The two areas have their differ ent rules。After his marriage he may have sexual pleasures elsewhere without being in the least surreptitious about it,and in so doing he does not infringe upon his wife's rights nor threaten the stability of his marriage。

  His wife has not the same privilege。Her duty is faithfulness to her husband。She would have to be surreptitious。Even when she might be tempted,comparatively few women in Japan live their lives in sufficient privacy to carry off a love affair。When her husband looks elsewhere,she may have recourse to the accepted Japanese customs of masturbation,and,from the peasant villages to the homes of the great,women treasure traditional implements for this purpose。She is granted in the villages,moreover,certain exuberances in erotic behavior when she has borne a child。Before she is a mother,she would not make a sex joke,but afterward,and as she grows older,her conversation at a mixed party is full of them。She entertains the party,too,with very free sexual dances,jerking her hips back and forth to the accompaniment of ribald songs。“These perform-ances invariably bring roars of laughter。”

  Japanese women are therefore allowed certain kinds of freedom about sexual mat-ters,the more,too,the lower born they are。They must observe many taboos during most of their lives but there is no taboo which requires them to deny that they know the facts of life。When it gratifies the men,they are obscene。Likewise,when it gratifies the men,they are asexual。

  ontradictions which all Westerners have described in Japanese character are intelligi-ble from their child rearing。It produces a duality in their outlook on life,neither side of which can be ignored。From their experience of privilege and psychological ease in baby-hood they retain through all the disciplines of later life the memory of an easier life when they“did not know shame。”They do not have to paint a Heaven in the future;they have it in their past。They rephrase their childhood in their doctrine of the innate goodness of man,of the benevolence of their gods,and of the incomparable desirability of being a Japanese。It makes it easy for them to base their ethics on extreme interpretations of the“Buddha-seed”in every man and of every man's becoming a kami on death。It gives them assertiveness and a certain self-confidence。It underlies their frequent willingness to tack-le any job,no matter how far above their ability it may seem to be。It underlies their readiness to pit their judgment even against their own Government,and to testify to it by suicide。On occasion,it gives them a capacity for mass megalomania。

  The dualism in their characters creates tensions to which different Japanese respond in different ways,though each is making his own solution of the same essential problem of reconciling the spontaneity and acceptance he experienced in early childhood with the restraints which promise security in later life。A good many have difficulty in resolving this problem。Some stake everything on ruling their lives like pedants and are deeply fearful of any spontaneous encounter with life。The fear is the greater because spontanei-ty is no fantasy but something they once experienced。They remain aloof,and,by adhe-ring to the rules they have made their own,feel that they have identified themselves with all that speaks with authority。Some are more dissociated。They are afraid of their own aggressiveness which they darn up in their souls and cover with a bland surface behav-ior。Others,who have been more caught by their early childhood,feel a consuming anx-iety in the face of all that is demanded of them as adults and try to increase their de-pendence when it is no longer appropriate。

  These are characteristic dangers to which the Japanese are exposed when their anxi-ety about rejection and censure are too much for them。When they are not overpressed,they show in their lives both the capacity for enjoying life and the carefulness not to step on others'toes which has been bred into them in their upbringing。It is a very considera-ble achievement。Their early childhood has given them assertiveness。It has not awak-ened a burdening sense of guilt。The later restraints have been imposed in the name of solidarity with their fellows,and the obligations are reciprocal。There are designated“free areas”where impulse life can still be gratified,no matter how much other people may interfere with their wishes in certain matters。The Japanese have always been fa-mous for the pleasure they get from innocent things:viewing the cherry blossoms,the moon,chrysanthemums,or new fallen snow;keeping insects caged in the house for their“song”;writing little verses;making gardens;arranging flowers,and drinking ceremonial tea。These are not activities of a deeply troubled and aggressive people。They do not take their pleasures sadly either。A Japanese rural community,in those happier days before Japan embarked on its disastrous Mission,could be in its leisure time as cheerful and sanguine as any living people。In its hours of work it could be as diligent。

  But the Japanese ask a great deal of themselves。To avoid the great threats of ostra-cism and detraction,they must give up personal gratifications they have learned to sa-vor。They must put these impulses under lock and key in the important affairs of life。The few who violate this pattern run the risk of losing even their respect for themselves。

  Those who do respect themselves chart their course,not between“good”and“evil,”but between“expected man”and“unexpected man,”and sink their own personal de-mands in the collective“expectation。”These are the good men who“know shame”and are endlessly circumspect。They are the men who bring honor to their families,their vil-lages,and their nation。

  The Japanese have paid a high price for their way of life。They have denied them-selves simple freedoms which Americans count upon as unquestioningly as the air they breathe。We must remember,now that the Japanese are looking to de-mook-ra-sie since their defeat,how intoxicating it can be to them to act quite simply and innocently as one pleases。

  In this transition to a greater psychic freedom,the Japanese have certain old tradi-tional virtues which can help to keep them on an even keel。One of these is that self-re-sponsibility which they phrase as their accountability for“the rust of my body,”-that figure of speech which identifies one's body with a sword。As the wearer of a sword is re-sponsible for its shining brilliancy,so each man must accept responsibility for the out-come of his acts。He must acknowledge and accept all natural consequences of his weak-ness,his lack of persistence,his ineffectualness。Self-responsibility is far more drasti-cally interpreted in Japan than in free America。In this Japanese sense the sword be-comes,not a symbol of aggression,but a simile of ideal and self-responsible man。No balance wheel can be better than this virtue in a dispensation which honors individual freedom,and Japanese child-rearing and philosophy of conduct have inculcated it as a part of the Japanese Spirit。Today the Japanese have proposed“to lay aside the sword”in the Western sense。In their Japanese sense,they have an abiding strength in their concern with keeping an inner sword free from the rust which always threatens it。In their phraseology of virtue the sword is a symbol they can keep in a freer and more peaceful world。

  
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