Life and Death in Shanghai

Life and Death in Shanghai

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A first-hand account of China's cultural revolution. Nien Cheng, an anglophile and fluent English-speaker who worked for Shell in Shanghai under Mao, was put under house arrest by Red Guards in 1966 and subsequently jailed. All attempts to make her confess to the charges of being a British spy failed; all efforts to indoctrinate her were met by a steadfast and fearless refusal to accept the terms offered by her interrogators. When she was released from prison she was told that her daughter had committed suicide. In fact Meiping had been beaten to death by Maoist more

Product details

  • Paperback | 512 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 32mm | 379.99g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Flamingo
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 000654861X
  • 9780006548614
  • 66,036

Review Text

The sufferings of a rich woman during China's Cultural Revolution. Cheng was part of a family associated with Shell Oil before the political mood changed in 1968. Now a resident of Washington, D,C., Cheng looks back with horror at her six and a half years of imprisonment and psychological torture, as well as the brutal death of her daughter. In formal, sometimes stiff English prose, Cheng recounts the weird atmosphere of the days when schoolchildren would follow her in the street, calling her "Spy! Imperialist spy! Running dog of the imperialists!" An anonymous ill-wisher even wrote on her front gate, "An arrogant imperialist spy lives here." Indeed, she would soon be arrested on charges of being a British agent. Yet before this, Cheng suffered through "frequent nightmares in which I saw my daughter brutally beaten, tortured, and killed in a blood-splattered room." Almost as bad were visits from strangers bearing gifts who claimed to be friends of her daughter. Cheng later witnessed her daughter's murderer being freed as part of a general reprieve. In length and grimness, this tale achieves something of the effect of one of Solzhenitsyn's works, though it is less pretentiously written than anything by the Russian. Cheng even offers a bit of anticlimactic wit: on the plane leaving China in 1980, she was taken aback when a stewardess offered her a Bloody Mary or a Screwdriver: she associated these drinks with instruments of torture. An ennobling and vivid accounting of an indomitable spirit. (Kirkus Reviews)show more