Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 308
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang tells the story of three generations of women in China, starting with Chang’s grandmother and ending with Chang herself. The book begins with Chang’s great-grandfather, Yang Ru-shan, who wants to produce an heir. He offers his first-born daughter, Chang’s grandmother, Yu-fang, as a concubine to a wealthy general when she was only 15 years old. The General is away for most of the first six years of Yu-fang's time as his concubine. They have one baby, a daughter the General names Bao Qin. Yu-fang keeps her daughter away from the General until he nears death. Yu-fang, realizing she will have to live according to the whims of his wife once the General is dead, pretends that her daughter has died and runs away. The General releases her from being his concubine, and she goes on to marry another man, Dr. Xia. Dr. Xia’s family doesn’t want him to marry her but he does anyway, adopts Bao Qin and renames her De-hong. This is Chang’s mother.
Chang’s mother joins the Red Army as a teenager, and meets Chang Shou-yu, Chang’s father. They have different ranks, and this means that Chang’s mother has to go through more physical pain than her father, causing her to suffer a miscarriage before having five children, including Chang.
Chang joins the Red Guards as a teenager, but she begins to rethink her feelings about the Red Guard when her parents are deemed capital roaders and sent to labor camps. The treatment of them results in the eventual illness and death of her father. Chang also works as a barefoot doctor and a steelworker, although she is serious about education.
When the Cultural Revolution is over, Chang gets an education and moves to England, where she remains today.
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