“The wild swans: three daughters of China”, is a historical description of politics in China during the 20th Century. Written by Jung Chang, the book focuses on the lifestyle of three women to give a detailed description of the traditional practices and political progression of the Chinese people.
Like the rest of the colonized regions across the world, women, children, and people from lower social classes had to endure all forms of hardships to survive in the hostile environment in the colonial China. As Chang describes the historical development of China, the theme of atrocity becomes clear. The Japanese colonialists, together with the barbaric traditional practices, ensured that the life of the natives was extremely painful.
Through selfish and inhumane nature, the men established traditional practices, which only favored them. For instance, Yu-fang who is Chang’s grandmother possessed bound feet. The process of binding the feet was not only painful but also led to the breaking of bones. The process involved twisting and bending of toes before tying them with a cloth to make sure the feet do not grow to more than four inches. Sometimes women with bound developed walking disabilities.
According to Chang, “her grandmother often passed out repeatedly from the pain” but surprisingly, the sight of bound feet on a woman aroused the men (Chang 120). Secondly, the men used women to acquire wealth and status. Women are valueless. By forcefully marrying her off to General Xue, Yu-fang’s father joins the upper social class because of the increment in riches; he acquires concubines and later becomes a police lieutenant.
Thirdly, the rich men take in women as concubines mainly for sexual satisfaction. When General Xue dies, one of the concubines had to take an overdose of opium to die with him, which is a vital traditional practice. There is exhumation of another concubine’s body, to bury it together with the General. Therefore, the tradition looks down on women as physical objects and not humans.
The Japanese authority tortures the Chinese women in their own country. For example, Chang’s mother committed a serious offence by defeating the Japanese in athletics. Consequently, because the colonialists could not stand the shame of losing a race to a native, the school administration eventually expelled her. At school, the Japanese children possessed well-built structures while the Chinese children used old dilapidated temples devoid of heaters, which was vital during winter (300).
The industries used child labor, but none of the children received payment. The staple food for the Chinese was only carbohydrates, sorghum/maize while rice belonged to Japanese and other Chinese collaborators. Sadly, the Japanese sent most of the prisoners to gallons where they killed, tortured and threw their bodies to dogs. Sometimes the dogs feasted on baby corpses (400). Only the Japanese dictated who lives yet they are intruders.
Internationally (except in China), Chang’s masterpiece received recognition and many awards. Although her aim was to enlighten the society on the main political developments in China, the Chinese government highly criticized the open description atrocities in their country.
Conventionally, each country would want to protect its image and China could not let Chang’s book contravene that principle. Consequently, the leaders prohibited the book in China. Nevertheless, this move did not come as a surprise because as the old adage goes, a prophet is not revered in his home town; well, Chang knows this particularly well after her book was banned in her own country.
In summary, Chang’s secretly condemns the inhuman traditions of China and the barbaric Japanese authority, which reigned in the 20th century. Chang sums up the evilness in her country by saying, “if this is paradise, what then is hell?”(450). She cannot think of any other form of barbarism anywhere in the world, which exceeds the barbarism that the Chinese faced in the hands of their colonial masters, the Japanese.
Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. London: Anchor books, 1992.