Written by Jung Chang, “The wild swans: three daughters of China” is a historical book that describes the chauvinistic nature of the male gender in China during the 20th century. Ruled by the oppressive Mao regime, Chang enlightens the world on the hardships that women experienced in China by giving the life history of her grandmother, mother, and herself. As the story unfolds, the major theme highlighted is inhumanity. The next discussion gives an account of the theme of inhumanity as expressed by Chang in this chef-d’oeuvre.
The story opens by exploring Chang’s grandmother (Yu-fang). Yu-fang’s father exposed her to extreme pain at a tender age of two to ensure that she had bound feet, as it were the customs. Secondly, Yu-fang’s father organized to marry her off to a rich old warlord to upgrade his status in society. Sadly, the warlord was not only married, but he also kept a countless number of concubines. Besides being denied her conjugal rights, Yu-fang had to remain mum and patiently wait for her husband to return. After his return, Yu-fang delivered a baby girl, but her happiness was short-lived because the general was extremely sick. Eventually, she had to run to safety to avoid the wrath of the general’s wife. Unfortunately, back home, his father was not ready to welcome her; instead, he drove her into the hands of an old doctor. Society viewed women as assets/non-living creatures and thus, tossed them around as objects.
Chang’s mother attended an elementary school, but the oppressive nature of the Japanese took away her happiness. For instance, the Japanese authority executed prisoners and political activists. According to the author, there were “wild dogs, who lived on the corpses” (Chang, 100) from the executed persons. The authority dictated the nature of food the Chinese ate. As part of the education curriculum, the school showed films of “Japanese soldiers cutting people in half and prisoners tied to stakes being torn to pieces by a dog” (Chang 120). Occasionally, some industries contracted the services of the children to work. However, there was discrimination in terms of work and food allocated to everyone. While the Chinese children ate worms-infested foods, the Japanese children had a balanced diet. Eventually, Chang’s mother had to stop attending school because of her ability to beat the Japanese students in athletics. Her parents married her off and like other men; her husband had no respect for her. His inhumane character led her to lose her pregnancy because he forced her to walk a long distance while he rode in a jeep. When Chang came into the Chinese world, education and the lifestyle of the natives, especially women, propelled her to work hard and she eventually relocated to England where she currently lives.
Chang’s story received worldwide recognition except in China. The book is available in over thirty languages, and most people are anxious to learn about the tradition/politics of China. The major weakness of the book is the author’s application of a judgmental tone, which not only draws emotions in the audience but also in the victims of the regime and the Chinese authority. Secondly, the book is illegal in China; therefore, who should read it, if not the Chinese? Finally, more than half of the story is about the ruling regime in China; thus, the title “Communism” fits the book better than “The wild swans: three daughters of China”.
Succinctly, Chang’s description of Chinese society reveals the suffering and struggles of the natives, especially women. According to Chang, “amid suffering, ruin, and death, I had above all known love and the indestructible human capacity to survive and to pursue happiness” (500), and that is all she did in her stay, in China.
Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. London: Anchor books, 1992.