“Last Quarter of the Moon”: Evenki Odyssey Captured in Chinese Novel Set in the Greater Khingan MountainsEvenki (鄂温克族) Add comments
My translation of Chi Zijian’s Last Quarter of the Moon (额尔古纳河右岸) can now be ordered—e-book and hard cover—online. Read the opening for free here (click on the cover), the author’s Afterword, an English-language book review roundup, a review en français, or an interview with me in Chinese about translating the novel (中华读书报).
Narrated in the first person by the aged wife of the last chieftain of an Evenki clan, the Right Bank of the Argun—as it is dubbed in Chinese—is a moving tale of the decline of reindeer-herding nomads in the sparsely populated, richly forested mountains that border on Russia.
Over the last three centuries, three waves of outsiders have encroached upon the Evenki’s isolated way of life: the Russians, whose warring and plundering eventually pushed the Evenki down from Siberia across to the southern (“right”) bank of the Argun River, the tributary of the Amur that defines the Sino-Russian border; the Japanese, who forcibly recruit them into the ranks of the Manchukuo Army; and the Han Chinese of the People’s Republic, who fell the forests that are crucial to the survival of reindeer, outlaw hunting, and eventually coerce the Evenki to leave the mountains for life in a “civilized” permanent settlement.
For an academic study of the ideologies behind the government’s official policy of resettling the Evenki—and an in-depth look at the psychological impact of divorcing them from their “reindeer lifeworld”—see Forced Relocation amongst the Reindeer Evenki of Inner Mongolia.
Visit Northern Hunting Culture for marvelous pictures of the Aoluguya Evenki, their lifestyle and handicrafts.
For a fascinating look at the etymology of names for rivers, mountains and forests in their homeland on either side of the Sino-Russian border, see Evenki Place Names behind the Hànzì.