The Artisans

A Vanishing Chinese Village


Published by (2022-01-04)

Evoking Studs Terkel, Shen Fuyu delivers a rollicking deep dive into working life in a small village in rural China, tracing the last 100 years of history.

Born in Shen Village in Southeast China, Shen Fuyu grew up in a family of farmers. Years later, Shen, now a writer, returned to his hometown to capture the village’s rich history in the face of industrialization.
Through his own childhood memories and those of his ancestors, Shen resurrects the working life of Shen Village through interlinked stories of fifteen artisans as their lives intersect over the course of a century. While Shen's view of his hometown and his heritage is tinged with nostalgia, he does not romanticize it. Nor does he sugarcoat the backbreaking difficulty of life in rural China, but he still captures its small satisfactions and joys of loving one’s work with a great deal of care.
In an acerbic, earthy and unsparing style that swings from poignancy to comedy, sometimes within a single paragraph, Shen evokes the spirits of these workers--a bamboo-weaver and his beloved bull, a carpenter’s magical saw, the deserter who became the village lantern-maker and a rebellious woman who beats up her own kidnapper.
A reflection on the vicissitudes of small-town life during the epic shift from agricultural to industrial civilization, The Artisans vividly details the hardships, friendships and communal mythmaking of a disappearing community.

Book Details

Format: Hardcover
Price: 35 CAD / 26 USD
Published: 2022-01-04
Page Count: 256
Trim Size: 6 x 9

The Artisans is a gorgeous elegy to village life in China, revealing and insightful, at the same time a pure delight for anyone lucky enough to read it.”
— Barbara Demick, author, Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town

"The Artisans is a deeply evocative look at rural life in China. Through Shen Fuyu’s poetic storytelling we’re transported to the slowly disappearing world of a small village, where the ruptures in China’s history intertwine in bittersweet, personal ways. Each person’s story is told with enormous dignity and tenderness, making The Artisans a critical record of rural life, survival and community."
— Xiaowei Wang, author of Blockchain Chicken Farm

"Part ethnography, part memoir, part traditional storytelling, The Artisans is, above all else, a psychological search for roots and a literary attempt to reclaim a rich and nuanced vision of “home” that is quickly disappearing from the landscape of contemporary China. Poignantly written and beautifully translated, this is a book like no other." 
— Michael Berry (UCLA), translator of Wuhan Diary and author of A History of Pain