HKUL > HKUL Reading Club > Book Talk


China Witness: Voices from A Silent Generation

Speaker : Ms Xinran Xue
Date : 17 September 2008 (Wednesday)
Time : 7:15 pm - 9:00 pm
Venue : Special Collections, 1/F, Main Library, The University of Hong Kong
Language : English

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About the Speaker

Xinran was born in Beijing in 1958. She suffered a very difficult childhood during the Cultural Revolution and took the name Xinran later - which means "doing something with pleasure". From 1989 to 1997, she worked as a radio-presenter and journalist, hosting the programme .Words on the Night Breeze・, in which she invited women to call in and share their life stories. Not only did Xinran talk to these women on the radio, she went and met them. Xinran accumulated material from the thousands of women she interviewed. In 1997, she travelled to the U.K., where she now lives, in London. It was here, for the first time that Xinran was able to write these stories down. In July 2002, they appeared in Britain in the form of a book: The Good Women of China, which has now been published all over the world in more than 30 languages and became an international bestseller.

About the Book

While the West has commonly viewed the last one hundred years in China through the single narrative lens of Mao・s rise and rule, the experience of this same period for the Chinese themselves has been infinitely more complex, and little understood. And perhaps no one is more capable of tapping into the true narrative of this time than Xinran, a national celebrity and beloved figure in China by virtue of her hugely popular radio show, which aired in the 1990s.

In 2005 and 2006, Xinran traveled across China seeking out the nation・s grandparents and great-grandparents, the men and women who have experienced change in the modern era firsthand. In cities and remote villages, Xinran spoke with members of these generations from all tiers of society, interviewing them for the first and perhaps last time. And though most of them continue to harbor a fear of repercussions for speaking freely, they spoke to Xinran with stunning candor about their hopes, fears, and struggles, and about what they・ve witnessed: from the Long March to land reform, from Mao to marriage, from revolution to Westernization.

In the same way that Studs Terkel・s Working and Tom Brokaw・s The Greatest Generation gave us the essence of very particular times, China Witness gives us the essence of modern China--a portrait more intimate, nuanced, and revelatory than any we have had before.