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1 Burnside Asia- China Mao Tse Tung
1 Hawthorne World History- China

Mao: The Unknown Story

by

Mao: The Unknown Story Cover

ISBN13: 9780679746324
ISBN10: 0679746323
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

On the Cusp from Ancient to Modern

(1893-1911 H age 1-17)

Mao tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the worlds population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader. He was born into a peasant family in a valley called Shaoshan, in the province of Hunan, in the heartland of China. The date was 26 December 1893. His ancestors had lived in the valley for five hundred years.

This was a world of ancient beauty, a temperate, humid region whose misty, undulating hills had been populated ever since the Neolithic age. Buddhist temples dating from the Tang dynasty (ad 618-906), when Buddhism first came here, were still in use. Forests where nearly 300 species of trees grew, including maples, camphor, metasequoia and the rare ginkgo, covered the area and sheltered the tigers, leopards and boar that still roamed the hills. (The last tiger was killed in 1957.) These hills, with neither roads nor navigable rivers, detached the village from the world at large. Even as late as the early twentieth century an event as momentous as the death of the emperor in 1908 did not percolate this far, and Mao found out only two years afterwards when he left Shaoshan.

The valley of Shaoshan measures about 5 by 3.5 km. The 600-odd families who lived there grew rice, tea and bamboo, harnessing buffalo to plough the rice paddies. Daily life revolved round these age-old activities. Maos father, Yi-chang, was born in 1870. At the age of ten he was engaged to a girl of thirteen from a village about 10 kilometres away, beyond a pass called Tiger Resting Pass, where tigers used to sun themselves. This short distance was long enough in those years for the two villages to speak dialects that were almost mutually unintelligible. Being merely a girl, Maos mother did not receive a name; as the seventh girl born in the Wen clan, she was just Seventh Sister Wen. In accordance with centuries of custom, her feet had been crushed and bound to produce the so-called three-inch golden lilies that epitomised beauty at the time.

Her engagement to Maos father followed time-honoured customs. It was arranged by their parents and was based on a practical consideration: the tomb of one of her grandfathers was in Shaoshan, and it had to be tended regularly with elaborate rituals, so having a relative there would prove useful. Seventh Sister Wen moved in with the Maos upon betrothal, and was married at the age of eighteen, in 1885, when Yi-chang was fifteen.

Shortly after the wedding, Yi-chang went off to be a soldier to earn money to pay off family debts, which he was able to do after several years. Chinese peasants were not serfs but free farmers, and joining the army for purely financial reasons was an established practice. Luckily he was not involved in any wars; instead he caught a glimpse of the world and picked up some business ideas. Unlike most of the villagers, Yi-chang could read and write, well enough to keep accounts. After his return, he raised pigs, and processed grain into top-quality rice to sell at a nearby market town. He bought back the land his father had pawned, then bought more land, and became one of the richest men in the village.

Though relatively well off, Yi-chang remained extremely hard- working and thrifty all his life. The family house consisted of half a dozen rooms, which occupied one wing of a large thatched property. Eventually Yi-chang replaced the thatch with tiles, a major improvement, but left the mud floor and mud walls. The windows had no glass—still a rare luxury—and were just square openings with wooden bars, blocked off at night by wooden boards (the temperature hardly ever fell below freezing). The furniture was simple: wooden beds, bare wooden tables and benches. It was in one of these rather spartan rooms, under a pale blue homespun cotton quilt, inside a blue mosquito net, that Mao was born.

Mao was the third son, but the first to survive beyond infancy. His Buddhist mother became even more devout to encourage Buddha to protect him. Mao was given the two-part name Tse-tung. Tse, which means “to shine on,” was the name given to all his generation, as preordained when the clan chronicle was first written in the eighteenth century; tung means “the East.” So his full given name meant “to shine on the East.” When two more boys were born, in 1896 and 1905, they were given the names Tse-min (min means “the people”) and Tse-tan (tan possibly referred to the local region, Xiangtan).

These names reflected the inveterate aspiration of Chinese peasants for their sons to do well—and the expectation that they could. High positions were open to all through education, which for centuries meant studying Confucian classics. Excellence would enable young men of any background to pass imperial examinations and become mandarins—all the way up to becoming prime minister. Officialdom was the definition of achievement, and the names given to Mao and his brothers expressed the hopes placed on them.

But a grand name was also onerous and potentially tempted fate, so most children were given a pet name that was either lowly or tough, or both. Maos was “the Boy of Stone”—Shisan yazi. For this second “baptism” his mother took him to a rock about eight feet high, which was reputed to be enchanted, as there was a spring underneath. After Mao performed obeisance and kowtows, he was considered adopted by the rock. Mao was very fond of this name, and continued to use it as an adult. In 1959, when he returned to Shaoshan and met the villagers for the first—and only—time as supreme leader of China, he began the dinner for them with a quip: “So everyone is here, except my Stone Mother. Shall we wait for her?”

