Thirty Years in a Red House: A Memoir of Childhood and Youth in Communist China

Thirty Years in a Red House: A Memoir of Childhood and Youth in Communist China

Thirty Years in a Red House: A Memoir of Childhood and Youth in Communist China

Thirty Years in a Red House: A Memoir of Childhood and Youth in Communist China

Synopsis

This is the personal account of a man who grew up in China and witnessed tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution. Born in Nanjing in 1958, Zhu Xiao Di was the son of idealistic, educated parents. His father and uncles joined the Communist movement in the 1930s during the Japanese occupation and were influential underground and military leaders throughout the revolution. Despite their honorable history, they fell into political disfavor by the time of the Cultural Revolution. In 1968, when Zhu was just ten years old, his mother and father were taken to different labor camps for "rehabilitation". In the face of this injustice, the Zhus struggled to maintain family ties and uphold traditional values. Eventually, the family was reunited and restored to some measure of prominence, and a monument was later erected in Nanjing in honor of Zhu's father, Zhu Qiluan. At the heart of this narrative are the trials of a family caught in the crosscurrents of history - from the early attractions of the Communist revolution to the national disaster that followed and the subsequent odyssey of recovery.

Excerpt

Sometimes one person's story, like a single ray that bursts from a mirror as a powerful wave of light, illuminates the life of an epoch and a nation. Such is the case with Thirty Years in a Red House. It is a book about Chinese Communist history. Yet, more profoundly, it describes survival in an alarming environment, and the hopes and aches of the human heart.

Zhu Xiao Di, born in 1958, grew up in a Nanjing family of idealistic, educated Communists. He developed a strong interest in books, ideas, and the English language. Inevitably, he and his family repeatedly collided with the juggernaut of Communist rule. Their fortunes waxed and waned with the degree of China's openness to the outside world. Along the rocky road of the Zhu family's journey, we glimpse the "anti-rightist drive" of 1957 that ruined Zhu's uncle, Mao's Promethean efforts to clinch communism overnight in the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s, and the combined purge and search for revolutionary immortality that was the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. Although Japan's wartime activities in China appear rarely in Zhu Xiao Di's memoir and he does not draw the following comparison, one feels compelled to note the irony that the Chinese Communists rail against Japan for "not apologizing" for World War II but have never apologized to the Chinese people for their own elimination of innocent millions during Mao's class warfare and social engineering. Up and down China, with its 1.2 billion people and its forty cities with populations of more than a million, there is no monument to the victims of these gyrations.

The stratum that suffered more than any other were the people of education and culture--like Zhu's family. The Cultural Revolution was unleashed by Mao, yet it could only be a violent storm because enough people responded to Mao's call. Private values were so held back as to be a virtually nonexistent force against wayward public policy. Most Chinese believed that to take an individualistic stand was foolish. They had learned from experience, or it had been drilled into them, that the only way to survive was to go along with the tribe. We see all these accommodations in Thirty Years in a Red House. Yet we also see the Zhu family holding on to its integrity; and Zhu Xiao Di being raised as a boy of conscience and sensitivity. He learned to appreciate the ironies of history. His family largely protected itself from the corruptions of public . . .

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