China’s Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution

ISBN: 044022926X
ISBN 13: 9780440229261
By: Da Chen

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About this book

A candid memoir about growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, adapted by the author from his Colors of the Mountain, published by Random House.Da Chen was born in China in 1962. The grandson of a landlord, he and his family were treated as outcasts in Communist China. In school, Da was an excellent student until a teacher told him that, because of his “family’s crimes,” he could never be more than a poor farmer. Feeling his fate was hopeless, Da responded by dropping out and hanging around with a gang. However, after Mao’s death, Da realized that an education and college might be possible, but he had to make up for the time he’d wasted. He began to study–all day and into the night. His entire family rallied to help him succeed, working long hours in the rice fields and going into debt to ensure that Da would have an education. When the final exam results were posted, he had one of the highest scores in the region and had earned a place at the prestigious Beijing University. Now his family’s past would not harm their future.From the Hardcover edition.

Reader's Thoughts


This is a memoir with twists as convoluted as real life - despair, hope, irresponsibility, and dedication take their turns. The end result is a not altogether comfortable story of growing up in 1970s China. Unlike many memoirs or biographies, China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolutionis written in a smooth, easy-to-read narrative style.This book contains alcohol consumption, smoking, and swearing.

Tarn Potter

Is it too late to know about Cultural Revolution in China in period of Chairman Mao, 1966?If yes, it is my personal fault. I am a Thai pampered girl who never opens her eyes, seeing something’s near and valuable but swinging her eyes on something beyond and hard to reach to then was suffered.If no, it is my turn to repay it by reviewing this book, China's Son; growing up in the Cultural Revolution, to make it is part of my beautiful memories.China’s son was found in Flinders University library accidentally. It started its story with when a little thin dark-skin boy named Chen Da was born in landlord family in 1962 in country side of Putien, near Yellow River, embraced by Ching Mountain, Fujian. In this period of Chaiman Mao in 1966 being a landlord is dangerous. Landlord position made Chens’ children segregated from others around their house. They didn’t only have enough food to swallow or much meat to eat but lack of chance to study also. By Mao’s policy of Cultural Revolution, children of landlord must be quit from school, doing the farm work, while others had opportunity to study. Moreover, students who were studying in university at that time were dismissed as well. Then they were sent to remote area to learn how to be a good labor. This process was call reeducation. Da is the only child who was still attending school while his brothers and sisters were working in farm field. He played an outstanding role in secondary school. Unfortunately, He was about quit form school because he was accused as a counterrevolution. After hiding himself in cousin Ta’s place for a little while, he went back and decided not to go to school anymore. Fortunately, a teacher called him back. He attended school again but school’s atmosphere was changed. It became an icy frozen school in which his classmate pretended he never existed. Only four friends he got came from gambling game they played in New Year’s Day. After studying each others for a while, they became a swearing brother. Da started drinking and smoking a thick tobacco made by his friend, giving up attending class. Also he, as the first one in Yellow Stone village, learned to play bamboo flute and violin with Dad’s friends.One day when Mao passed away and Gang of Four took thrown, something was changed. Cultural Revolution was over. Cousin Ta told his mom about the university admission which opened for everyone. Chens had a hope to send their child to study in university. At that time Da is the only hope of the whole family. He both kowtowed to gods at mom’s shrine behind kitchen and concentrated on study hard to catch up all lessons that his classmate had already done for a couple of years. He cut off playing with friends, roaming outside, but buried himself with a hill of book, preparing for national exam. 7 months left before the exam, Dad decided to let Jin, Da’s brother take the exam as well. They needed to work hard together. When the national exam came, they were sent to different places. Although Da was laughed at when he decided to attend an English major because this major deserved for rich people, he didn’t give up. Finally, when score was released, Da got 380, the highest score of Putien, Fijian. Whit this highest score, he could be accepted from university he wanted, that is Beijing Language Institute. It took him 3 days by train to arrive there. This is the first time of a Putien folk boy with a thick tongue and speaking unclear Mandarin had to go far away from his warm family, studying English major in the capital city of China.Long time ago I reviewed one of my impressed book called ‘Don’t cry, Nanjing.’ This is the first time of this year I have reviewed another book of China written in English. I could tell with my pride that is the first English book I finish reading which I have a passion on. In addition, I was not forced to read it though. It was true to say that this book is impossible to be put down because I could not do so.Cultural Revolution, also reeducation, is bran-new for me. I have never known anything about this kind of stuff before. Why I am interested in is my question as well. I know his name, Chaiman Mao, but I do not really know about his influence. This is the time to reveal these things for me, after I was suffered with Zhang Yi Mo’s movie, To Live.Now I am reading a next book of Chen Da named ‘Sounds of the River.’ What’s going on when he had to achieve the academic English while survived in big city called Beijing with political depression because of his family background?


A very optimistic and dedicated man.


This one is not an easy read, but I learned a lot from it and considered it well worth my time.

Debora Situmorang

very inspiring & encouraging...


Biography of Da Chen growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. He comes from a dispsed landlord family, and struggles against that prejudice. He is tormented in school and almost leaves repeatedly. He becomes friends with the town juvenile delinquents and has a future of farming to look forward to. Then an opportunity to take the college entrance exam comes along, and Da Chen must make up for lost time if he is to have any hope of a brighter future.

Peter Fitzpatrick

I'm usually not a fan of historical non-fiction novels, but this one had some value in it because of extreme opression by Mao Ze Dung. I liked it, though it was a pain at some times...

Suzanne Libra

An interesting memior of growing up in the Cultural Revolution.


The author Da Chen had a ruff time growing up.

Amy Young

I've got to stop trolling for Kindle library books! I hadn't realized I'd read this about ten years ago. I liked it better then.


During the 1950s and 1960s, China faced a time of revolution. Communist became the most common and trust belief while previously rich landlords were now treated as outcasts. Da Chen's family had previously been wealthy (during his grandfather's time) but by his birth his family no longer had the wealth or status that they previously had. As his family was treated as an outcast by society Da decided to drop out of school and join a gang secretly. This lifestyle continued but when Communist Party leader Mao Zedong died, he began to once again pursue his education, with the support of his family. Many hardships that many people faced during the Mao regime are left untold and unheard of but Da Chen illustrates this with his books.


The interesting story of growing up in the Cultural Revolution.Da Chen's family was outcast during this time because they had been landlords. Da Chen tells what it was like for his family and himself to fight off the discrimination and humiliation at the hands of neighbors and townspeople because of his family and his background.Humorous at times, gut wrenching at other times this is an honest book about the human struggle to survive in really tough times.Da and his brother Jin found a way out for themselves and the family after the death of Mao, once education once again became popular. Their incredible will to will against the odds and disciple to study allowed them to rise to the top, win scholarships and find good jobs after graduation. Jin stayed in China, Da came to the USA on a law school scholarship and married and writes about his experiences.Good to read a story where the good guy wins.


I really liked this book. It was sad but had a great meaning about how important family and education is.


another one on growing up during the Cultural Revolution

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