Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history--a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author. An engrossing record of Mao's impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord's concubine; her mother's struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents' experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a "barefoot doctor," a steelworker, and an electrician.
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Although the Communists were apposed to torture in theory and on principle, officials were told that they should not intervene if the peasant wished to vent their anger in passionate acts of revenge against the farm owners. People such as Jin were not just wealthy owners of land, but had wielded absolute and arbituary power, which they indulged in willfully, over the lives of the local population.
They were called e-ba ferocious despots. In some areas the killing extended to ordinary landlords, who were called 'stones' - obstacles to the revolution.
Policy towards the 'stones' was: 'When in doubt, kill. In his reports to his superiors he repeatedly said that the Party should be careful with human lives, and that excessive executions would only harm the revolution.
It was partly because many people like my father spoke up that in February the Communist leadership issued urgent instructions to stop the violent excesses. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Wild Swans by Jung Chang. The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.
As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published August 12th by Simon Schuster first published September 1st More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Wild Swans , please sign up.
Hi all I am interested about the legacy left on the Chinese national psyche by the incredible torment of the period.
Any book title on this topic to share, please? This question contains spoilers… view spoiler [I just start reading and discovering chinese writers ,Do you think tha the writer in "Wild Swans "qualifies characters as sets of traits or as fully realized human beings?
Rachel Lail Chang is writing about the lives of herself and her family members, so she definitely fully develops them as human beings. See all 7 questions about Wild Swans…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Wild Swans may well be the most depressing book I've ever read. Don't let that keep you from giving it a try, though, for by some strange mechanism, it also ranks among the most uplifting books I've read, chronicling as it does a courage, resilience and will to survive which are nothing short of riveting.
I could sum the book up by saying it's the greatest ode to courage and resilience ever written, or that it's one of those rare books which make you despair of humanity and then go a long way to Wild Swans may well be the most depressing book I've ever read. I could sum the book up by saying it's the greatest ode to courage and resilience ever written, or that it's one of those rare books which make you despair of humanity and then go a long way towards restoring your faith in it, but no, I'm not going to leave it at that.
I'm going to do this book justice, because damn it, it deserves it. For those of you who missed the hype back in the early s, Wild Swans is the true history of three generations of women living through the horrible nightmare that is modern Chinese history.
One is the author herself, now a naturalised British citizen. The second is her mother, an earnest Communist who raised a large family at a time which was extremely bad for family life. The third is her grandmother, who was married off as a concubine to a warlord as a girl and lived to see her family suffer for this unfortunate connection again and again.
Using these three extraordinary lives as her main focus, Jung Chang tells the history of China's even more extraordinary twentieth century, from the late Qing Dynasty in the first decade of the century to the relatively free s, a period comprising the Republican era, the battle between the Kwomintang and the Communists, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
It's gripping stuff even for those who know their Chinese history, and it blew me away when I first read it halfway through my Chinese degree, making me wonder for the first time but not the last whether I really wanted to devote the rest of my life to China.
It took me two more years to decide that I did not, but this book, whose memory has always stayed with me, played a large part in that decision. To this day, I vividly remember the horror I experienced when I read the long section about the Cultural Revolution. It brought alive the terror of that particular episode of Chinese history better than any other book I'd read, and it shocked me to my core.
While Wild Swans is largely about the three women mentioned above, the most interesting person in the book I hesitate to call him a character as he was obviously a very real person is the author's father, a high-ranking cadre who genuinely believed in the Communist ideals and strove all his life to implement them in daily life. At first, he is infuriating in his refusal to grant his wife and children the privileges to which they are entitled as his relatives on the grounds that to do so would amount to nepotism and corruption, which is precisely what the Communists are supposed to be trying to eradicate , but as the story progresses, you realise that there is something quite heroic about Mr Chang -- that he is, in his daughter's words, 'a moral man living in a land that [is] a moral void'.
By the time the Cultural Revolution rolls around the corner, you feel such admiration for him that you'd personally drag him away from the humiliations and beatings he receives for sticking to his guns if you could, to prevent him having to experience that loss of faith and dreams which is bound to follow.
His is a tragedy with a capital T, and it's harrowing -- one of the most painful things I've read, and then some. Yet for all the personal struggles described in the book and there are many of them , the main struggling character of Wild Swans is China itself. Chang does a great job chronicling what J. Ballard called 'the brain-death of a nation', sharing historical facts in a way non-sinologists will understand and showing the cruelty and mercilessness inherent in the Chinese -- or should that be humanity in general?
She does a marvellous job describing the panic and unpredictability of the early Cultural Revolution, when absolutely everybody could be denounced at the drop of a hat, and when pettiness and lust for power reigned. Along the road, she provides fascinating insights into Mao Zedong's selfishness and megalomania, and into the hypocrisy and incongruity of the movements he set in motion, which brutalised human relationships like nothing else ever has.
