"China Witness" is the personal testimony of a generation whose stories have not yet been told. Here the grandparents and great-grandparents of today sum up in their own words - for the first and perhaps the last time - the vast changes that have overtaken China's people over a century. The book is at once a journey by the author through time and place, and a memorial to those who have lived through war and civil war, persecution, invasion, revolution, famine, modernization, Westernization - and have survived into the 21st century. We meet everyday heroes, now in their seventies, eighties and nineties, from across this vast country - a herb woman at a market, retired teachers, a legendary 'double-gun woman', Red Guards, oil pioneers, an acrobat, a US-born general, a shoe-mender, a lantern maker, taxi drivers, and more.Xinran travelled from west to east, between the Yellow River and the Yangtze, from the cities to the remote countryside of her homeland. She met and talked with a reticent generation, amongst whom the idea of collective guilt is deeply rooted, and freedom of speech can be a dangerous and unfamiliar concept. They spoke to her about their lives, their private hopes, fears and struggles, about what they witnessed and what they felt - about everything from the Long March to oil pipelines, from land reform to folk medicine, from Mao to marriage. Together their stories paint an unprecedented, intimate portrait of this vast and powerful country and its people. In such a rapidly changing world its aim, as Xinran says, is 'to help our future understand our past'.
This magnificent and groundbreaking work of oral history gives voice to a forgotten generation and reveals the secret history of 20th-century China.
Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958 and was a successful journalist and radio presenter in China. In 1997 she moved to London, where she began work on her seminal book about Chinese women's lives, The Good Women of China. Since then she has written a regular column for the Guardian, appeared frequently on radio and TV and published the acclaimed Sky Burial and a novel, Miss Chopsticks, as well as a book of her Guardian columns called What the Chinese Don't Eat. She lives in London but travels regularly to China. Her charity, The Mothers' Bridge of Love - www.motherbridge.org, was founded to help disadvantaged Chinese children and to build a bridge of understanding between the West and China.