We examine overarching themes in the contributions, including critiques of neo-liberalism, rural-urban linkages, the relevance of mixed methods and cross-disciplinary approaches, the need to engage social theory, and variation across space and time. At the same time, we provide an overview of rural Chinese politics and explain that the goal of the collection was to bring findings that have appeared in area studies or disciplinary outlets into conversation with peasant studies research. After discussing intellectual debates about the peasantry, everyday practices of governance, contentious politics, the mutual constitution of the rural and urban, and environmental politics, we conclude that work on the Chinese countryside needs 'lumping' (to discover unexpected similarities) and 'splitting' (to uncover patterns and forks in the road). Chinese rural politics is neither 'turtles all the way down' and baffling complexity, nor one master story that applies in all times and places. Instead we must continue to navigate the path between exoticizing China and treating its rural transformation as a tale many times told. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.