Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Paperback – Aug 12 2003
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In Wild Swans Jung Chang recounts the evocative, unsettling, and insistently gripping story of how three generations of women in her family fared in the political maelstrom of China during the 20th century. Chang's grandmother was a warlord's concubine. Her gently raised mother struggled with hardships in the early days of Mao's revolution and rose, like her husband, to a prominent position in the Communist Party before being denounced during the Cultural Revolution. Chang herself marched, worked, and breathed for Mao until doubt crept in over the excesses of his policies and purges. Born just a few decades apart, their lives overlap with the end of the warlords' regime and overthrow of the Japanese occupation, violent struggles between the Kuomintang and the Communists to carve up China, and, most poignant for the author, the vicious cycle of purges orchestrated by Chairman Mao that discredited and crushed millions of people, including her parents. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Bursting with drama, heartbreak and horror, this extraordinary family portrait mirrors China's century of turbulence. Chang's grandmother, Yu-fang, had her feet bound at age two and in 1924 was sold as a concubine to Beijing's police chief. Yu-fang escaped slavery in a brothel by fleeing her "husband" with her infant daughter, Bao Qin, Chang's mother-to-be. Growing up during Japan's brutal occupation, free-spirited Bao Qin chose the man she would marry, a Communist Party official slavishly devoted to the revolution. In 1949, while he drove 1000 miles in a jeep to the southwestern province where they would do Mao's spadework, Bao Qin walked alongside the vehicle, sick and pregnant (she lost the child). Chang, born in 1952, saw her mother put into a detention camp in the Cultural Revolution and later "rehabilitated." Her father was denounced and publicly humiliated; his mind snapped, and he died a broken man in 1975. Working as a "barefoot doctor" with no training, Chang saw the oppressive, inhuman side of communism. She left China in 1978 and is now director of Chinese studies at London University. Her meticulous, transparent prose radiates an inner strength. Photos. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I still find myself looking at an elderly Chinese person, and wondering what their life was like when they were younger. Every one of them could write a memoir which would be equally as gripping as this one.
This book is excellent. I loved it, and couldn't put it down. I've lent it out many times, and plan to read it again!
Wild Swans is what I would term a "human-interest history," meaning that the dry historical aspect of the book is tempered by the human emotion surrounding the individual events. Jung Chang uses the female leaders of each generation to provide a thoughtful outlook on the traditions and culture of China. For me, the best way to gain a true feel for the attitudes of a specific time period is to hear a personal account. This is the book's most salient quality. Chang makes the most of the little details that encompass the environment of the characters and uses the thoughts and feelings of her family to convey key concepts pertaining to Chinese morals and behaviors.
The concise language of the book also helps to promote these historical images and gives the book a quick tempo. Each anecdote is told in the same, somewhat removed manner, even Chang's own experiences. While some might find this an impersonal tactic, I felt that it allowed the tragedies of the story to shine by basing them purely on their own facets. Any extraneous writing would have clouded the sheer pain involved in a number of the events, and Chang's distance allows the reader to recreate the scene and absorb the historical depth behind it.Read more ›
The section of the book that concerns Jung Chang's grandmother is probably the most interesting and accessible of the tales of the three women. Here, the author does a good job highlighting the social and cultural mores of the time and breathes a bit of individual life into the people whose history she's telling us about. However, it doesn't last.
I found much of the writing about her mother and about Chang herself felt like it had been written at a remove from the subject matter. Chang simply uses short, declarative statements such as "My mother was angry at my father again", "I was sad", "I was afraid", "My brother was worried", et cetera, instead of attempting to help illustrate an emotional state or mindset of someone for the reader. Yes, the short sentences get the point across, but they remove all the indivuality from Chang and her family. These people have no individual voice and are interchangeable. For example, when Chang writes that her mother yells at her father, I don't hear her mother at all. I just read the words because that's all they are: words. It's as if Chang was focusing on the language instead of the people. Plus, her insistence on recounting the minutiae of everyone's life/day (especially her own) covers up those moments in a deluge of detail.Read more ›
1. The reason that the Kuomintang was not successful in China was constant corruption. Some people have suggested that Chinese people love tyrants (Jasper Becker, "The Chinese") and this is the explanation of why they rejected what would have been a democratic government for an authoritarian government. This is partially true, but the Kuomintang blew any chance that it had at legitimacy with its rampant corruption.
2. That the Communist Party became popular because they promised to not be like the corrupt and crooked Kuomintang. Her father is an example of one of the wide-eyed idealists that really believed in his cause at the beginning and was left a broken man when he saw what actually became of this grand vision. People at Western universities are always attacking the West and praising the Communist ideology/ governent allocation of resources, and they haven't a faintest idea of the actual RESULTS of the intended programs. Nor do they understand the incentive structures that led to those results.
3. Historical accounts of the great famine. I can't believe that this very afternoon, there are still people trying to talk away this historical event in China and say that it was just a statistical illusion. This is the second author that I've read that gives historical accounts of people eating their children.
4. Demonstrating how the cult of Mao was created and maintained, as well as what were his motives in the various campaigns (Cultural Revolution/ The Great Leap Forward) that swept the country during his reign.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
loved this account of life in China under such a terrible regime.... Captivating.....Published 1 month ago by Jo Becker
This isn't the worst book I have ever read, I'm about 3/4 through it and still reading, so obviously it has some appeal. Read morePublished 11 months ago by C. Boatenreiter
The story behind this book is fascinating, but the book would have benefitted from serious editing. The author's story of the harrowing times in China from pre-WWII through the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by 2Cavvies
This is a first-hand telling of the personal history of modern China... And a woman's perspective at that. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Mary McKim
I did not realize that it would be tape, not disc and was too abridged.Published 21 months ago by Judy Elting
Sounded really good and I was excited to read it. I very rarely give up on a book, but this was boring and difficult to read. It was neither a story nor a history book. Read morePublished 23 months ago by jef