Summary and book reviews of Mao by Jung Chang

Mao

The Unknown Story

By Jung Chang, Jon Halliday

Mao
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2005,
    832 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2006,
    864 pages.

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Book Summary

Based on a decade of research and on interviews with many of Mao's close circle in China who have never talked before–and with virtually everyone outside China who had significant dealings with him–this is the most authoritative life of Mao ever written. It is full of startling revelations, exploding the myth of the Long March, and showing a completely unknown Mao: he was not driven by idealism or ideology; his intimate and intricate relationship with Stalin went back to the 1920s, ultimately bringing him to power; he welcomed Japanese occupation of much of China; and he schemed, poisoned and blackmailed to get his way. After Mao conquered China in 1949, his secret goal was to dominate the world. In chasing this dream he caused the deaths of 38 million people in the greatest famine in history. In all, well over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao's rule–in peacetime.

Combining meticulous research with the story-telling style of Wild Swans, this biography offers a harrowing portrait of Mao's ruthless accumulation of power through the exercise of terror: his first victims were the peasants, then the intellectuals and, finally, the inner circle of his own advisors. The reader enters the shadowy chambers of Mao's court and eavesdrops on the drama in its hidden recesses. Mao's character and the enormity of his behavior toward his wives, mistresses and children are unveiled for the first time.

This is an entirely fresh look at Mao in both content and approach. It will astonish historians and the general reader alike.

On the Cusp from Ancient to Modern
(1893–1911 - age 1–17)


Mao tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world's population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth-century leader. He was born into a peasant family in a valley called Shaoshan, in the province of Hunan, in the heartland of China. The date was 26 December 1893. His ancestors had lived in the valley for five hundred years.

This was a world of ancient beauty, a temperate, humid region whose misty, undulating hills had been populated ever since the Neolithic age. Buddhist temples dating from the Tang dynasty (ad 618–906), when Buddhism first came here, were still in use. Forests where nearly 300 species of trees grew, including maples, camphor, metasequoia and ...

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Reviews

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After the success of Wild Swans, many would have rested on their laurels, perhaps churning out a follow up memoir or two. Not Chang; instead, she and her husband, historian Jon Halliday, took advantage of the financial independence provided by the success of Wild Swans to focus the next ten years of their lives on a book about Chairman Mao - a book that they believe reveals the true character of the man who ruled China for 27 years.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (393 words).

Media Reviews
The London Review of Books - Andrew Nathan, Columbia University

[M]any of their discoveries come from sources that cannot be checked, others are openly speculative or are based on circumstantial evidence, and some are untrue.

The Sunday Telegraph - Max Hastings

Jung Chang and Jon Halliday enter a savage indictment drawing on a host of sources, including important Soviet ones, to blow away the miasma of deceit and ignorance which still shrouds Mao's life from many Western eyes...Jung Chang delivers a cry of anguish on behalf of all of those in her native land who, to this day, are still not free to speak of these things.

The Economist

Written with the same deft hand that enlivened Ms. Chang's 1991 memoir, Wild Swans.

The Independent - Jonathan Mirsky

[A] decisive biography...they have investigated every aspect of his personal life and career, peeling back the layers of lies, myths, and what we used to think of as facts...what Chang and Halliday have done is immense and surpasses, as a biography, everything that has gone before.

Daily Mail - George Walden

The detail and documentation are awesome. The story that they tell, mesmerising in its horror, is the most powerful, compelling, and revealing political biography of modern times. Few books are destined to change history, but this one will.

The Telegraph - Nicolas Shakespeare

Demonstrating the same pitilessness that they judge to be Mao's most formidable weapon, they unstitch the myths that sustained him in power for forty years and that continue to underpin China's regime....I suspect that when China comes to terms with its past this book will have played a role.

Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, in The Times (London)

Ever since the spectacular success of Chang's Wild Swans we have waited impatiently for her to complete with her husband this monumental study of China's most notorious modern leader. The expectation has been that she would rewrite modern Chinese history. The wait has been worthwhile and the expectation justified. This is a bombshell of a book.

The Guardian - Michael Yahuda

Chang and Halliday cast new and revealing light on nearly every episode in Mao's tumultuous life....stupendous work and one hopes that it will be brought before the Chinese people, who still claim to venerate the man and who have yet to come to terms with their own history

The Observer - Roy Hattersley

Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have not, in the whole of their narrative, a good word to say about Mao. In a normal biography, such an unequivocal denunciation would be both suspect and tedious. But the clear scholarship, and careful notes, of The Unknown Story provoke another reaction. Mao Tse-Tung's evil, undoubted and well-documented, is unequalled throughout modern history.

The Sunday Times - Simon Sebag Montefiore

A triumph. It is a mesmerising portrait of tyranny, degeneracy, mass murder and promiscuity, a barrage of revisionist bombshells, and a superb piece of research.

Reader Reviews
Henry Wood

It's not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Zhisui Li
Chang and Halliday’s Mao, Unknown Story is good, but it is not good as The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Zhisui Li Chang and Halliday’s Mao, Unknown Story provided a brand new version and perspective of Chairman Mao. It is the first time to ...   Read More

rlg924

an important book to read!
An eye-opening book to the brutality of this monster, which explodes the myths still believed about him. Jung Chang has superbly tackled the incredibly difficult task of trying to determine the truth in a country and time where propaganda and ...   Read More

Larry Hochman

A 2-hour perusal of this book.
I would appreciate feedback at Dochoch29@aol.com. Some of the allegations are facially unbelievable. I have no access to the Chinese cites nor most of the non-Chinese, other than MacFarquhar which I will consult. 1) The notion that everyone ...   Read More

Jin Xiaoding

Comments on J. Chang and J. Halliday Book
The book of J. Chang and J. Haliday, Mao, the unknown story, is very dishonest, distorting the truth and misleading the Western public into profound misunderstanding of Mao, China modern history and China itself. The book central ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Jung Chang was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen and then worked as a peasant, a "barefoot doctor," (A lay health care worker who received 3-6 months training in basic medical principles), a steelworker, and an electrician before becoming an English-language student and, later, an assistant lecturer at Sichuan University.

She left China for Britain in 1978 and was subsequently awarded a scholarship by York ...

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