Life and Death in Shanghai Book Review and Summary
Life and Death in Shanghai is memoir of Nine Cheng’s life experience during the cultural revolution in China. This book is the one I am highly recommended to everyone. I cried many times while reading the book, and felt depressed as well, but after reading the book, you will have a clear picture of the cultural revolution really was about. The political struggles from the top government level, it caused regular civilians to suffer.
Cheng had three servants, educated in London, the widow of an official of Kuomintang government, before the communist took over mainland China and an employee of Shell oil in China, made her a perfect target of the cultural revolution. She was forced to attend “Struggle meetings”, red guards looted her house and subjected her to indignities, wrongfully arrested and asked to confess being a counter-revolutionary of bourgeois background. When she refused to confess the foreign eduction, working for a multinational company (with party’s permission) and enjoying the comforts of life brought by such a high level job, made her an enemy of the state. It’s the powerful story of her imprisonment, of the deprivation she endured, of her heroic resistance, and of her quest of justice when she was released.
She was imprisoned and interrogated for 6 1/2 years, during that time, her only child MeiLing was murdered by Red Guards. After her release from prison she was eventually exonerated of all charges against her and emigrated to the United State.
Cheng sheds light on atmosphere and political tensions of China’s political situation, from Mao nearly crippled the country, just to the internal struggles in the party, to the motives of low-level Party functionaries who did what they were told but was always a bit cynical about what they did.
This is the first book I read about the cultural revolution, I heard a million similar stories before, but still was really shocked when I read her book. Felt so sad Chinese people from that generation, actually wasted their life doing nothing which producing any real values for the world.
Clearly I can see how often political policies can change in China, one day you are the respectful individuals, the other day you could become the enemy of the state.
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