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Original Essays | August 21, 2014

Richard Bausch: IMG Why Literature Can Save Us



Our title is, of course, a problem. "Why Literature Can Save Us." And of course the problem is one of definition: what those words mean. What is... Continue »
  1. $18.87 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Before, During, After

    Richard Bausch 9780307266262

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henrywood81 has commented on (2) products.

The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Li Zhi-Sui
The Private Life of Chairman Mao

henrywood81, December 18, 2007

An Interesting Episode in Dr. Li’s memoirs The Private Life of Chairman Mao

The book of The Private Life of Chairman Mao was Dr. Li’s memoirs. Dr. Li said that his book was not a biography of Chairman Mao, nor a history of the Chinese Communist Party. Instead his book is of his own survival experience as Chairman Mao’s personal physician for 22 years, and about China under Communist rule. There are a lot of biographies about Chairman Mao. All read like a cartoon comedy, very boring. But Dr. Li’s memoir is like a survival thriller movie. It is great, interesting, exciting and entertaining. Dr. Li’s successful survival experience is a legendary and miraculous tale. From beginning to the end, it kept me on the edge of my chair, breathless until I finished the last page.

The book is written in a humorous way. Sometimes, it was funny, but combined with spine tingling thrills. Many times, while Dr. Li was working for Chairman Mao, Dr. Li confronted great peril. But each time, an invisible force made it a funny, interesting and unexpected end. Dr. Li had never got hurt from the vicious politics. Chairman Mao did not mind that Dr. Li was a Christian, and a member of the intelligence agency of the previous regime. This was the myth of Dr. Li’s miracle story.

There is a very interesting scenario in the book. One day, Chairman Mao wanted to watch some Chinese local operas, and asked Dr. Li to recommend a local opera to him. Dr. Li recalled when he was a little boy; he watched a local opera named Lee Hui Niang. Dr. Li had only a little vague impression about the play. He remembered there were a lot of ghosts in the play and very entertaining. He thought Chairman Mao would like it, and recommended it to him. Chairman Mao pleasingly accepted Dr. Li’s recommendation, and notified his chief commanding officer of guards to arrange the performance. Several days later, the performance was ready. Chairman Mao and his entourage went to watch the play. They were warmly welcome with the thunderous applause from the audience when they walked in the theatre. Then, they sat down. Dr. Li sat next to Chairman Mao with excitement. After a short intermission, the theatre was silenced and the performance was started. At the beginning, Chairman Mao was pleased and excited by the play. His face was glowing with smiling. But, when the performance was going to the half of the play, suddenly, Chairman Mao’s face changed to be very ghastly. His eyebrow was tightened heavily. His eyes glared furious flame at the stage. The pleased and excited smile on his face at the beginning was completely gone. A great shock hit Dr. Li’s heart badly. Dr. Li thought the glare on Chairman Mao’s face was an evil omen for him. Because he recommended the play to Chairman Mao, he would get big trouble from his recommendation. Later, Chairman Mao looked worse, and suddenly stood up walking out of the theatre. Dr. Li thought: too bad, big trouble was going to happen to him. He followed Chairman Mao out of the theatre, sat in the car, and went back to Chairman Mao’s courtyard. Chairman Mao did not talk to Dr. Li a word on the way home. Dr. Li thought that his recommendation was going to be a big disaster for him.

The second day, Chairman Mao’s wife called Dr. Li and the chief commanding officer of guards to see her. She asked them who recommended that play to Chairman Mao. Both of Dr. Li and the chief commanding officer of guards said they didn’t know whose recommendation it was. Then Chairman Mao’s wife said that she guessed Dr. Li did the recommendation. Both Dr. Li and the chief commanding officer of guards felt spine tingling. But they did not lose their mind and kept calm. Dr. Li denied that he did the recommendation. The chief commanding officer of guards said that he did not hear the recommendation from Dr. Li. He said when Chairman Mao read the party newspaper, People’s Daily found an article to recommend that play. So Chairman Mao himself said he wanted to watch the play, and ordered him to arrange the performance. Chairman Mao’s wife required them to find the newspaper to show her their proofs. Later, Dr. Li and the chief commanding officer of guards found the newspaper and the article. They went to see Chairman Mao first. They told Chairman Mao what his wife asked them. Then Both of Dr. Li and the chief commanding officer of guards said after Chairman Mao read this article on People’s Daily, Chairman Mao decided to watch this play. Chairman Mao agreed with Dr. Li and the chief commanding officer of guards; then, he told his wife nobody recommended the play. He made decision by himself after he read this article on People’s Daily. After that, Chairman Mao’s wife stopped pursuing the person who recommended the play to Chairman Mao. Dr. Li avoided a disastrous result.

But the problem was not over yet. After Chairman Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao’s wife got the person who wrote the article on People’s Daily. She persecuted him, then, arrested him and later he was dead in jail. After Dr. Li’s memoir was published, the writer’s family just knew the cause of the writer’s disaster. Dr. Li felt very sorry for them.

