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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  81,983 ratings  ·  5,216 reviews
The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.

An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female ex
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Paperback, 562 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Simon Schuster (first published September 1st 1991)
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Rachel Lail Chang is writing about the lives of herself and her family members, so she definitely fully develops them as human beings.

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Average rating 4.26  · 
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Martine
Wild Swans may well be the most depressing book I've ever read. Don't let that keep you from giving it a try, though, for by some strange mechanism, it also ranks among the most uplifting books I've read, chronicling as it does a courage, resilience and will to survive which are nothing short of riveting. I could sum the book up by saying it's the greatest ode to courage and resilience ever written, or that it's one of those rare books which make you despair of humanity and then go a long way towards ...more
Margitte
At first I did not want to voice my opinion of this book since it cut so near to the bone and was such a profound shock to read in 1993. It was, however, the first book, after reading Isabelle Allende, that kept me awake for several weeks afterwards. No other book ever managed to achieve that.

It certainly is a depressing book, no beating around the bush about that, but also such a courageous introduction to a life of people shut away behind the veil of communism. My overall impressio
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William2
How far could Chinese patriarchy go in the early twentieth century to make the lives of women sheer humiliation and misery? Here in Wild Swans we have that question tidily answered. This is a tale of the lives of three generations of Chinese women: the author, her mother and her grandmother. Author Jung Chang's grandmother had her feet bound—a hideously painful process undertaken solely so that some man might one day find her lustworthy enough to take as a concubine. The years-long process of foot binding—of s ...more
Sue
Wild Swans presents the story of three generations in the life of the author's family, which covers most of the 20th century, as well as the amazing social, political and economic changes occurring in China as a whole. We move from the portrait of a concubine with bound feet to a woman who worked alongside her Communist Party husband to bring Party ideals to fruition, then on to the granddaughter who is among the first of her generation to be allowed to leave the country to study.

Alo
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Corinne Edwards
One of the most fascinating books I have ever read. Not only do I feel I got an honest history of communist China, its story plays out like a novel - I never wanted to put it down. Chang excels at pulling it together for you - showing you the differences between her Grandmother's life, her mother's life and her own, moving chronologically in a manner that makes such good sense. I completely followed it despite my absolute dearth of knowledge on the subject of China. I wept with her and felt an a ...more
Cecily
A fascinating description of one family's experiences of China's political upheavals during the 20th century. Although Jung Chang's family are fairly privileged much of the time, they still experience great hardships: being an official and Party member was no guarantee of immunity from persecution and even torture.

HARD TO CATEGORISE - BUT DON'T BE DAUNTED
It's part biography/autobiography and part a historical/political/psychological exposition of how Communist China came into b
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Kavita
If you read only one book about twentieth century China, let this be the one. A mish-mash of personal memoir, family saga, history, feminist literature, and global and Chinese politics, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China covers it all vividly. The book covers the life of Jung Chang's grandmother, her mother, and herself over the course of a China that was constantly changing in response to the changing times and the challenges it was facing.

Chang starts off with her grandmother's story:
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Veeral
Simply put, “Wild Swans” is a poor man’s Life and Death in Shanghai.

Reason being that that while the initial chapters about Jung Chang’s grandmother are informative and interesting as it gives us a peek into the life of people in Pre-Communist China; as the book progresses, Chang’s ignorance (as she was a little girl at that time) about the events happening around her becomes a permanent annoyance.

I am not saying that Chang was still ignorant about what happened in China during the “Great Leap Forward” and “T
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Gary
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wild Swans is a candid and harrowing account of three remarkable Chinese women -grandmother, mother and daughter- but also gives us a very good picture of what China was like from the turn of the Century to the 1980's
We learn about the ancient culture of the Chinese which included much that was beautiful and some that seems cruel. We learn of the hope of so many Chinese that the overthrow of the Kuomintang would lead to a' just social order' but how it soon became clear that the worst exce
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Trina
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone--particularly someone planning a visit to China
Recommended to Trina by: My sister who was living in Beijing
We bought this book before a trip to Beijing in 2005, but Amazon was particularly slow with their delivery and it arrived just a couple of days before our departure. My husband began reading the book on the plane (and even though the book is banned in China, our bags weren't searched so our copy made it into the country without any problem), but didn't finish it until well after we'd returned home. At that point, my interest had waned a bit. In addition, I just don't like to read "sad" books, an ...more
Manny
Jan 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At a conference dinner some time in the mid-90s, I found myself sitting next to this extremely impressive Chinese woman researcher - bunch of frequently cited publications, well-read in three languages, manages to look gorgeous as well. I cast around for something to say.

