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Colors of the Mountain

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,894 Ratings  ·  170 Reviews
Written in simple, evocative prose, Colors of the Mountain is a classic story of triumph over adversity, a memoir of a boyhood spent in China, and a welcome introduction to an amazing writer. A defiantly happy book, big-hearted and sincere.--Newsweek.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 16th 2001 by Anchor Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Best Books About China
35th out of 440 books — 388 voters
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History through Novels: 1900s/2000s China
27th out of 49 books — 32 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Gloria Chen
Mar 03, 2013 Gloria Chen rated it really liked it
Colors of the Mountain is a satisfying read. Though I probably never would have read it had it not been for my Nonwestern Literature class, I am glad I did, and found it pretty relatable. It’s a good read, easy to get into and makes you want to finish.

Da Chen’s memoir tells his story of growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. We learn in history class about how Mao Zedong ran the country into the ground with Communism, and how Communism is evil as we know from the Cold War. But most
Dec 06, 2014 Claire rated it it was amazing
I met the author, Da Chen while waiting on a flight in LAX. He was seated next to me in the gate house for Delta Air Lines, heading out to Atlanta, Ga.

He was extraordinarily polite as he took the seat next to me and I was impressed. He got up and returned once and again was very polite. Being southern 'old school' I took pleasure in his gentlemanly behavior. We then became occupied quietly,involved in our own reading.

I observed him editing a large amount of printed word, and after a while feel
Jan 15, 2008 Paul rated it really liked it
Another book that takes place in the Cultural Revolution. Josie gave this one to me years ago, and it had a great impact on the way I saw Chinese culture. What I liked was the way it didn't explain the political situation in didactic ways, but let it unravel in its complexity through the scenes of the story. The one where the children are not going to school (since all the teachers have been sent for re-education) and gambling over Chinese New Year is particularly memorable. A great story which ...more
Jul 28, 2012 Elle rated it really liked it
Recommended to Elle by: Professor Danon
This story is a testament to the power of family, love, honor, friendships, dreams, hope, human will, and education. When I read this book I found myself laughing aloud, and there were passages that forced tears of joy and compassion from my eyes. The imagery provided a sense of witness, and made you feel like a spectator cheering on the main character as he walked, ran, stumbled and got up. Colors of the Mountain is a beautifully written, thought provoking memoir depicting an inspiring story of ...more
Ann Lardas
Sep 20, 2014 Ann Lardas rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book about how the grandson of a land owner, whose family and he were legally and with malice persecuted at home, at work, and at school, overcame this malice and, in the changed climate after the death of Mao, was able to overcome malice and neglect to outscore his peers and leave for Beijing (and later America!).
The book begins when Da's father is in prison and his grandfather is arrested, every year, to be paraded through the village and beaten. Every year. His older
Astrid Yrigollen
Nov 26, 2014 Astrid Yrigollen rated it it was ok
I have read a lot of non fiction Communist area books . I actually had to check to see if this was fiction but it is a memoir.

The book comes off as a peaches & cream childhood where they have pigs, chickens & rice in the country side at a time according to history, there was mass starvation and canalbalism under Mao. Every other page featured people smoking, talking about smoking or handing out smokes. Either the author works for Philip Morris or is in love with cigarettes. Any hard labo
Dec 31, 2014 Lorraine rated it really liked it
This review ends 2014 for me with book #34. “Colors of the Mountain” by Da Chen is an autobiography and a coming of age tale of a boy who makes “good” growing up in southern China during the Cultural Revolution. It is easy to read and follow and it is also humorous along the way (thanks to the author’s descriptions), in spite of the oppression and hardships he had to endure. He was born in 1962 which he describes as “the Year of the Great Starvation.” Whether you know a lot or a little about thi ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
I'd love to find more books like this, a simple story of one's childhood, and the stresses and struggles that affect it. This one just happens to deal with someone who grew up during the Maoist Cultural Revolution, and had to deal with the hatred people had towards successful families before the uprising, where owning any land immediately put you on a black list. It makes one appreciate one's own upbringing and what parents have dealt with just to put you through your own lives, when others have ...more
Sep 24, 2008 Leslie rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This memoir has changed my perspective on the years of education that I have taken for granted. Reading about Da Chen's fervent yearning to be able to go to college--the sacrifices, the studying, the praying, all of it--was really inspiring. When I finished, I was overwhelmed by the thought: "And to think that some people DON'T WANT to go to college because they don't want to have to work that hard or for that long." I never realized how fortunate I am.

