Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Paperback | August 12, 2003

byJUNG CHANG

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The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.

An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.

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From the Publisher

The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an ...

JUNG CHANG was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She left China for Britain in 1978 and obtained a Ph.D. in linguistics from York University in 1982, the first person from the People?s Republic of China to receive a doctorate from a British university. She lives in London and has recently completed a biography of Mao.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:544 pages, 8.44 × 5.5 × 1.5 inPublished:August 12, 2003Publisher:TouchstoneLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0743246985

ISBN - 13:9780743246989

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Swan lake It is long and you can get lost in the weeds. However good history of China during Mao days. Sad and at times hard to read with all the terrible things that happen to a peoples. Read it for the history
Date published: 2015-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wild Swans I did enjoy the book - it was a smooth read and very articulately written by Jung Chang. It took 3 generations of a family through what I would say is the toughest 4 decades a country could have gone through. It shows from the inside out what total havoc 1 or 2 people at the top can put upon the population of an entire country. It does not downplay the trauma that Germany, Romania etc have been through, but tells the story of a single family in China trying to play by rules that keep changing! It also shows the suffering that happened every time those rules changed.
Date published: 2015-03-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Tedious but I did it!! It took me 3 months to read this book....but I finally did it! As promised, this book describes 3 generations of a Chinese family, starting with the first person who was born in the 1800's. My reaction to this book was ultimately that I found it to be of very little entertainment to me. I was frustrated and irritated with much of it. My expectations were that this would be a book that would give me an interesting perspective into what life was like living through generations of Chinese history. But sadly, it is a book that is really a poorly told story which drones on and on about the hardship of the lives of these people. Chang is not really a writer as she believes and describes herself to be, but really just a person who wrote a story about herself, her perceptions of her life and the people in her life. It is mildly interesting, but leaves the writer with the question of "what is wrong with these Chinese people?". It does not elicit any sympathy or outrage as I would think that is what Chang was after, in telling this story. It leaves us wondering how generations of a people can be molded and brainwashed to do things that are clearly ridiculous. To be fair, she is able to express her own struggle with the lunacy of the time. But there are many inconsistencies in her story which leave the reader feeling confused about whether she is being truthful about the horrible situation, or whether she is doing her own version of propoganda and brainwashing, in an effort to give Western civilization her version, as though it were fact. One example of this, is when she is in university learning English, and asserts that there are no English publications for her to read so as to practice the language. In another chapter, she is asked to read an English newspaper by one of her friends. Where did this paper come from? So the inconsistencies in the story leave the reader feeling irritated and suspicious that the story is really not truly as she is describing it. However, I do not doubt that Communism is a crazy thing. So, I read it even though I really didn't like it because I thought it would improve. But it really didn't. It was just lots of the same. There is absolutely nothing uplifting about this book. No real happy ending. No real intriguing story line. I think that the story could have been much better told.
Date published: 2009-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hooked at first sight Fascinating Chinese history and customs are interwoven with fiction in this story of 3 generations of women who struggled through the past 100 years of turmoil in China.
Date published: 2009-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Brilliant I deliberately picked this book off my shelf (I'd had it sitting there, unread for almost 2 years) to coincide with the start of the Beijing Olympics. But it took me almost 6 weeks to make my way through this beautiful tome. It's a memoir, yes, but is also chock-full of Chinese post-imperial history. If you have ever wondered about how Communism took hold there -- or why it never faltered -- or what really happened during the Cultural Revolution, then read this book. It was fascinating and horrifying and hope-inspiring and compelling. Informative and to-the-point, Jung Chang paints a frank picture of her homeland while painting an honest picture of a family that both benefitted and suffered under the Communist regime.
Date published: 2008-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful, moving book This book tells the story of Jung Chang's family, from her grandmother who was the concubine of a General; to her Mother who married a Communist party official, disgraced during the Cultural Revolution; to Jung Chang herself, a participant and victim of the Cultural Revolution. It is a superb book which tells the recent history of China in the lives of people
Date published: 2007-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exciting look into Maoist China Chronicling the life of three generations of women, from grandmother, mother, and the author herself, "Wild Swans" is an eye-opening look into what life was like for the chinese people prior to, and during the rule of Mao Zedong, the former head of the communist party that is still in control of the Chinese government. From concubines and social upheavel to political activism, and unfounded accustations of treason against the government, "Wild Swans" sheds light on a time that is primarily unknown within the Western world. A wonderful book, and one that is so powerful in its message that it has actually been outlawed by the Communist party in modern-day China.
Date published: 2007-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible Story! This book provides an amazing history of China in the last century through the 3 generations of women that the story follows. I learned so much about this foreign land, and the lives of the people who live there.
Date published: 2007-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye Opening A fascinating history lesson as told by a woman who lived it first hand. You get to see the rise and power of Mao through the eyes of a young, impressionable girl who manages to justify his every action even when his rule results in the torment and torture of her own family. I found myself reading portions of the book aloud to anyone who would listen as the author describes the turbulent times and horrendous living conditions forced upon her countrymen. This is a book you will tell all your friends about.
Date published: 2006-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I was hooked from the first page! This is the kind of book that every woman should read. We think here in Canada that we have it though! This is the story of 3 generations of Chinese woman that have survived through countless ordeals during a period in history which a lot of us do not know much about. Once you have read this book you will want to find out more about Mao, communism and other aspects of this period which defined a country and its people. This writing style is fluid and realistic. Realistic enough that at points you can almost see, smell and feel what these women encounter. Although found in the biography section of our store, this book could also have been placed in the history section.
Date published: 2006-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazingly Gripping and Chilling Three generations of women recount their lives both before and during the Communist reign in China. It provides rare understanding into why the Communist government was welcomed with such open arms- an account rarely told in the Western world. This book is both gripping and heart wrenching as the women pour forth their tales of trials and triumphs during daily life in China.
Date published: 2006-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A breathless page-turner! I couldn't put this book down. You will find yourself instantly captured by the strong female characters and even more awed upon remembering that this is a story of fact not fiction. I highly recommend Wild Swans to anyone.
Date published: 2006-06-03

