Anchee Min Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Anchee Min is noted for her versatility as a writer. Although she was born in China after Mao Zedong’s ascension to power, Min’s early years were still comparatively middle-class. Her father, Naishi Min, worked as an astronomy lecturer until he was fired for discussing sunspots; because Chairman Mao was likened to the sun, anything implying solar imperfection was not permitted to be mentioned. Min’s mother, Dinyun (born Dai) Min, worked as a teacher.

When Mao and his wife, Jiang Qing, launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the Mins were ordered to live in a run-down communal house in Shanghai. As a teenager, Min witnessed the daily humiliation and occasional killing of adults who became victimized by the Communist authorities and the youthful Red Guards, children used by Mao to terrorize Chinese society. She also observed the daily infighting among her fellow schoolmates.

At age seventeen, Min was sent to work in the countryside. At the remote Red Fire Farm, near the East China Sea, Min labored from 1974 to 1976 under prisonlike conditions. She witnessed the suicide of a young woman who had been caught having sex with a man, and she herself had a brief lesbian affair with a Communist cadre. In 1976 Min was selected out of twenty thousand applicants to star in a revolutionary propaganda film commissioned by Jiang Qing. Shooting had hardly started at Shanghai Film Studio when Mao died in September, 1976, and his widow and her fellow Communist hardliners were deposed. In 1977 Min was demoted from actress to set clerk and even contemplated suicide.

In 1984, Joan Chen, a Chinese American actress and director who had known Min from acting school, together with Min’s aunt in Singapore, helped her to obtain a passport and leave China to study at the...

(The entire section is 731 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Born in Shanghai, Anchee Min experienced political turmoil from an early age. During her childhood, Min’s family was forced to move into a series of shabby apartments while her parents were demoted from their teaching positions to become factory workers. Min joined the Red Guards in elementary school and underwent a wrenching introduction to political survival when she was forced to denounce her favorite teacher as a Western spy.

Min’s major experience with the clash between personal and political needs came at seventeen when she was assigned to an enormous collective farm. Forced to become a peasant in order to become a “true” revolutionary, Min witnessed the destruction of a friend whose relationship with a man led to her madness and his death. Min therefore knew the danger she faced when she fell in love with the leader of her work force, the charismatic Yan. The two eventually began a sexual relationship that violated the strictures against premarital sex and committed the “counterrevolutionary crime” of lesbianism.

Fighting to maintain her relationship with Yan and to survive the brutal life on the farm, Min received an unexpected respite when she was chosen to audition for the lead in a propaganda film, by Jiang Qing, wife of Mao Zedong, the Communist dictator of China. Min’s return to Shanghai thrust her into an even more ruthless environment than the collective farm—the Shanghai film industry. Min was rescued finally...

(The entire section is 416 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anchee Min was born on January 14, 1957, in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China. Her father, astronomy and industrial design instructor Naishi Min, and her mother, middle school teacher Dinyun Min, would have three more children. Anchee Min grew up in Shanghai and was a schoolgirl when Mao launched the disastrous Cultural Revolution in 1966. Min was sent as a teenage laborer to the Communist collective Red Fire Farm near the East China Sea in 1974.

By extraordinary luck and supported by her determination to leave the miserable collective, Min was chosen in 1976 as a possible actor for the central role in Jiang Qing’s final revolutionary film, Red Azalea. Min was promoted from understudy to star, but her fortunes fell with the death of Mao on September 9, 1976, and the arrest of his widow on October 6. The film project was abandoned, and a vengeful Communist Party secretary assigned Min to work as a set clerk, including stage-sweeping duties. Through her friendship with actor Joan Chen, Anchee Min managed to emigrate to the United States. Upon arriving in the United States on September 1, 1984, Min spoke no English, but she was admitted to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago under the condition that she learn the basics of English in six months. Min succeeded and painstakingly acquired the language in which she has written all of her published works. In 1991, she married the painter Qigu Jiang, whom she had dated since 1988, and...

(The entire section is 449 words.)