Life and Death in Shanghai

Cheng, Nien. Life and Death in Shanghai. New York: Grove Press, 1986

Reason read: Best time to visit China is in September or so I have heard.

At one time Cheng’s husband used to be a diplomatic officer for the Kuomintang government. Due to the entrance of the Communist army, his appointment soon led him to a career with the British Shell International Petroleum Company. Upon his death, his widow, Nien Cheng, became the assistant to the new general manager. Cheng’s bilingual skills were invaluable to the organization and she soon filled in for the general manager. In addition, she had many international friendships and relationships. All these facts were seen as disloyal during the Cultural Revolution. Ultimately, she was accused of being a spy and imprisoned for six and a half years where she was treated to inhumane conditions and sometimes tortured. Despite everything, Cheng was able to use her fast thinking wit to turn Mao teachings against her captures as they tried time and time again to get her to confess to being a spy.

Quotes to quote, “The cacophony told me that the time of waiting was over and that I must face the threat of the Red Guards and the destruction of my home” (p 70). Can you imagine? You are powerless to stop what violence is yet to come.
Another quote, “When one tries to show emotion one does not genuinely feel, one tends to exaggerate” (p 275). True.
Last one, “Back doors in America only lead into people’s kitchens” (p 538).

Author fact: Cheng died of renal failure.

Book trivia: Life and Death in Shanghai does not contain any photographs which is sad, because I think a picture of her daughter would have been a nice tribute.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “China Voices” (p 55).

 



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