Life and Death in Shanghai

Life and Death in Shanghai

by Nien Cheng


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In August 1966 a group of Red Guards ransacked the home of Nien Cheng. Her background made her an obvious target for the fanatics of the Cultural Revolution: educated in London, the widow of an official of Chiang Kaishek's regime, and an employee of Shell Oil, Nien Cheng enjoyed comforts that few of her compatriots could afford. When she refused to confess that any of this made her an enemy of the state, she was placed in solitary confinement, where she would remain for more than six years. Life and Death in Shanghai is the powerful story of Nien Cheng's imprisonment, of the deprivation she endured, of her heroic resistance, and of her quest for justice when she was released. It is the story, too, of a country torn apart by the savage fight for power Mao Tse-tung launched in his campaign to topple party moderates. An incisive, rare personal account of a terrifying chapter in twentieth-century history, Life and Death in Shanghai is also an astounding portrait of one woman's courage.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802145161
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 12/14/2010
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 169,246
Product dimensions: 8.44(w) x 11.70(h) x 1.38(d)

Table of Contents

IThe Wind of Revolution
2Interval before the Storm37
3The Red Guards69
4House Arrest96
IIThe Detention House
5Solitary Confinement125
7The January Revolution and Military Control170
8Party Factions202
9Persecution Continued243
10My Brother's Confession277
11A Kind of Torture301
IIIMy Struggle for Justice
13Where Is Meiping?357
14The Search for the Truth383
15A Student Who Was Different410
16The Death of Mao444
18Farewell to Shanghai504

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Life and Death in Shanghai 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book two months ago but up to today it is still my best book ever read as it contain the truth and it has help me to know some history of her nation. It has a great inspiration as the writer has always stand to the truth not caring about what it will result, she even investigate her daughters murder which it was said it was a suicide until she find the truth. The book is so courageous as it gives good lessons that can be applied in everyday life as we live in the world of politics, which some of what she faced can still happen to someone today
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was given to me to read when I was in tenth grade by a social studies teacher. At the time I was not much of a reader, but I took it with me on spring break and decided to give it a try. I could not put it down. It was such an inspirational story about a situation I had never understood. It remains one of my favorite books of all time. I gave the book back so he could share it with other students. I recently pirchased my own copy of the novel. It holds a special my book collection. I have read it twice more in the 20 years that have passed and still find the narrator and author to be totally inspiring and riveting. Give it a try. If you like historical nonfiction and the will of a person to survive under extremely difficult odds this book may inspire you too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book many years ago, shortly after it was published. I was actually brought to tears when the red guard was destroying the art pieces in her home and she pleaded with these young people to just take them for themselves instead of destroying them. She told them that this was their culture. China. But they could not understand or appreciate what deserved respect. It was painful and frightening. This book is well written. I could feel the pain from a woman with so much self dicipline. I am buying this book for my grandson who just turned 14.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My grandma gave me this life changing book when I was about 14. I read it in a couple of days because I loved it so much. I love reading inspired books and books that change my perspective on life and this is definately one of my favorite! This lady who, even though she wasn't foreign, she was persecuted during the Chinese Revolution. Her courage during a time of major trials and sadness helped me be grateful for what I have. This book is definetly a 'HAVE TO' read book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an American and have lived in mainland China for the last 2 years. I studied as much as I could about China before I went there. This book helped me to get a picture of what happened during the cultural revolution in a way no history book could. I believe that there are many older people still living in china who could write similiar books but do not dare to do so. Or, as one woman told me, 'it was just too painful' to talk or write about that time. If you want to really understand China's fairly recent past this is a definite book to read.
Naberius on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having read this a second time recently for a book group, I was struck again by how graceful Cheng's writing is. For someone who has endured what most would call a slice of hell, she has a grace and strength present from start to finish. It is a wonder that she is able to recall the smallest details that she writes about, but with the time of her hands spent in isolation, it's no small wonder that she had time to hone her storytelling. A beautifully written book.
michaelskelley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An amazing story of the power of the human spirit to survive adversity. While the story of a woman in solitary confinement during the height of China's cultural revolution may seem to be a story that would depressing and difficult to read, this woman's story is infused a tremendous amount of humanity and courage and steadfast belief in right and the ultimate triumph of right -- so much so that the book is continually uplifting and inspiring. Here is a woman to be considered a true hero.
techszewski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought the late 60s in the US were a time of radical change, but they're nothing compared to how Mao's Red Guards turned China upside down. I live in Shanghai where this memoir took place. Surprisinly, there's very little local history preserved. No walking tours, nothing much in the Shanghai Museum. While reading I wanted to run out and find her former house and the prison where she spent six years. No luck yet finding them. The author does a great job of blending her personal narrative with enough background history lessons that when you're done reading her story you come away with a much deeper understanding of why and how thousands of Chinese were persected. But for me, I have more questions about Communism than ever before. What Mao preached as class struggle and a new revolution was just the usual dictatorship diatribe. Maybe after reading up on it and comparing the Chinese revolution with the Cuban revolution I'll understand Communism better.Read this book.
csmirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic book of true stories! This book is a summary of NPR's National Story Project, which brought together books from all over the nation. Something to read from every part of life's full range of emotion and drama!Available at Teton County Library on CDBook, call number CD Book 973.921 I
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
History can be sad and cruel, this is a great story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Sure." She smiles. "Want to begin the contract?"
Taureau More than 1 year ago
Excellent book about the author's arrest and imprisonment during the dark days of China's cultural revolution. Uncertain how anyone could have endured such harsh treatment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have found the story of this woman's interment in the Chinese prison system under the Mao Zedong reign tedious at times as it dragged on for years over 485 pages, but inspiring overall. Her determination under severe conditions to refuse to cower to a false charge to make her life easier, is truly inspiring. Few people would be so brave.
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jeffory-morshead More than 1 year ago
"Life and Death in Shanghai" was written by a woman who looks as delicate as a sparrow, has a voice like a distant, tinkling bell, and moves with the light grace of a ballerina. Everything about her is cultured, and spending time with her reminds you of how much the Chinese value "li," politeness. Yet the masters of torture in the Red Guard imprisoned this widow and her teenaged daughter, Mei Peng, for seven years, as Nien was considered "tao feng," the enemy. Why? Because she came from a Mandarin family. When Chairman Mao instigated the Cultural Revolution, he not only bored people to death quoting his quotations, he massacred everyone he didn't consider peasants. Jade carvers, for example, had their hands cut off, as they worked for the upper classes. Nien was in solitary confinement except for a tiny spider. However, one day the spider died, and, in a deeply touching scene, she mourned her only companion. One idea sustained her through an ordeal that killed most or drove them insane: her daughter, Mei Peng. Nien had to stay alive for the day she and Mei Peng would be free again. One day Nien was released, but I won't continue. All I will say is this story is one of the world's great classics, beautifully written in prose as clear as her bell-like voice. The vastness of her intelligence comes through in every sentence, and the huge breadth of her humanity. All people should read this book. - Ann Seymour, author of "I've Always Loved You," a true story of ww2 in the Pacific
barretthansen More than 1 year ago
I grew up with during the 70's, with opinions formed by media propaganda. I never knew how much I didn't know until I read this book. This should be mandatory reading in college and perhaps even in high school. Thanks to a woman far more courageous and honest than I ever thought to be for enlightening me. Thank you Nien Cheng.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago