Synopses & Reviews
is an extraordinary work of oral history that illuminates the diverse ways in which the Chinese perceive and understand their own history.
Xinran, the acclaimed author of The Good Women of China and Sky Burial, traveled across China in 2005 and 2006, seeking out the nations grandparents and great-grandparents, the men and women who have experienced, firsthand, the vast changes of the modern era. In cities and remote villages, Xinran spoke with members of these generations from all tiers of society, interviewing them for the first and perhaps the last time. Although many of them feared repercussions for speaking freely, they spoke to Xinran with stunning candor about their hopes, fears, and struggles, and about what they have witnessed: from the Long March to land reform, from Mao to marriage, from revolution to Westernization. While the West has commonly viewed the last one hundred years in China through the single narrative lens of Maos rise and rule, the experience of this same period for the Chinese themselves has been infinitely more complex.
In the same way that Studs Terkels Working and Tom Brokaws The Greatest Generation gave us the essence of very particular times, China Witness gives us the essence of modern China-a portrait more intimate, nuanced, and revelatory than any we have had before.
About the Author
Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958 and moved to London in 1997 to write for The Guardian. She is author of The Good Women of China, a seminal book about the lives of Chinese women, and Sky Burial. Her charity, The Mothers Bridge of Love, was founded to help disadvantaged Chinese children and to build a bridge of understanding between the West and China.
Table of Contents
Map of China and the Journey
List of Illustrations
Glossary and Abbreviations
1 Yao Popo, or the Medicine Woman of Xingyi
2 Two Generations of the Lin Family: The Curse of a Legend
3 New Discoveries in Xinjiang, the Worlds Biggest Prison
On the Road, Interlude 1: Interview with a North-Western Taxi Driver
4 Pioneers of Chinas Oil: A Distinguished Husband and Wife
5 Acrobat: From Counter-Revolutionarys Daughter to National Medal Winner
On the Road, Interlude 2: Talking to a Chinese Colleague about Tibet, Folk Customs, Tiger Stoves and the Chinese Jews
6 Tea Houses and News Singers: Three Thousand Years of Anecdotes and Wonders
7 Carrying on a Craft Tradition: The Qin Huai Lantern-Makers
8 Across Mountain and Grassland: A Witness to the Long March
9 Savouring Her Blessings after Trials and Tribulations: The Woman General Born in America
Interlude 3: Love Letters
On the Road, Interlude 4: Reflections Between the Lines
10 The Policeman: A Cop Who Entered the Police Force as the Peoples Republic Was Founded
11 The Shoe-Mender Mother: 28 Years Spent out in All Weathers
On the Road, Interlude 5: A Squall at the 4 May Memorial
Afterword: Images of My Motherland
Chinese Assistants: What China Witness Meant to Them