This memoir by Jung Chang recounts the lives of three generations of Chinese women, from her grandmother, her mother, to herself. In telling her story the narrator explores many themes including that of the political struggle in China from the early 1900s through to the end in 1978.
The writer begins her story by giving us the circumstances by which her grandmother became a concubine to a warlord; she tells us that it was his great grandfather’s plan for her to be married of as a concubine, he plans for them to be in a competition so that he can notice her,” The person who guessed the most answers won a prize.
Among the men General Xue was the winner, naturally. Among the women, it was my grandmother” (Chang 17), the reason for this plan was so that he can get favors and political patronage from the warlord, General Xue. She later tells us of how China was attacked by the Japanese and it lost a huge part of its territory and how the Japanese colonized China by introducing the teaching of Japanese in school, use of Japanese methods and being taught by Japanese teaches .
The writer gives us the low point of the political struggle involving the Japanese and the Chinese citizens by telling a story of a Chinese who had been arrested and killed for committing an ‘economic crime’ by eating rice which had only been reserved for the Japanese and Chinese collaborators. The country had no proper legal system and anyone with a gun enjoyed arbitrary power.
The Chinese were later liberated from the Japanese by the Russians however, the Russians soon stated to mistreat the Chinese by raping their women, looting their houses and generally crippling their industries, these called for the youth to rise and try to liberate themselves they called themselves the Chinese communist they were led by Mao Zedong while another faction was the Kuomintang. Soon a civil war emerges between the communists and Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-shek.
The Kuomintang has control over the vast majority of the country for it was being backed by the US and Russia. Corruption creeps in and disables the economy, and it deteriorates to a serious position this led to Kuomintang loosing soldiers because none of the youth wants to volunteer. The communist finally take over the Jinzhou, they tell the people, “don’t be afraid. We won’t harm you. We are your army, the people’s army.”(Chang 81)
The writer has portrayed the Communist Party of China in good light only, she doesn’t give as an account and the instances of the atrocities committed by the party during the war and in subsequent events, for example she doesn’t inform us of the communist policy of the suppression of the freedom of religion.
We are also not told of the struggles between the Communist Party and the Japanese until much later in the memoir in page 56 where she inform us of the renewed rivalry, she writes, “Both were maneuvering for position in preparation for renewing the civil war which had been partly suspended for the previous eight years in order to fight the Japanese” (Chang 56), this provides a serious flaw in the chronology of events and thus provides the reader with a challenge,
The following quote sums up the memoir, “Ruled by different masters”(Chang 67) , as can be observed in the book all the rulers come with their promises of good life for the people but they eventually change and start oppressing them.
Chang,Jung.Wild Swan,Three Daughters of China.London:harper Collins,1991.