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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China [Hardcover]

Jung Chang
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (313 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Mar 1992
Through the lives of three different women - grandmother, mother and daughter - this book tells the story of 20th-century China. At times scarcely credible in the details it reveals of the suffering of millions of ordinary Chinese people, it is an unforgettable record of tyranny, hope and ultimate survival under conditions of extreme harshness. In 1924, at the age of 15, the author's grandmother became the concubine of a powerful warlord, whom she was seldom to see during the 10 years of their "marriage". Her daughter, born in 1931, experienced the horrors of Japanese occupation in Manchuria as a schoolgirl, and after their surrender joined the Communist-led underground fighting Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang. She rose to be a senior Communist official, but was imprisoned three times. Her husband, also a high official and one of the very first to join the Communists, was relentlessly persecuted, imprisoned and finally sent to a labour camp where, physically broken and disillusioned, he lost his sanity. The author herself grew up during the Cultural Revolution, at the time of the personality cult of Mao and the worst excesses of the Gang of Four. She joined the Red Guard but after Mao's death she was to become one of the first Chinese students to study abroad.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 524 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (25 Mar 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002153572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002153577
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (313 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 532,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“If you haven’t time to read the book, make time for listening to the book – six hours long, but worth every minute.”
High Fliers Autumn 97

About the Author

Jung Chang was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She was briefly a Red Guard at the age of fourteen, and then a peasant, a ‘barefoot doctor’, a steelworker and an electrician. She came to Britain in 1978, and in 1982 became the first person from the People’s Republic of China to receive a doctorate from a British university. She lives in London and is married to the writer Jon Halliday.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
At the age of fifteen my grandmother became the concubine of a warlord general, the police chief of a tenuous national government of China. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning autobiography 19 July 2005
By Ally
Format:Paperback
I was reluctant to finish this book, because it was so absorbing that I felt my days would be sadly lacking without more pages to turn and devour. I will undoubtedly re-read it before long, as did the person who lent me the book.
This is a sensitive yet in places deeply shocking exploration of the lives of three generations of women in one Chinese family, beginning in 1909 and ending (in print at least) in 1991. The stories are of a grandmother who was concubine to a warlord, a mother torn between her duties towards her family and to the Party, and the author Jung Chang (or Er-hong, one of the 'wild swans' of the title), who charts her mental battle against (or submission to) the relentless indoctrination of the Mao regime, and depicts her family's hardships under Communism and beforehand.
The intelligent account begins in a China where the people distance themselves from politics and are crippled by their own senseless restrictions and rigid traditions, and describes the transformation to a China equally constrained but much changed. While life at first improves as a result of the rise of Communism, the irrational taboos and regulations soon return, but now in a political and violently enforced form. This is the atmosphere in which the protagonist grows up. It is still a China of persecution, vendettas and hardship, and now ruled by Mao, who wants control of every aspect of his people's lives, and he achieves his control by setting groups and individuals against each other and maintaining a climate of fear and mindless adulation.
Descriptions of China's romantic beauty and subtle culture sit side-by-side with tales of horrifying cruelty and absurdity, leading the reader on an unpredictable and tumultuous journey, which evoked in me unfailing empathy and admiration for Jung Chang.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This has to be read to be believed 7 Dec 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Wild Swans is a magnificent book, telling the story of a family over three generations from the Boxer Rebellion, to the Peoples Revolution and the Cultural Revolutions. It can be said that China has a most colourful history, but this story is very very black in parts. Wild Swans will bring you on a journey of love and hope, and it will also throw you into a pit of dispare. Jung Changs experiences through her own eyes and that of her family are brought to life in this book. The imagery is vivid and the emmotions will grab you and tie you down. Whilst reading Wild Swans I felt anger and hatred at Mao and his minions.I found the events of the cultural revolution insane, Why? I must have asked this a hundred times. Yet Changs explains Mao's magnetism, his ability to manipulate the masses, and the fear he drove deep into the peoples hearts. With one hand he would offer hope and with the other he would bring suffering. Wild Swans is a prime example of the fight of the human spirit. It is within us all and Changs has brought her familys spirit to life in this book. If you are considering going to China read this book. It gives a great insight into the minds of the Chinese people. All though times have changed, they are still a tough, hardworker and honest people who simply hope for a good life.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and heart-wrenching 26 Jun 2006
Format:Paperback
Jung Chang is supposedly one of the most successful Chinese authors; yet her work is banned in her native country and she now lives in London, England. I first heard about "Wild Swans" several years ago but never got around until reading it until now. Now I've read it I'm sorry that I waited so long.

A quote on the cover says "It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this book." - I thought to myself that this must be exaggeration. I expected the book to be interesting; I wanted to find out more about China's recent history and I was sure it would be interesting to read what it was like to live through the cultural revolution, but I didn't think its importance would be more than a bit of human interest. I was wrong: the quote is right on the money. This book is important especially if you're like me and thought that you understood enough about China. I thought that I knew what the cultural revolution was about. I thought it was just some craziness in which doctors, administrators and other professionals were sent to work in the fields. What I had no idea about was what it was really like for the people involved. I had also thought that the Chinese government was uniformly bad, responsible as it has been for the invasion of Tibet and gross human rights violations. While that is true, it seems that, like many things, the truth is more complex than it first appears. But this book is more than just dry historical fact - it packs an emotional punch that is hard to overstate. Not only is great suffering described but also great courage and bravery. I often found myself wondering how I would have acted if I found myself in similar situations to the author's parents and whether I would have the courage to act as they did.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, terrible, beautiful story 29 May 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I've been glued to this book for the past fortnight - it is so vivid that it feels like you're actually there, in China. Calm gardens, with streams, peach blossoms and flowers form the back drop to many of the scenes, and this beautiful natural landscape contrasts with the mindless violence and disorder of the human world.
Jung Chang's writing is deceptively simple and you truly relate and identify both with the narrator and her family. This means that it's like a gripping novel, as well as biography.
Plus, this book gives you an insider view of the irrationality of Chinese Communism and shows George Orwell's nightmare vision of '1984' to be more accurate than ever. Yet, the book never lapses into tedious explanations or arguments, teaching us history without any effort.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Intensely moving
Published 2 days ago by Mrs Deborah Poxton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read well written account of the times in China a very moving story
Published 4 days ago by Mrs F B Stein
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid family stories to show us the recent decades in China.
Good novel. This novel well illustrates stories of three generations of women born and raised in China - interesting... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Sylvia
5.0 out of 5 stars China unveiled.
This autobiography is an excellent read and gives an insight into the painful changes suffered by families in PRC. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Fylde Coaster
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read
Read as background to school module, and was fascinating to see life from the bottom up, instead of the top down - as I had mainly studied it. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really pleased with book.
Published 15 days ago by alwine curtis
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the best book I have ever read
This is the best book I have ever read. I adore it, and felt very sad to come to the final page. A blend of personal anecdote and political commentary, beautifully written. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Tingers
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but more subjective than admitted
I lend it to a friend, as I didn't want this book to sit in my shelf. It is just that good. I had been worried, that it would be quite a dark, demoralising read, but I actually... Read more
Published 18 days ago by muki
5.0 out of 5 stars In my life time!
A truly wonderful insight into life in China over the period in which I was growing up in mid WAles with no knowledge of the dreadful conditions imposed by Mao and his... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Mr Dennis Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
an interesting insight into life in China, before and during Mao's rein
Published 23 days ago by out numbered
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