Aside from enjoying the basic theme of the
Aug 01, 2009 Iva rated it it was ok
Maybe I have read too many Cultural Revolution memoirs, and perhaps Da Chen's success in the U. S. was revealed way too soon, but I was disappointed in both the writing and the lack of suspense. This book is used as a One Book, One College and on this level it has merit. What he had to do to obtain an education and learn English is certainly something most Western students take for granted. And as the youngest in his family he saw his siblings become older than their years working on the farm wi ...more
K. D. Hanson
Jun 22, 2015 K. D. Hanson rated it really liked it
No words in my irrefutably, and yes, conspicuously, vast, or ample, lexicon can viably, without flagrantly, convey my puissant adulation for this irrefutably prodigious memoir. From the throes of interminably, or perpetually, penurious families in the landlord social class, to the fatuous, frivolous transformation from erudite, adroit, astute, fastidious, or scrupulous, polymaths and wunderkinds to intrepid, vacuous individuals in the Cultural Revolution in China, bolstered by its Communist, gli ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Avaldi rated it it was amazing
It's been a long time since I enjoyed a book this much! The story telling ability of this author is incredible. The book, transports you to remote places to somehow experience some of the moments that the characters of the story are going through. On a personal note, reading about his memories of growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution, reminds me of how lucky I am for having a very different life than his. Every high school student should read this story. We take education, technolog ...more
Charlotte Ruz
Mar 06, 2015 Charlotte Ruz rated it liked it

The book Colors of the Mountain by Da Chen is a great book of a young boy living in communist China. The boy Da Chen was born in 1962 in a tiny town called Yellow Stone. His family used to be landlords so they owned land and now China was under the power of Mao. In this period of time landlords were disrespected and had become poor and were starving as well as mistreated. Da Chen's grandfather was working in fields and started becoming sick. Da Chen's family asked for him to stay home beca
Mar 20, 2009 Nancy rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-group
This book gained me a reputation for not liking Chinese authors - not true, but there you go. I thought the descriptions were forced; the use of foul language was affected and unrealistic. I didn't like it at all.
Jan 11, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
One of my first reading obsessions was with the Cultural Revolution. I was just fascinated with the amount of chaos that had been implanted among millions of people by just a few.

So it was appropriate that as a child, I really liked this book. Colors of the Mountain, unlike a few other biographies, details and starts at the decline of the Cultural Revolution. I think the writer is in his early adolescence when Mao Zedong dies, if I can recall correctly.

The writing was frank and honest, but to be
Mar 02, 2011 pdxmaven rated it it was ok
All the way through, I kept thinking that maybe I had read this before and just wasn't remembering whether or not I had -- because it was yet another in the genre of "growing up in Hard Times in China". Which is not to say that I don't find this interesting, 'cause if I didn't I wouldn't read them at all; but they do tend to blur together. Born in 1962 in southern China, child of a family of landlords where were now very much out of favor during the Cultural Revolution, it's a hard life for Da a ...more
Mar 10, 2010 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Now a writer living in New York, Da Chen describes his youth in mainland China with engaging humor and affecting warmth. It's often a harrowing tale: born in 1962, Chen was the grandson of a landlord, which rendered his entire family pariahs during the Cultural Revolution. And though initially an excellent student, he was ostracized in school and told he could never attend college. He responded by making friends with a group of young thugs who drank, smoked, and gambled but were kind to him. Aft ...more
Oct 17, 2011 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
This is the third book I've read by a Chinese author in English, and the second that deals with memoir/testimonial material (the other is The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices). I really like the way the Chinese language translates and how simple yet poetic the authors' way of writing can be.

This book reminded me a lot of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, in a Chinese setting. We have the same story of the boy growing up in a very rural, poor area, with ambitions to one day get out, leave and go
Feb 19, 2016 Monicaaa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inspirations, history
In Colors of the Mountain, Da Chen tells the story of how he grew up during China’s cultural revolution. His family belonged to the landlord class(people who owned land before the Communist Revolution in the late 1940s), and because of that his father and grandpa were routinely beaten in the streets and sent to labor camps. The family would often be left without a steady income. The memoir is the story of determination through humiliation, strength through hopelessness, and overcoming obstacles ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Carolin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Da Chens Familie war Landbesitzer - zumindest bis zur Kulturrevolution. In dieser Zeit müssen sie nie enden wollenden Spott, Demütigungen, Benachteiligungen und Gewalt ertragen. Nicht zuletzt wird ihnen Bildung vorenthalten, doch die scheint sowieso kurz vor Maos Tod nicht mehr wichtig zu sein. Doch dann wendet sich das Blatt: Mao ist nicht mehr und alle reden wieder von Dichtern und Denkern. Die Kinder, die jahrelang in der Schule nichts mehr gelernt haben, sollen nun durch ihr Können und Wisse ...more
Nov 03, 2010 Claire rated it did not like it
I did not finish this book. I feel bad saying that I just can't get into it because it's obvious from what I have read that Mr. Chen's life has been far more gripping and interesting than anything in my own experience. Nevertheless, I am going to put this book aside for now and maybe later I'll be moved to pick it up.