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Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
Mao: The Unknown Story

henrywood81, November 27, 2007

Chang and Halliday’s Mao, Unknown Story is good, but it is not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Zhisui Li

Chang and Halliday’s Mao, Unknown Story provided a brand new version and perspective of Chairman Mao. It is the first time to portray Chairman Mao as a bloody mass-murderer. In their book, Chairman Mao was a large-scale murderer during a Chinese peace era. Nearly 80 million people were dead by his Utopian idealism: that was an unbelievable number. It is four times the number of deaths of the Soviets in the war between the Soviet Union and Germany. He used drastic violence to suppress people who he believed stood in his way for industrializing China. He ignored the death of 30 million people during the starvation period of the Great Famine, which was caused by his foolish “Great Leap Forward” for overtaking the British and catching up to the Americans. After the Great Famine, his lunatic behavior reached new heights. He launched the culture revolution, which was completely insane. He became a maniac. Under his direction, the violence was propelled to its bloodiest high tide. The horror broke historic records. Elementary school students unbelievably beat their teachers to death. The death toll was continuing to pile up until the day he died. From Mao, Unknown Story, the figure of Chairman Mao was drawn as a vicious monster and mass-murderer.

No wonder, horrible bloody killings described in Mao, Unknown Story truly happened in China from 1949, when Chairman Mao took over China, to 1976 when Chairman Mao died. Chairman Mao did everything so lunatic, and insane. From the catastrophe which he brought to China, he deserves to be considered a bloodthirsty monster and a bloody mass murderer. Overall, the book is good and correct.

Even though the book is good and correct, it cannot compare with Dr. Zhisui Li’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao in deeply and lively describing of Chairman Mao. No less than Dr. Andrew Nathan pointed out, all of biographic writers have a limitation in deeply and lively describing their objects. Because they have never served their objects, they have no chance to observe them closely. Also they have done a lot of research, but the inherent defect is that they don’t really know their objects’ personality and psychology. They don’t know their objects’ courtyard operations; their objects’ retainers, and the relationship between their objects, their objects’ retainers and the government officials.

Dr. Zhisui Li’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao did not portray Chairman Mao as a bloodthirsty monster and a bloody mass murderer; instead of that, it focused on details of Chairman Mao’s personality, psychology and his courtyard operation. Owing to Dr. Zhisui Li’s position, it made him as so called: inside man. He could know a lot of Chairman Mao’s important information that an outsider could not know. Even Chairman Mao’s former public health minister told Dr. Li to come see him anytime if Dr. Li wanted to tell him about any of Chairman Mao’s activities. In the same way, Chairman Mao’s former chief commanding officer of guards also was available to Dr. Li with no appointment.


The deepest impression for me about Dr. Li’s book is the Chairman Mao’s courtyard and his retainers. Chairman Mao’s medical doctor, chief commanding officer of guards and secretaries comprised his retainers. They were called “Group One”. Chairman Mao’s retainers formed a powerful and vicious retainer circle. Their power was even above party officials. The party officials were not servants of people. Instead they were servants of Chairman Mao. They cared for Chairman Mao’s retainers a lot of more than they cared for people. The gossip of those retainers could cause party officials a serious trouble. People were powerless and ignored. The party officials entertained Chairman Mao’s retainers with the best Chinese whiskey and the best Chinese cuisine while the Chinese commoners had a little of meat to eat. During the starvation period of the Great Famine, Chairman Mao even stopped eating meat. But his retainers flaunted the banner of celebrating Chairman Mao’s birthday, and required the local party officials to hold a grand dinner party for them. The dinner fulfilled the best Chinese cuisine, seafood, and the best Chinese whiskey, wine, beer. The party was in the name of celebrating Chairman Mao’s birthday, but Chairman Mao didn’t even attend. Dr. Li found it very hard to swallow that tasty food. However his colleague exhorted Dr. Li, saying that unless he wanted to leave “Group One”, he had better wallow in the mire with them. Some party officials even colluded with some of Mao’s retainers making a fraud deal in secret. The fraud deal deceived party treasurers by saying that Chairman Mao ate more than one thousand chickens in three, four days. Actually, the party officials took chickens for their own meals. Chairman Mao even had never known it until he was dead.

The factions in Chairman Mao’s retainers circle were stricken by each other fiercely. Opponents attempted to topple their counter part desperately. A vicious atmosphere permeated daily life. Nobody felt safe. Chairman Mao’s wife was frequently involved in the factions’ conflicts. In this vicious atmosphere, even Chairman Mao himself suspected somebody of crawling on his bedroom roof at midnight. He did not trust any of his retainers. He even suspected that the swimming pool in his palace was poisoned.

Dr. Li’s dream to be a great neural surgeon became a surviving nightmare. Although Dr. Li wanted to avoid touching this vicious politics, he could not stay out from it. For survival he was forced to stay with one faction. Later, the factions’ grappling escalated to a cross line battle between the retainer circle and party officials, and eventually led to a palace coup after Chairman Mao was dead. Chairman Mao’s wife and her three colleagues were arrested. However, Dr. Li survived successfully.

I feel that Dr. Li portrayed the figure of Chairman Mao and his courtyard operation more close to the true Chinese history, what was really happened in China from 1949 to 1976. Compared to Dr. Li’s book, Chang and Halliday’s Mao, Unknown Story seems pale.

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