Mao loved his real mother, with an intensity he showed towards no one else. She was a gentle and tolerant person, who, as he remembered, never raised her voice to him. From her came his full face, sensual lips, and a calm self-possession in the eyes. Mao would talk about his mother with emotion all his life. It was in her footsteps that he became a Buddhist as a child. Years later he told his staff: “I worshipped my mother . . . Wherever my mother went, I would follow . . . going to temple fairs, burning incense and paper money, doing obeisance to Buddha . . . Because my mother believed in Buddha, so did I.” But he gave up Buddhism in his mid-teens.

Mao had a carefree childhood. Until he was eight he lived with his mothers family, the Wens, in their village, as his mother preferred to live with her own family. There his maternal grandmother doted on him. His two uncles and their wives treated him like their own son, and one of them became his Adopted Father, the Chinese equivalent to godfather. Mao did a little light farm work, gathering fodder for pigs and taking the buffaloes out for a stroll in the tea-oil camellia groves by a pond shaded by banana leaves. In later years he would reminisce with fondness about this idyllic time. He started learning to read, while his aunts spun and sewed under an oil lamp.

Mao only came back to live in Shaoshan in spring 1902, at the age of eight, to receive an education, which took the form of study in a tutors home. Confucian classics, which made up most of the curriculum, were beyond the understanding of children and had to be learnt by heart. Mao was blessed with an exceptional memory, and did well. His fellow pupils remembered a diligent boy who managed not only to recite but also to write by rote these difficult texts. He also gained a foundation in Chinese language and history, and began to learn to write good prose, calligraphy and poetry, as writing poems was an essential part of Confucian education. Reading became a passion. Peasants generally turned in at sunset, to save on oil for lamps, but Mao would read deep into the night, with an oil lamp standing on a bench outside his mosquito net. Years later, when he was supreme ruler of China, half of his huge bed would be piled a foot high with Chinese classics, and he littered his speeches and writings with historical references. But his poems lost flair.

Mao clashed frequently with his tutors. He ran away from his first school at the age of ten, claiming that the teacher was a martinet. He was expelled from, or was “asked to leave,” at least three schools for being headstrong and disobedient. His mother indulged him but his father was not pleased, and Maos hopping from tutor to tutor was just one source of tension between father and son. Yi-chang paid for Maos education, hoping that his son could at least help keep the family accounts, but Mao disliked the task. All his life, he was vague about figures, and hopeless at economics. Nor did he take kindly to hard physical labour. He shunned it as soon as his peasant days were over.

Yi-chang could not stand Mao being idle. Having spent every minute of his waking hours working, he expected his son to do the same, and would strike him when he did not comply. Mao hated his father. In 1968, when he was taking revenge on his political foes on a vast scale, he told their tormentors that he would have liked his father to be treated just as brutally: “My father was bad. If he were alive today, he should be ‘jet-planed. ” This was an agonising position where the subjects arms were wrenched behind his back and his head forced down.

Mao was not a mere victim of his father. He fought back, and was often the victor. He would tell his father that the father, being older, should do more manual labour than he, the younger—which was an unthinkably insolent argument by Chinese standards. One day, according to Mao, father and son had a row in front of guests. “My father scolded me before them, calling me lazy and useless. This infuriated me. I called him names and left the house . . . My father . . . pursued me, cursing as well as commanding me to come back. I reached the edge of a pond and threatened to jump in if he came any nearer . . . My father backed down.” Once, as Mao was retelling the story, he laughed and added an observation: “Old men like him didnt want to lose their sons. This is their weakness. I attacked at their weak point, and I won!”

Money was the only weapon Maos father possessed. After Mao was expelled by tutor no. 4, in 1907, his father stopped paying his sons tuition fees and the thirteen-year-old boy had to become a full-time peasant. But he soon found a way to get himself out of farm work and back into the world of books. Yi-chang was keen for his son to get married, so that he would be tied down and behave responsibly. His niece was at just the right age for a wife, four years older than Mao, who agreed to his fathers plan and resumed schooling after the marriage.

The marriage took place in 1908, when Mao was fourteen and his bride eighteen. Her family name was Luo. She herself had no proper name, and was just called “Woman Luo.” The only time Mao is known to have mentioned her was to the American journalist Edgar Snow in 1936, when Mao was strikingly dismissive, exaggerating the difference in their ages: “When I was 14, my parents married me to a girl of 20. But I never lived with her . . . I do not consider her my wife . . . and have given little thought to her.” He gave no hint that she was not still alive; in fact, Woman Luo had died in 1910, just over a year into their marriage.

Maos early marriage turned him into a fierce opponent of arranged marriages. Nine years later he wrote a seething article against the practice: “In families in the West, parents acknowledge the free will of their children. But in China, orders from the parents are not at all compatible with the will of the children . . . This is a kind of ‘indirect rape. Chinese parents are all the time indirectly raping their children . . .”