I think part of my hesitation to force myself to press on with it is because I just can't understand the Cultural Revolution. I can't begin to understand the power that the politic
Jul 05, 2010 Marcy rated it it was amazing
Da Chen was born in a family whose grandfather had been a landlord. Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution had taken away all the money, education, and dignity from this educated family. Da suffered greatly during his elementary school days. Although the smartest of all the students, he was abused emotionally and physically by other students and his teachers. At one point, he was not let back in to school to study.

Da's grandfather never lived to see the end of the cultural revolution. "Since the begin
Oct 19, 2011 chucklesthescot rated it did not like it
This started out as the true story of a young boy who loves school but who starts to find that his life is falling apart during the Chines Cultural Revolution because his grandfather was a landowner, and seen now as a traitor. He witnesses the way his family are treated-shunned, humiliated and working in labour camps, then he starts to be singled out at school for bullying by fanatical teachers and children.
That was the good bit of the book but then Da Chen falls in with an older gang of boys-t
Sharon Jones
Nov 04, 2012 Sharon Jones rated it really liked it
Great book on the study of people and their experiences with Communism. Communism is the biggest scam played on people. The theory may be a "sharing" one but in reality the rich are the only ones that benefit.
This was a great story about a young boy in a small village who was ostracized his whole life but with perseverance and the realization that his families honor was at stake, he fought the fight, got an education, went to college and became a well-scholared man. It was touching to read the
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
This is the same text that was published under the title China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution. I really dislike it when publishers do that; you think you're getting a new book and you're getting the same one in different packaging. I'm just posting this here so others will know.
Jan 14, 2013 Brent rated it really liked it
I found Da Chen's work exceptional and brave. Because of the economic collaboration between the elite of Maoist China, and the mega-businesses and powerful of America, the true nature of Chinese Maoism is suppressed. For example, George Bush Jr. waxed on about religious freedom, but never commented on the nature of prolific Chinese torture, political rape, framing of dissidents, etc. Da Chen's book is valuable because it shows through a simple schoolboy's eyes how insidious the nature of Maoism ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Shu rated it it was amazing
This book is pure action and intent from beginning to end. The character is someone who is brilliant and brave with a clear motivation and great heart; there was so much personal suffering that I felt outraged, and such strength of willpower to overcome it that I felt anxious with uncertainty over the results of the struggles, and well measured sentiment in the relationships that I had to hold my page, look up and breathe for a minute to prevent myself from dissolving into gratitude and mirth th ...more
Jul 21, 2016 Julian rated it it was amazing
Chen provides us with a griping narrative written in elegant prose. "Colors of the Mounting" is a powerful work that can be read on multiple levels; through his thought-provoking account of life in Communist China, Chen probes deep, universal questions about government, interpersonal relationships, and self-determination.
Sandy W
Apr 26, 2016 Sandy W rated it really liked it
Sometimes we forget how valuable an education was or can be in other places in the world. This story traces a young Chinese boy's quest for an education in communist China in the 1940s. It is written for an adult reader, but would certainly be a valuable lesson for the young adult reader.
Jun 28, 2015 Pepper rated it it was amazing
A spectacular glimpse into China during the Cultural Revolution, Da Chen paints and excellent visual picture for the masses on how life actually was and how he rose above the label given to him to make a name for himself and his family.
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Da Chen (born in 1962 in Fujian, China) is a Chinese author whose works include Brothers, China's Son, Sounds of the River, Sword, and Colors of the Mountain. A graduate of Beijing Language and Culture University and Columbia Law School, Da Chen lived in the Hudson Valley in New York but has recently moved to Torrance, California with his wife, the paranormal romance author Sunni, and two children ...more
More about Da Chen...

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“A poor child knew what it meant to be poor. We didn't ask for much, and sometimes we didn't even ask.” 3 likes
“Do you still want to be a farmer?' Mom asked.
I shook my head.
'Then study hard. You can choose your future, your sisters and brother can't. You're lucky. If they had blisters like yours, they would still have to be there till the last stem was harvested. It's their life.”
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