Extra Content

Bookclub Guide

Reading Group Guide 1. All three of the women at the center of Wild Swans display great courage, often to a stunning extent -- speaking out in times of enforced unanimity, facing firing squads, risking their lives for the sake of others. Compare the kinds of bravery they exemplified. Does one stand out as particularly courageous? 2. The 20th century could rightly be called an era of violence in China, and the lives of these three women were indeed remarkably touched by brutality. Although none was violent by nature, all three were witnesses to -- and sometimes victims of -- naked savagery, to the extent that it may have begun to seem almost mundane. How did it affect their lives, and specifically their political feelings? 3. The women of Wild Swans lived through an era of such upheaval that they were constantly being called upon to pledge allegiance to a new regime or a new leading figure, each one distant from their day-to-day lives, and each usually claiming to be more "revolutionary" or diehard than the one before. What was the effect of this disorientation? Did the women ever show a sense of political or spiritual homelessness? 4. For each of the principal figures in this book, romantic love was strictly controlled and radically circumscribed -- and yet such feelings played a powerful role. How did the politicization of the deeply personal affect the lives recounted in Wild Swans? At what cost did these men and women pursue love? 5. Familial love was also the object of close government scrutiny and control in the last century, despite the historical importance of the clan in Chinese tradition. Particularly watchful was the Communist regime, which stipulated heavy penalties for "putting family first." The key players in Wild Swans often found themselves caught in the middle between concern for their loved ones and the social and political demands placed on them. Discuss the range of ways in which they reacted to this tension. 6. Ceremony, pageantry and ritual have been important elements of Chinese culture for millennia. As the author notes, it was not uncommon even in the 20th century for a family to bankrupt themselves to put on an impressive wedding or funeral. Did prevailing attitudes about ceremony seem to change over the course of the narrative in Wild Swans? What attitudes did the individual women appear hold on the subject? 7. After the decidedly mixed Kuomintang era (not to mention the brief occupations in the North by the Soviets and Japanese), the advent of Communism was embraced by the author's parents. Soon Jung Chang herself, born during the early years of the CCP, was swept up in the widespread fervor. But seeds of doubt slowly begin to appear in the book. What do you think were the key moments in Jung Chang's and her parents' changes of heart? Why? 8. For obvious reasons, Jung Chang's tale bears the most details, reported feelings and other personal touches. Describe her psychological growth or transformation during the course of her young life. Did you feel she reported her thoughts honestly? Did you ever applaud her choices? Did you ever disapprove? 9. Wild Swans is a work of biography and autobiography with many novelistic elements. It is also, however, a valuable work of 20th-century Chinese history. What did you learn about the country from reading it? If you knew the basic outline of the history, did anything strike you freshly because of the personal narrative approach?