A Conversation With Jung Chang

Left to right Smt Komala (translator of Wild Swans), Dr Young Chang, the celebrity writer of WILD SWANS: Three Daughters of China and her husband Mr. Jon Halliday, the British historian who is an authority on Russian History and also author and editor of several books on Japan, Korean war and Albania.


Center for Inquiry India completed 2007 programs with the grand finale of Jung Chang`s visit to India. The famous writer of WILD SWANS AND MAO   is celebrity whose books are banned in China. CFI India published Wild Swans in Telugu, rendered by Venigalla Komala , director of CFI India.

A grand meeting was held on 30 dec 2007 at Grand Kakatiya Hyderabad Mall. Mr Jon Halliday, the co author of Mao was present.

Mrs V.Komala, director of CFI India narrated the importance of the occasion and welcomed the author.

Jung Chang in her brief speech explained how China is changing from dictatorial attitude of Mao to the free economy. She answered several questions.

Ms Lakshmi, of Akshara books thanked CFI and the guests.

Large number of intellectuals participated in the meeting.Jung Chang gave autograph to her book Mao and Wild Swans.

The Telugu dailies highlighted her visit and published interviews.

Text of speech of Smt Komala (translator) introducing the guests of the evening to the audience

             Dr Chang was born in Yibin of Sichuan province, China. Her parents were high officials in the Communist party of China. They dedicated their work to the Party and were its propagandists. For Dr Chang`s father was a great lover of Chinese Literature and madam, as a child, developed taste for reading, writing and composing poems.

            Dr Chang`s family enjoyed certain comforts of life as the Communist party allowed it. But during the Cultural Revolution between   the years 1966-76 madam’s father differed from Mao’s policies and communicated his disagreement to the   party supreme Mao. From then on troubles started for the family. Mao’s supporters publicly humiliated madam’s parents along with many leaders of the party, tortured them, denounced them and imprisoned them. In this turmoil madam’s father lost his physical and mental health. He died as he was denied medical treatment thus becoming the victim of Mao’s tyrannical regime.

              Dr Chang as a teenager implicitly believed in Mao, and remained an unquestionable follower.


              She joined Mao’s red guards when she was 14.She worked as a peasant, a barefoot doctor ( peasant doctor) , a steel worker and an   electrician-all this without any training as such because Mao said that no   education is needed , no training is necessary. To memorize Mao’s quotations, was the only education at that time.


                 After her father’s death, Dr Chang realized that Mao was no god to be worshipped and blindly followed. She was anxious to pursue her studies.

When the universities reopened after a long disruption and chaos, madam got admission in the University of Sichuan where she studied English literature and subsequently worked as assistant lecturer in the same university. Madam’s ambition was to go to the west in search of freedom and knowledge. She passed an examination, which qualified her to study in the West.


         Dr Chang left China in 1978 for studies in Britain on a government scholarship. That was the beginning of her journey towards freedom. She studied linguistics in the University of York with a scholarship and she was the first person from the People’s Republic of China to be awarded PhD from a British University.


          Dr Chang gave lectures at the school of Oriental and African studies for some years. Now she concentrates on her writing work. She liked Britain for its freedom, diversity of culture, literature and Art and settled there but she feels that her heart is still in China.


       The University of Buckingham, York, Warwick, the British Open University and Bowdoui College, USA conferred honorary degrees on Dr Chang.


          Let me come to the Book WILD SWANS: Three Daughters of China. It is a family autobiography where madam brings out the female experiences of her grand mother, her mother and madam herself. It is a revelation panoramic picture of Chinese people during Mao’s rule. The book is an all-engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China.   She says that her grandmother was a great loving personality, her mother a beautiful, intelligent and practical person who could rise to any occasion. Madam herself is a strong willed person determined to achieve what she wanted even under adverse circumstances. To her freedom and knowledge were the two important goals and she successfully achieved them.


           Wild Swans was translated into several languages and 12 million copies of it were sold. The book is banned in China but pirated copies are available in China.


           Wild Swans was translated into Telugu under the title: Adavigaachina Vennela. Mr. Atluri Ashok is the person behind the project. The Center for Inquiry India published it. Dr Chang permitted the translation. Madam’s unique style and her amazing memory for details caught reader’s eye.   Her wonderful description of nature is a source of joy.   The Telugu translation received several favorable reviews.


              Wild Swans has won many awards for madam like NCR award of UK, UK writer’s guild Best non-fiction award, the book of the year award UK 1993.


          Dr Chang and Mr. Halliday together wrote a voluminous book entitled Mao: The unknown story. It is a critical assessment of Mao. They pointed out that Mao was from a peasant family but was least concerned for the welfare of the peasants.. He was responsible for the famine in China. Millions of peasants died of hunger during that time. Mao got many of his political opponents arrested and murdered. Some of them were his friends. Thus, the book brought out the other side of the coin, the darker side of Mao’s life, which was not known to the rest of the world.


        Dr Chang is an authority on communism in China. She is a familiar figure on BBC with her talks. She travels extensively in the various countries. She visits her China with the permission of the Chinese authorities. It was there she carried on her research on Mao for her book.