"I liked that Wild Swans book," I hazarded. "Do you know it?"

She looked at me scornfully. "Any Chinese woman could have written that!" she replied. "There are a hundred million stories just like it."

I"
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This is a very rare book which has convinced thousands of its readers here at goodreads to give it the highest rating possible solely on the strength of the story in it. Those who look for unique writing styles, or breathtaking passages, memorable quotes, wordplays, or interesting new words will not find anything here. The author, who was born and who grew up in China, learned the rudiments of the English language when she was already a young adult. So she wrote this in an English which is just ...more
Zanna
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, 500gbw
I am daunted by the prospect of commenting on this book. Jung Chang tells the story of her grandmother who was a concubine to a warlord general before marrying a compassionate and principled Manchu doctor, and was one of the last generation to suffer the disabling practice of foot-binding.

She tells the story of her mother, revolutionary, committed communist, wife of a passionate political leader, whose support for the regime finally collapsed in the face of inexpressibly extreme onsl
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Marc
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: communism, china
Story of three generations of women (grandmother, mother and author) in the 20th Century China. The title refers to the nickname Wild Swans (Chang) that was given to the mother and passed on to her daughters.
This is a downright impressive as document, especially as an illustration of the shocking changes China went through in the 20th century. It's absolutely hallucinatory and horrifying especially related to the Cultural Revolution. Well written, except for a rather disappointing epilogue
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Chantal  (Every Word A Doorway)
I have always liked history, but my biggest fascination lies (and has lain for years) in the history, culture, mythology and politics of Japan and China. So as you can guess, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China was everything I could have ever wanted. The amount of insight I gained from this read is invaluable, and yet, it didn’t read like a history textbook. Instead it is an entertaining, albeit harrowing, memoir depicting the joys and struggles of three Chinese women of the same family through three generations i ...more
Lynne King
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
After reading Margitte's excellent review just now and browsing through this book again, I've decided to up my rating.

* * * * * * * * *

I see that I read this hardback in 1993. I will, when I get the time, reread it just to see how I now view it.

It's the story of three Chinese woman and it is a memoir of Jung Chang, her mother and her grandmother.

There are wonderful photos portraying China's history, although not necessarily pleasant memories.
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Czarny Pies
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who love self-righteous grief.
Shelves: asian-history
Throughout the entire 562 pages of this excruciating book, Jung Chang wallows in self-pity in the most abject fashion. Nonetheless, it merits five stars or more because of the way it tells the story from the ground level of the fall the Qing dynasty, the attempt of the Kuomintang to create a modern state, the creation of a communist regime in China, the Great Leap forward and Mao's cultural revolution. Chang is rich in detail and has a remarkable sense of what needs to be explained to the wester ...more
Joey
Thick. Voluminous. Its Flamingo edition has 696 pages. I laid it aside many times. I didn’t know how to finish it , but I wanted to heap it soon onto the other books read and unread; I was obsessed with the other new books I had splurged on. When I gave it a shot for the third time; I was so already excited that I was close to its real-life –saga ending. Then, I was stuck again, in some harrowing parts I had to understand by heart and turn over in my mind . There, I trudged along. I was almost c ...more
Jenny
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Chinese history, oriental literature or wonderful stories!
I've never felt so sad to reach the end of a book in all my life. This book is amazing and is well and truly the best book I've ever read! I even had the urge to start reading it all over again as soon as I'd finished.

Wild Swans follows the journey of three generations of women, from the same family, through the tragic history of twentieth century China.

