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In 1912, 5,000 years of feudal rule ended in China. Warlords, Western businessmen, soldiers, missionaries, and Japanese all ruled China, exploited, and fought one another, and the Chinese. In 1949, Mao Zedong came to power. China Witness is the personal testimony of a generation whose stories have not yet been told. Here the grandparents and great-grandparents of today sum up in their own words - for the first and perhaps the last time - the vast changes that have overtaken China's people over a century. The book is at once a journey by the author through time and place, and a memorial to those who have lived through war and civil war, persecution, invasion, revolution, famine, modernization, Westernization - and have survived into the 21st century. We meet everyday heroes, now in their seventies, eighties and nineties, from across this vast country - a herb woman at a market, retired teachers, a legendary 'double-gun woman', Red Guards, oil pioneers, an acrobat, a naval general, a shoe-mender, a lantern maker, taxi drivers, and more. Xinran travelled from west to east, between the Yellow River and the Yangtze, from the cities to the remote countryside of her homeland. She met and talked with a reticent generation, amongst whom the idea of collective guilt is deeply rooted, and freedom of speech can be a dangerous and unfamiliar concept. They spoke to her about their lives, their private hopes, fears and struggles, about what they witnessed and what they felt - about everything from the Long March to oil pipelines, from land reform to folk medicine, from Mao to marriage. Together their stories paint an unprecedented, intimate portrait of this vast and powerful country and its people. In such a rapidly changing world its aim, as Xinran says, is 'to help our future understand our past'.
In 2002 Xinran's Good Women of China became an international bestseller, revealing startling new truths about Chinese life to the West. Now she returns with an epic story of love, friendship, courage and sacrifice set in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Based on a true story, Xinran's extraordinary second book takes the reader right to the hidden heart of one of the world's most mysterious and inaccessible countries. In March 1958, Shu Wen learns that her husband, an idealistic army doctor, has died while serving in Tibet. Determined to find out what happened to him, she courageously sets off to join his regiment. But to her horror, instead of finding a Tibetan people happily welcoming their Chinese "liberators" as she expected, she walks into a bloody conflict, with the Chinese subject to terrifying attacks from Tibetan guerrillas. It seems that her husband may have died as a result of this clash of cultures, this disastrous misunderstanding. But before she can know his fate, she is taken hostage and embarks on a life-changing journey through the Tibetan countryside -- a journey that will last twenty years and lead her to a deep appreciation of Tibet in all its beauty and brutality. Sadly, when she finally discovers the truth about her husband, she must carry her knowledge back to a China that, in her absence, has experienced the Cultural Revolution and changed beyond recognition.
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