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Egg on Mao: The Story of an Ordinary Man Who Defaced an Icon and Unmasked a Dictatorship [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Denise Chong
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 29 2009 0307355799 978-0307355799
The eagerly-awaited new book by Denise Chong, author of the award-winning, national bestseller, The Concubine’s Children.

In her first book in a decade, beloved author Denise Chong, tells the story of a man who humiliated a repressive regime in front of the entire world, and whose daring gesture informs our view of human rights to this day.

Despite his family’s impeccable Communist roots, Lu Decheng, a small town bus mechanic, grew up intuiting all that was wrong with Mao’s China. As a young man he believes truth and decency mattered, only to learn that preserving the Chairman’s legacy mattered more.

Lu’s story reads like Shakespearean drama, peppered with defiance, love and betrayal. His steadfast refusal to acquiesce comes to a head, but not an end, with his infamous defacing of Mao’s portrait during the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square.

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Praise for Egg on Mao:

"Chong is a masterful storyteller. . . .Egg on Mao is a lovely and fascinating look at not only China, but also the power of friendship and human decency." —Quill and Quire
"Egg on Mao speaks the universal language of human rights." —The Daily News

Praise for The Concubine's Children:

"Beautiful, haunting and wise, [The Concubine' s Children] lingers in the mind like a portrait one returns to in a family album, and elicits the same mysterious response of love, melancholy and pride."
The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Denise Chong is the author of the family memoir The Concubine’s Children and The Girl in the Picture, a story of the napalm girl from the Vietnam War. She lives with her family in Ottawa.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Another view of the change in times in China Jan. 31 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
With great journalistic skills Denise Chong once again chronicled the end of China's Cultural Revolution but not quite ready for full democracy through the story of these young men and their circumstances.
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But that forgotten China has not disappeared. The same China that killed the students in Tiananmen Square has not gone away (although it wants you to think it has). This book tells the tale of 3 individuals who decided to go a step further and throw egg on the huge portrait of Mao during the protest. The story of the life of one of the 3 protestors leading up to the event is intertwined with the account of the aftermath. Perhaps the weakness of the story is that there aren't really many surprises. But in this era when China is viewed (inaccurately) as more benevolent than before, it is this kind of book that should continue to be read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bulletins from Tiananmen Nov. 9 2009
By R. Hardy - Published on
When the students took over Tiananmen Square twenty years ago, the world watched with fascination as they gave the first visible protest against the Communist system in China. That the protesters were eventually overcome, and that the system has continued and has prospered, have not erased the memory of the uprising. Since the Communists won that battle, and seem to be winning the war, we are likely never to hear of all the Tiananmen stories that ought to be told. There is one now, however, that illustrates how strange (and successful) the Chinese repression has been. Egg on Mao: The Story of an Ordinary Man Who Defaced an Icon and Unmasked a Dictatorship (Counterpoint) by Denise Chong is testimony, biography, and history told in detail about just one incident in the 1989 temporary takeover, an incident that was part of the protest and yet distinct from it. Chong mentions in an "Author's Note" at the end how she was able to interview some of the former protesters and spent two months in China in 2007 secretly gathering information. In her "Acknowledgement" note, she refers to the many who helped in her research though she cannot name them. Two decades later, "a complete ban remains in place against discussion of the protest and events in the square and the subsequent brutal crackdown and repression - even an accounting of the imprisoned or the dead is a `state secret'." The story of Lu Decheng and his fellow protesters, then, represents an important view into the protest, even though their stories are not representative of the mass of students taking part.

Lu Decheng was born in 1961, and grew up under the strict regime that went unchallenged even after Mao died in 1976. He was a rebellious teen, and resented indoctrination. He became a bus mechanic, but was to face incomprehensible suffering from what he thought were arbitrary or foolish regulations. When he and friends heard of the Tiananmen protests, they traveled there, planning their own version: thirty eggs filled with paint, which they flung across the huge portrait of Chairman Mao that looked over everyone in Tiananmen Square. It was an independent action; they felt that targeting this particular icon would call special attention to the despotic rule of Mao and his successors. Their hope was that the symbolism of the defacement of the portrait would be taken up by the students. They were shocked that just the opposite occurred. The act was so provocative, that the student leaders were scared that Lu Decheng and his two companions might be agents for the other side, there to give an excuse for a crackdown. They were denounced as vandals and turned over to the Public Security Bureau. Lu Decheng was tried and sentenced to sixteen years in atrocious prisons that were supposed to reform his thinking, but he resisted. A practical man, he tried to find ways that even in the prison environment he might make himself a better person, and he did all he could to learn Mandarin, to read and write it, and to enjoy what books were available. He never recanted, and would not hear of the charges against him being reduced to simple vandalism. When a warden, probing to find how right-minded he was becoming, asked him what he thought of the 1991 upheavals in Russia, Lu Decheng said, "It shows the total bankruptcy of Communism." The warden was apoplectic, and there were meetings to denounce Lu Decheng in the prison while he was on stage in front of everyone else, but he kept silent and would not recant. There was a flow of political prisoners gradually released after the 1997 death of Deng Xiaoping, and then to curry favor for the 2000 Olympics, and Lu Decheng was freed in January 1998. He was able to sneak out of China eight years later, and now lives in Canada.

This is a timely and important political story, but Chong has told it by concentrating on the humanity and bravery of her lead character and contrasting it with other individuals, like his father, who had been ground down by authoritarianism. Chong has not stuck to chronology; the narrative zips from Lu Decheng's upbringing, to Tiananmen, to the prison, and back; the lurches can be confusing, but the payoff is that the climactic event of Lu Decheng's life, the defacement of Mao's portrait, is the book's climax on the final pages, with all strands leading up to it. It was a simple, quixotic gesture, but it was deeply resented by the Chinese government. It changed little, but that little matters; this is an inspiring story of real heroism. That the powers in China so feared Lu Decheng's action, and his inability to reform, means that this round was won by the people; there will be other rounds to come.
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