Rosie Boycott interviews Jung Chang

Jung Chang is in Hay 21 years after the publication of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. She opened the session dramatically by producing her grandmother’s shoe, evidence of the cruel practice of foot binding.

The book is the story of the women from three generations of her own family. Her grandmother was required as a young woman to become concubine to a warlord to whom she bore a child, Jung Chang’s mother. She later married a senior officer in the communist party.

Jung Chang herself was born in 1952 an grew up under Mao as a privileged child of a senior party official. Eventually her parents fell victim to the cultural revolution, her father was excited and does prematurely and her mother was paraded in the streets before also being exiled.

The writer became deeply disenchanted with Chinese communism and the Mao leadership and came to Britain in 1978. She was one of the first 14 people to come to the UK to study and the first from the 90 million strong Szechuan province. She gained a doctorate from York University in 1982.

Following the success of Wild Swans Jung Chang spent 12 years with her husband Jon Halliday researching a biography of Mao. She is deeply critical of Mao and accused him of being knowingly causing mass starvation amongst the Chinese population by selling food to buy weapons and military technology. Mao Zedong: The Untold Story was published in 2005.

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