Chapter 1 introduces the Grandmother. The grandmother in her time was a beautiful women by all standards and eventually became the concubine of a warlord. Her features described as having a oval face, bound feet, and being a good traditional Chinese woman. The warlord marries the grandmother from her family and even buys her her own house with servants. However, she was unhappy in this state of concubinage and as the warlord layed dying, she got asked by the wife to attend the funeral and she declined.
Soon after, Dr. Xia, a matured doctor of Manchurian ancestry, falls in love with Jung’s grandmother and the feelings could be felt the same from Jung Chang’s grandmother as well. The doctor proposes and grandmother says yes. Although not thrilled with the marriage, Jung Chang’s grandmother’s father agrees to the marriage and sends her daughter off with a traditional wedding. However, the entire doctor’s family is extremely angry that they will now have to show a special kind of respect to their new mother-in-law. The grandmother receives quite a bit of harassment from the family and the eldest son even commits suicide, nevertheless the wedding still occurs.
After moving to a new province of Manchuria, Jung Chang’s grandmother, now living with Dr. Xia, begins to realize how terrible life is under the Japanese. Meager rations are given and as the war drags on, fewer rations and supplies are given to the people in Manchuria as Japan is losing the war. Finally, an American B-52 bomber flies overhead and she realizes that Japan had indeed lost the war. As Japan’s last officers commit suicide or run away, the town is in utter chaos just like the rest of Manchuria.
Soon Russian troops, beat up come in to secure the town. However, they soon leave and the Kuomintang arrive in shining uniforms and rifles. However, the Kuomintang also turn out to be oppressive and ineffective at keeping justice and peace. The remaining Japanese are systematically murdered by the Russians and the Kuomintang. However, De-Hong recalls a Ms. Tanaka who never hit the children and was always very kind to them and asks if they could hide her from the slaughter. The rest of the family agrees and Ms. Tanaka is called of of Grandmother’s cousins. The Kuomintang call the Chinese “slaves who have no home of their own” because although they were not true Chinese, they also could not trace their ancestry.
As the Kuomintang weaken, it becomes clear that they are a ineffective governing force. The Kuomintang extort, steal, and a deeply corrupted to a point where corruption has lead to food and supply shortages that have cause people to sell their children. De-Hong wants to join the communists but is deemed too young. However, she finally participates in the final battle, smuggling in, the explosives into the Kuomintang fortress and ultimately leading to Kuomintang defeat. As carnage and hell breaks loose outside, the Xia family huddle together and wait for the fighting to be over.
De-Hong helps clean up the carnage cause by all the civil war. When the communists take over the town, they do not pillage, rape, or extort as all the other groups of people had done before them. Many are courteous and kind and seem to be the fit kind of soldiers who destroyed the Kuomintang. When De-Hong reports to receive her first assignment for the communists, she instantly falls in love with a dreamy man, named Wang Yu, who was a high ranking communist official. He had bee on many dangerous missions with the communists and rose through the ranks by being extremely loyal to the party and it’s ideals of sever equality. The two and several other teachers and students travel by train to another communist held town for fear that the town may be retaken by the Kuomintang and there, the two fall in love. Wang Yu eventually submits a request to “talk about marriage” to the party leaders and the two are engaged and finally married.
De-Hong travels with her new husband south, to another Manchurian town held by the communists. The walk is long and hard and only until she in in the process of miscarriage does De-Hong realize she is pregnant. De-Hong hopes for electricity and a comfortable living in this new town and she gets her wish. However, she almost dies when she collapses in her home without her husband around. She births a miscarriage and has to receive a blood transfusion to stay alive.
In this chapter, Both Jung Chang’s mother and father move to his city. She gets to meet all his family and go through many different ceremonies with the family. Later in the chapter, Chang describes many expeditions getting food for the city, which later becomes to dangerous for women.
This chapter tells of her mom’s life as being in the Public Affairs Department in Yibin. She tells of living with a denouncing of her grandmother, the birth of herself and the strictness of her father. Being part of the Communist was hard and had many of its hardships. Having a husband was harder for her mother than anything else.
Chang’s mother goes under suspicion during the course of this chapter. Being that she had some relations with Kuomintang participants she went under suspicion. But, after all that she had to go through, she was able to be free of any charges.
During this chapter, Mao decides to purge the Communist party again. This time devises that most people are “rightists” and need to leave the party, which ruin their lives forever. However, he got help this time and made all of his officials get rid of 5 % of their total participants. In the end, Chang’s mother was able to get to this quota after many different approaches of convicting people of being a “rightist.”
A famine strikes the land of China during this chapter. Many people die and starve from this famine all because Mao decides to make this situation look like their wasn’t a famine at all. Mao wanted to produce steel which led to a drop in production of food which leads to the famine. But, the famine gets cleared after Mao lets others to take charge of the situation.
Chang describes life in a compound during this chapter. Moving into a compound was for Chang and her siblings to go to a very nice and prestigious school. Living in a compound was very contained with its many entertainment locations. There was no need to go outside the compound for any reason. She also tells of how nice her life was as a child, living in a home where she was a good kid and her family noticed that.
This chapter describes the event that occurred with the cult of Mao. Many youths were forced into living like Lei Fang, a man who had a huge fondness for “Chairman Mao” and living his entire life revolving around him. Education included studying the words of Lei Fang and viewing the beatings of “class-enemies.”
After hearing about the collapse of Stalin’s Russia, Mao realized that he represented a Stalin figure waiting to be overthrown by his own people. In order to stop this from happening, Mao endorse’s books called “The Quotations of Chairman Mao”. This book contained his quotes and would be used to strengthen his popularity with the Chinese. In short, Mao’s control over China tightened throughout this chapter.
Not until, chapter 16 did Mao’s rule become apparent. Mao issued the use of Red Guard’s who he said protected and fought for Mao (in other words his own police force). Most of these Red Guards came from the families of high officials and came as teenagers. These Red Guards reinforced Mao’s word and rule and when someone was “betraying” Mao, he or she would be beaten, raided, tortured, or exectued.
Jung Chang’s father starts to question Mao’s actions and asks whether if the actions of the Chinese are justified. Eventually Jung Chang’s father writes a letter to Mao explaining the wrongs of Mao’s actions (which in the words of Mao, was considered “against Mao” and could face charges such as death). He soon serves time in detention. Also he starts to oppose Mao’s thoughts and expresses them out loud which can lead to very harsh outcomes.
To summarize this chapter, Jung Chang and her friends make a pilgrimage to Peking. The goal of this pilgrimage: to see the Great Chairman Mao.
The control of Mao switches into high gear. Becuase her parent’s become branded as “capitalist-roaders” they suffer from many brutal denunciation meetings, beatings, harrassment, and embarrasment. They are hurt for their crime of being “capitalist roaders” and bitterness starts to arise because they were only ever loyal to Mao.
Jung Chang’s father soon serves time in detention (due to sending another letter to Mao) and his wife makes a trip to Peking in order to speak to Premier Zhou Enlai, who she believes could help in their situation. On her way to Peking she meets two lovers Yan and Yong who join her. Finally with the help of Premier Zhou Enlai, Jung Chang’s father no longer served in detention. However, this does not end well. While in detention the guard watching over Jung Chan’s father plays mind games with him and convinces him that his wife created a conspiracy against him. Things got out of hand causing them to sleep in seperate areas and forces Jung Chang’s father’s mental and physical health to deteriorate (which later, his health imporved). Next more denunciation meetings hold misery for the parents.
Chapter 21 discusses some of the events that occured within her family. For example, Xiao-hei’s past as a member of a gang, Xiao-feng last act of childhood, and Jin-ming’s “black market” book experience. Along with these events being told, she tells of people drawing lines between their enemies and friends, sometimes causing friends to betray each other. Luckily her friends did not tell on Jung Chang which relates back to the title of the chapter, “Giving Charcoal in the Snow”, that refers to helping out others when needed. Also in this chapter, Jung Chang experiences her first time in a university.
Within this chapter, Mao institutes the idea of “thought reform through labor” (Chang, 389). The intentions of this quote made Communists all around China to go to the countryside and work alongside the peasants (Jung Chang was sent to Ningnan). Mao said that it would make the Communists closer to China. Sadly, at the end of the chapter, the friend’s of Jung Chang pronounced her grandmother dead.
To summarize this chapter, Jung Chang pursues her career as a “barefoot doctor”. Mao defined barefoot doctor’s as doctors that could be turned out en masse (Chang, 426). However, before she became a barefoot doctor she was reloacted to another peasant village, Deyang, where she learns of what happened to China before the Cutural Revolution.
With her entire family on the mission of completing “thought reform through labor”, Jung Chang decides to visit her parents who can be found in seperate locations. Her mother in Buffalo Boy Flatland and her father in a labor camp. While visiting her father, she tries to cheer him up by keeping him company. Eventually other family members come visit which allowed her father to not suffer from suicidal thoughts and whatnot. In the end, Jung Chang’s father apologizes to Jin-ming, her brother, about their current situation and past events.
In this chapter, Jung Chang takes her career in being an electrician. In her factory, she meets Day and eventually they both fall in love. However, it becomes shortlived because of their different social status’. In the end, Jung Chang’s father dies and she enrolls into an english university.
Education in China becomes less stressed, however those who had connections with officials became legible to enter universities, through the process which later became known as using the ”back door”. Teachings elements became based on Mao as well as military tactics and defending the country.
This chapter gives rise to the death of Jung Chang’s father. Her father died due to a heart attack which a doctor refused to see immediately. In his honor, an elaborate funeral was held for Jung Chang’s father. After the funeral, Jung Chang’s school decides to go on a field trip to the Chinese port, Zhanjiang, where the students could practic their English with the incoming and outgoing sailors. At the end of the chapter, Jung Chang’s Party secretary announces the death fo Chairman Mao.
After the death of Mao, the Chinese become a bit confused on what they should do. The idea of studying in the West became very prominent, as the government handed out scholarships for those wanting to go to the West. The story ends as Jung Chang traveled to the West in search of broadening her horizons and experiencing more freedom.