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Archive for January 3rd, 2008

Wild Swans

I have seen this book in national libraries many times before, but I never picked it up because I thought it would be dull and boring. The coverpage is not attractive with just pictures of three women, against a light green background and the title and author’s name.

About a week ago, I was bored stiff at home and I was looking through the bookshelve in the study room when I saw this book. Seeing that this is a rather thick book, so I will have something to read for the next few days, I decided to give this book a try.

When I was still attending school in China, we were taught to love and respect Mao Zedong, otherwise known as Chairman Mao. We were taught many songs that sang praises of Chairman Mao, such as this one:

我爱北京天安门,天安门上太阳升。

伟大领袖毛主席,带着我们向前进。

我爱北京天安门,天安门上太阳升。

伟大领袖毛主席,带着我们向前进。

Only when I came to Singapore did I first learn that this is propaganda. It was in history class in secondary school did I learn about what actually happened during the Cultural revolution and I was horrified.

This book gave me a clearer view of what actually happened during those times. It follwed the footsteps of Jung Chang’s family dating back to the era of her great grandmother, when feet bounding was still practiced in China.

Together with Jung Chang, I travelled back in time and experienced the sufferings the people had to go through when China was under the control of the Kuomintang and the joy when the Kuomintang were defeated the Communist came into power. I thought, as did everyone else in China, that this meant the end of poverty for China and the emergence as one of the strongest countries ever known to the world. I felt the pain when, as many others in China, I realised that that was not to be. I felt the same anger and injustice the millions of Chinese must have felt during the Cutural Revolution for being condemned when they have done nothing wrong at all. I shared their grief when they lost someone they love.

This book changed my perceptions altogether. I have always thought that Chairman Mao is a great leader who cares about his people very much, but I am not too sure anymore. I am starting to feel certain resentment towards him.

There is one sentence in the last chapter of the book which left me a really strong impression:

“The core of his thinking seemed to be that human struggles were the motivating force of history and that in order to make histry ‘class enermies’ had to be continoulsly created en masse.”

Go ahead and read this book. It is an really inspiring read.

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