And all these atrocities she juxtaposes with the integrity and courage of her parents and grandmother, who get through it all with some hope and optimism left intact. It's a riveting story, and Chang tells it well. If I have any complaints about Wild Swans , they concern the first few chapters and the romanisation of names. The early parts of the book, which deal with events the author did not witness herself, feel a bit aloof and lifeless.
It gets better once Chang starts telling about her parents, and once she reaches the part of the story to which she herself was privy the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution , the book becomes quite unputdownable. As for the romanisation, I wish the publisher had hired an editor skilled in Pinyin, as Chang's spelling of Chinese names is all over the place something non-sinologists won't notice, but which is an eyesore to me. These are minor flaws, though, which hardly detract from the overall quality of the book.
Wild Swans is an intensely compelling read -- moving, unsettling and unforgettable. It should be compulsory reading for everyone remotely interested in China, or in history in general. View all 10 comments. Jan 20, Margitte rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , reviewed , china-culture-history-politics , nonfiction , biography , memoirs. At first I did not want to voice my opinion of this book since it cut so near to the bone and was such a profound shock to read in It was, however, the first book, after reading Isabelle Allende, that kept me awake for several weeks afterwards.
No other book ever managed to achieve that. It certainly is a depressing book, no beating around the bush about that, but also such a courageous introduction to a life of people shut away behind the veil of communism. My overall impression of the boo At first I did not want to voice my opinion of this book since it cut so near to the bone and was such a profound shock to read in My overall impression of the book was that it must have been equally painful for the author to write it as it was for her family, three generations of women, to endure the horrific takeover of Mao Tse Tung in China.
As with all Communist rhetoric, so many noble promises were made to people, freedom of oppression being the biggest, and innocent poor people believed enough in the idea to die for it. Those who did not want to accept it, were killed as well - in their millions.
However, people such as Jung's father, who staunchly believed that it would bring change for the good, staggered back in horror when the first real implications of Communism hit their lives. Freedom was the first privilege to be revoked on all levels of human existence. All intellectuals against the revolution were either interned or killed. They all lost their jobs and their standing and their respect in society were publicly destroyed.
They were declared enemies of the state. The equalization of society also did not happen seamlessly and the population would soon find out what it really entailed. The educational- and health systems crashed completely. Expropriation of land was part of the plan. Landowners were brutally murdered, land-grabbing became the order of the day. Land redistribution soon led to the most staggering overgrazing and erosion of fertile land over millions of hectares.
Large parts of China became an instant man-made desert. Poverty and famine increased substantially and exponentially. Thirty million people died of hunger alone, which was a well-kept secret for almost forty years.
Jung Chang writes on p Although the Communists were apposed to torture in theory and on principle, officials were told that they should not intervene if the peasant wished to vent their anger in passionate acts of revenge against the farm owners. The necklaces burning tires around 'an enemy of the revolution's neck , was rampantly used to kill very often innocent people.
When Nuances Meant Life or Death
Although the Communists were apposed to torture in theory and on principle, officials were told that they should not intervene if the peasant wished to vent their anger in passionate acts of revenge against the farm owners. People such as Jin were not just wealthy owners of land, but had wielded absolute and arbituary power, which they indulged in willfully, over the lives of the local population. They were called e-ba ferocious despots. In some areas the killing extended to ordinary landlords, who were called 'stones' - obstacles to the revolution. Policy towards the 'stones' was: 'When in doubt, kill.
'This book will shake the world'
There was a moment in the early s when everybody everywhere seemed to be reading Wild Swans. The biggest grossing non-fiction paperback in publishing history, it sold more than 10m copies worldwide and was translated into 30 languages. It wasn't just a popular success appealing mainly to women as is sometimes sniffily assumed , it was also acclaimed by literary heavyweights such as Martin Amis and JG Ballard. Published two years after the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Jung Chang's family memoir, following the lives of three generations of women through China's terrible 20th century, arrived at just the right time to satisfy a readership hungry for information about this unknown country. For many in the west, Wild Swans was their first real insight into life under the Chinese Communist party.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is a family history that spans a century, recounting the lives of three female generations in China, by Chinese writer Jung Chang. First published in , Wild Swans contains the biographies of her grandmother and her mother, then finally her own autobiography. The book has been translated into 37 languages and sold over 13 million copies. The book starts by relating the biography of Chang's grandmother Yu-fang. From the age of two, she had bound feet. As the family was relatively poor, her father schemed to have her taken as a concubine to high-ranking warlord General Xue Zhi-heng, in order to gain status, which was hugely important in terms of quality of life. After a wedding ceremony to the General, who already had a wife and many concubines, the young girl was left alone in a wealthy household with servants , and did not see her " husband " again for six years.