After reading this book , I am ashamed to say I knew nothing about Chinese history. Absolutely nothing.
But this book is not about Chinese History. It is about 3 women, a grandmother,a mother and a daughter, the author. But as the story is set in Mao’s China, the communist China, it describes life under Mao, the communist leader.
The things Mao did were unbelievable, i can’t even begin to tell you how shocked i was while reading it.
I’ll give you some points in random, epecially for many of us who know very little about Mao.
–Mao stopped family planning because he believed that if America dropped bombs on China, China should be able to multiply itself through the poeple. What kind of a logic is this? I mean who thinks this way. Well, seems like Mao did.
–The entire country was asked to produce steel and other important activities like agriculture were put on back burner. This one irresponsible decision led to a country wide famine in which 30 million people died.
–During one phase chinese teenage students formed local units called Red Gaurds which tortured people under the pretext of following Mao’s orders.
Mao did not care what happened to anyone unless and until there was a threat to his position.
–During the cultural revolution, paintings, musical instruments, sports, cards, tea houses, bars and any other from of entertainment was either banned or destroyed. Mao also believed that anything old and antique should not be a part of China. This led to the demolishing of many historic monuments in the country.
–He made a remark once saying, “The more books you read, the more stupid you become”. This remark later became the guideline for health and educating.
I am amazed by how much power one person had on a country as huge as China, how one person’s orders could change the lives of millions of people, and how he could toss and turn their destinies with one irresponsible, selfish decision.
I am also amazed at how thoroughly the minds of the chinese people were affected, rather conditioned that they saw nothing wrong in what Mao did or rather never blamed him for any of his wrong decisions. He was GOD to them.
He destroyed and exploited the country for his selfish reasons. One cannot imagine one person going through all the things that the women in the book go through, horrifying but believable.
I’ll leave you with the authors words,”The atmosphere outside was terrifying, with the violent street-corner denunciation meetings and all the sinister wall posters and slogans; people were walking around like zombies, with harsh or cowed expressions on their faces”.
Read it to believe it.
I did love this book. It’s been a few years though so I really should pick it up again. I forget too easily.
If there’s anything to be gained from Mao’s legacy, perhaps it’s the very clear lesson of how power in the absence of responsibility, corrupts.
On the other hand it’s incredibly frustrating that as a society, we fail so consistently to learn from our mistakes.
Yes, I remember finding this book really moving, too. Like Bunny, it’s been a while and I should pick it up again although it isn’t a short book is it?
‘Balzac and the Little Seamstress’ by Dai Sijie is a brilliant little book about the same period. Check it out if you can! 🙂
Sounds absolutely terrifying and archaic actions.