I felt almost ashamed that I wasn't aware of hardly any of China's recent history. I picked the book up as I was doing a charity tr/>Wild
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Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, nonfiction
I enjoyed this a lot. Okay, maybe "enjoyed" isn't the right word seeing as there is death, torture, misery and a lot of general unfairness... but it was a compulsively readable book that made me grateful that I was born in the time and place I was. And it was an interesting education on Chinese history, politics and culture.
Amy
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five Stars! I am not normally a lover on non-fiction, but lately I have read such compelling reads. In my Goodreads main group I have already seen a number of reviews of this, so its hard to recap. It traces the life of Jung Chang and her siblings, parents, and grandparents, through the Komingtang, and the Cultural Revolution under Mao Tse Tang. In places it was hard to read, as the devastation and violence of her childhood experience, and that of her parents and grandparents was bleak and traum ...more
Christine
Jul 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
My heart ached every time I picked up this book to read. It rang page after page of unspeakable acts delivered to and through the everyday lives of the people of China under the rule of Mao. The only real hope conveyed in the book was Chang's beautiful depiction of the places where she, her mother and her grandmother had lived. She captures the smallest detail and creates a clear picture for her reader. I believe this book grants us a view of what it is like to live in a Godless society.
Abbie | ab_reads
4.5 stars

If you're looking for your next powerful, personal memoir then look no further guys, I got your back! Wild Swans is the story of three generations of women told by Jung Chang: her grandmother, the concubine of a warlord, her communist mother, and herself. The book is super lengthy and heavy (as is expected) but I think it's so worth it, as you get the full picture of what life was like under Mao. Hint: it was terrible.
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I was awestruck by the amount of time and re
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Jeff
Nov 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone, Sinophiles
Recommended to Jeff by: College professor
Shelves: memoir
I started this book because I had to, not because I wanted to. But before I was half-way through it, I was reading it and recommending it because I loved it, and felt very close to the three women chronicled in it.

It's been a long time since I was a political science undergraduate studying constitutional formation in transitional totalitarian societies, so a lot of the detail about this book escape me. Nevertheless, there's a lot that still stands out and makes me mention this book t
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Beth Asmaa
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Wild Swans" (1991) has very helpful introductory notes. Because of the Chinese names, I was glad to know how to pronounce Jung=Yung, X=sh, Q=ch. The 2003 Introduction is added, in which she aims to write about "how the Chinese really felt" during the twentieth century through experiences of her grandmother, her mother, and herself. Especially interesting are the changing lives of women across three generations, which depict notions of beauty, concubinage, and foot-binding then community activis ...more
Steve Griffin
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a whirlwind story, focusing around the tragedy of China throughout much of the last century through three generations of women. The greatest havoc is wrought by Mao Zedong and his wife, particularly through his Cultural Revolution in which young people are pitched against teachers, intellectuals and artists in a highly successful attempt to divide and rule. It's like Lord of the Flies meets real life. Read this book, especially if you don't know much about China - it's an education.
Mary
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction, china
But Mao's theory might just be the extension of his personality. He was, it seemed to me, really a restless fight promoter by nature, and good at it. He understood ugly human instincts such as envy and resentment, and knew how to mobilize them for his ends. He ruled by getting people to hate each other...In bringing out and nourishing the worst in people, Mao had created a moral wasteland and a land of hatred.

(p.496)
Horace Derwent
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
you'll never think of china in the same way ever again
Sharon Metcalf
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
4 stars....
I had never heard of this book until I starting searching for a book to fill the BT Bingo square "2016 Year of the Dragon". Of all the books I considered this one seemed to be the most appropriate being written by a Chinese lady and set in China, and with an average rating of 4.21 and almost 58K reviews I figured it would be something I'd enjoy. I figured wrong. Despite giving this book 4 stars I could not in all honesty say I found it an enjoyable read. Interesting, most defini
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Judy
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks interested in Maoist Chinese history
Recommended to Judy by: Anne
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China contains the best account of Maoist China that I have read so far. The viewpoint comes from the lineage of three Chinese women and begins before Mao's dictatorship which IMO is a nice touch, because it offers the contrast of the neighborly, respectful, more peaceful China of the past.

This is not a short book, and I found the most I could read at a sitting was three chapters due to the denseness. Perhaps, every reader won't feel that way, but I found myself thinki
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Jung Chang (simplified Chinese: 张戎; traditional Chinese: 張戎; pinyin: Zhāng Róng; Wade-Giles: Chang Jung, born March 25, 1952 in Yibin, Sichuan) is a Chinese-born British writer now living in London, best known for her family autobiography Wild Swans, selling over 10 million copies worldwide but banned in mainland China.

See also ユン チアン, 張戎.
“When he asked my grandmother if she would mind being poor, she said she would be happy just to have her daughter and himself: 'If you have love, even plain water is sweet.” 65 likes
“If you have love, even plain cold water is sweet.” 44 likes
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