Since the 1980’s, with China’s reopening to West and Deng’s to push for economic progress in China over ideology – as long as the Communist party still hold power – there has been many books about the Cultural Revolution. For any student of Chinese 20th history, this period of time is both fascinating and horrifying. Mao’s grip on power was being challenged, and in response, he helps unleashed a power struggle that pitched people against people, resulting in thousands of deaths, many more disgraced and jailed. Millions of High school and College students effectively stopped their education, becoming pawns in a deadly game.
Since the fall of the ‘Gang of Four’ and basically, everything that went wrong during this period was offloaded to them, personal stories have come pouring out. This book was written in the 1980’s and still remain one of the best. The author was among the ‘privileged’ class that remained in China after 1949 and even more damning, her husband worked for an American company before the revolution. This automatically makes her a counter-revolutionary in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution. She does an excellent job describing the period on a micro level with enough of the larger picture to give the reader context, but it’s really the very personal experience that draws one in. Eventually, the author was placed in solitary confinement for six years. If anything, one stands in awe for her will and determination to survive without giving up her beliefs and humanity.
Eventually, Ms. Cheng was freed and moved to the United States. While one may feel she was eventually vindicated, her years of denied freedom, torture, and a daughter’s death remains scars and lessons one should all heed about the dangers of blind nationalism and personality cults. The book as far as I know still remains banned in China.