As soon as his wife died, the sixteen-year-old widower demanded to leave Shaoshan. His father wanted to apprentice him to a rice store in the county town, but Mao had set his eye on a modern school about 25 kilometres away. He had learned that the imperial examinations had been abolished. Instead there were modern schools now, teaching subjects like science, world history and geography, and foreign languages. It was these schools that would open the door out of a peasants life for many like him.

From the Hardcover edition.

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peter in port, January 8, 2008 (view all comments by peter in port)
Think Hitler was evil? He only killed six million or so. think Stalin was? He only killed twenty million or so. This is the story of a world leader who was responsible for the deaths of seventy million human beings, yet for some reason, Mao's story gets glossed over. Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday, do an admirable job de-bunking many myths about the man who led China into Communism. I found it to be gripping, and hard to put down. The biographers used many original sources, including letters and poetry from one of Mao's wives, whom he treated as inhumanely as he treated everyone else. Read this book and realize that the People's Republic of China was founded by one of the most ruthless terrorists ever to have lived.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780679746324
Author:
Chang, Jung
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Author:
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
Author:
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
Author:
Halliday, Jon
Author:
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
Subject:
Political
Subject:
China
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Asia - China
Subject:
Heads of state
Subject:
Mao, Zedong
Subject:
Heads of state -- China.
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20061131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
32 PP OFBandW; 3 MAPS
Pages:
864
Dimensions:
9.25x6.28x1.73 in. 2.57 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Historical
Biography » Political
History and Social Science » Asia » China » Mao Tse Tung
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » World History » China

Mao: The Unknown Story Used Trade Paper
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Product details 864 pages Anchor Books - English 9780679746324 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "Chang and Halliday are better than most in showing Mao's wizardly ability as a schemer and tactician....The most important of Chang and Halliday's new discoveries have to do with the sustained role of the Soviet Union in Mao's rise. Halliday reads Russian, and has made excellent use of the opening of Soviet archives after 1992. He and Chang assert that the idea of a Communist Party of China originated in Moscow in 1919 and detail the ways in which, beginning in 1921, the Comintern called the shots for Mao and other early Chinese Communists." (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
"Review A Day" by , "In contrast to [his] popular image, the Mao in Chang and Halliday's well-researched book is a brutal, power-hungry thug with no empathy for other human beings. John Lennon was right all along: 'If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.'" (read the entire Powells.com review)
"Review" by , "Ever since the spectacular success of Chang's Wild Swans we have waited impatiently for her to complete with her husband this monumental study of China's most notorious modern leader. The expectation has been that she would rewrite modern Chinese history. The wait has been worthwhile and the expectation justified. This is a bombshell of a book."
"Review" by , "A startling document, one that will surely occasion revision of the historical record."
"Review" by , "Chang and Halliday make devastating use of insider gossip, published scholarship, and archives to build a detailed story of a mad, lusting Mao with neither ideals nor scruples....A controversial, highly significant, and compellingly readable biography..."
"Review" by , "When it sticks to the new Chinese and Russian sources, the book shines, providing readers with the most detailed portrayal of the 'Great Helmsman' to date. But when it pretends to tell us what the chairman is thinking and feeling, the book veers toward magical realism."
"Review" by , "[A] remarkable reassessment of Mao....Jung Chang...and her historian husband, Jon Halliday, deserve credit for their single-minded devotion to telling the truth about Mao's tyranny."
"Review" by , "[T]his magnificent biography methodically demolishes every pillar of Mao's claim to sympathy or legitimacy....This is an extraordinary portrait of a monster, who the authors say was responsible for more than 70 million deaths."
"Review" by , "[This] hefty if tendentious and one-dimensional book contains a plethora of valuable new information that helps flesh out the record of devastation left by this heinous tyrant....The authors also provide scant historical context for Mao's ascendance."
"Review" by , "In some places, Chung and Halliday go too far, effectively diluting the force of their argument...But the book's main flaw is excess. The authors seem so set on demolishing Mao's reputation that they overreach."
"Review" by , "The copiously researched book...would have benefited from another year of editing and rewriting....Still, for anyone in search of a serious examination of Mao, his gruesome legacy and China, this astonishing book is a must-read."
"Synopsis" by , An Asia scholar (Halliday) joins the bestselling author of Wild Swans to deliver a gripping and groundbreaking biography of Mao Tse-tung. Photos & maps.
"Synopsis" by , The most authoritative life of the Chinese leader every written, Mao: The Unknown Story is based on a decade of research, and on interviews with many of Maos close circle in China who have never talked before and with virtually everyone outside China who had significant dealings with him. It is full of startling revelations, exploding the myth of the Long March, and showing a completely unknown Mao: he was not driven by idealism or ideology; his intimate and intricate relationship with Stalin went back to the 1920s, ultimately bringing him to power; he welcomed Japanese occupation of much of China; and he schemed, poisoned, and blackmailed to get his way. After Mao conquered China in 1949, his secret goal was to dominate the world. In chasing this dream he caused the deaths of 38 million people in the greatest famine in history. In all, well over 70 million Chinese perished under Maos rule in peacetime.
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