In 1958, at the age of four, Moying Li experienced the Great Leap Forward, followed by the Cultural Revolution which began in 1966. As a teenager, she saw her opportunities for education thwarted and her dreams shattered. She witnessed the humiliation of teachers and her school's headmaster who hung himself. Her own beloved Baba (father) was sentenced to a labour camp and her mother, dean of students at a nearby university.
Moying writes of her baba's books and how he taught her to love books, reading and learning. One day in 1968, soldiers showed up at their home and systematically destroyed all of her families copies of books, some old and valuable.
"After everyone had left, I closed the door and all the windows and sank to the cold stone floor, my face buried in my arms. The sun was setting, and darkness was creeping into the house. Our bookshelves now stood naked in the shadows - like proud but defeated warriors."His strength of spirit is shown when he sent Moying Li a secret letter outlining books she could read to develop her mind during this dark time, complete with a list of which friends still retained copies. In this way, he prepared his daughter for the day when the Cultural Revolution would be over and maybe things would return to normal.
Moying Li's prose is easy and fluent. This well written account of a person now approaching middle age gives cause for Western readers to reflect on how different our lives have been. A highly recommended read for those interested in 20th century Chinese history.
Snow Falling In Spring: Coming of Age in China during the Cultural Revolution
by Moying Li
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux