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Lions Roar : November 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2009 58 How did the Cultural Revolution affect your family personally? Though children were encouraged to denounce their parents, my family became closer because my parents became victims. i loved my parents and, when i had to choose between them and Mao, i chose my parents. My father got into trouble because he stood up to Mao and protested, and as a result he was arrested, tortured, and driven insane. He was exiled to a camp and later died prematurely. My mother had a lot of bitterness against my father because he’d put his principles before the interests of his family, but when my mother was under pressure to denounce him, she refused. as a result, she went through over a hundred ghastly denunciation meetings. she was made to kneel on bro- ken glass and was paraded in the streets, where children spat and threw stones at her. But through all this she stood by my father. i admire my parents and i developed a love for them that couldn’t have existed in normal times. i went with my parents to those denunciation meetings and i sat in the hysterical crowd that was yearning for my parents’ blood. i sat where they could see me from the stage, so they’d know there was somebody there who loved them. of course, it was horrible. i was shivering in my heart, but i’d tell myself i could withstand it, that i would not be crushed. i found out how strong i could be. Where did your family’s courage come from? Love for each other was at the root of our courage. Under normal circumstances people don’t need much courage, and therefore they don’t have the chance to discover it in themselves. But when the time comes, they’re surprised to see how much strength and courage they have. This is true of people everywhere. Though i witnessed the ugliness in human nature, i also saw nobility and strength—qualities that were brought out by unprecedented ad- versity. i saw people being kind at great personal risk. Was your father surprised by how your mother stood by him? no, he knew my mother was brave. When she was fifteen she worked for the Communist underground, because she thought Communism would bring liberation to women and a good life to the Chinese. she was disappointed later, but when she believed that, she did all sorts of things for the underground. so my father knew my mother had courage, but he was touched by her loyalty, and he started to reflect on his own life. He felt he hadn’t treated my mother as she deserved to be treated. i was in the prison camp with my father when he got news that my mother had an illness regarded as incurable at the time. My father was devastated. He rarely shed tears, but he wept in a way that stunned his persecu- tors because they knew him as a man of steel. My father then sent my mother a long telegram in which he said he just wanted to have a chance to make it up to her. Did your mother help you with the writing of Wild swans? Wild Swans is very much my mother’s story. i wrote it as a re- sult of her staying with me in London for six months in 1988 and Above left: Jung Chang’s parents (back), with her maternal grandmother (left) holding her sister, and a wet nurse (right) holding Jung Chang in 1953. Above right: Jung Chang’s mother (left), with her grandmother and stepfather, Dr. Xia. Standing at center is Dr. Xia’s son, De-gui, the only member of his family who approved of Dr. Xia’s marriage to Jung Chang’s grandmother. Dr. Xia’s eldest son shot himself in protest. Standing at far right is De-gui’s son. Circa 1939.