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Return to the Middle Kingdom: One Family, Three Revolutionaries, and the Birth of Modern China Hardcover – June 3, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Chen traces her husband’s family back through several generations, spanning 150 years of Chinese history. Her husband’s grandfather, Joseph, was born a peasant but participated in the Taiping Rebellion. After the rebellion failed, Joseph eventually made his way to Trinidad, where he raised his family, including son Eugene, who got his start as a lawyer. In 1912, Eugene answered Sun Yatsen’s call for Chinese expatriates to return home to effect change in the government, journeying to Peking and beginning a new career as a muckraking journalist intent on challenging the corrupt new government. Eugene’s efforts eventually landed him in jail, but he stayed true to his ideals and passed them on to his son Jack, who accompanied his father on a trip to Russia. Jack became a political cartoonist and allied with Mao against Chiang Kai-shek’s anti-Communist government, but he soon soured on the leader when he saw the direction the Cultural Revolution took. Anyone with an interest in Chinese politics and history will find this an informative and engaging read. --Kristine Huntley

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"'Yuan-tsung Chen has written a compelling story of China's revolutionary history' Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club"
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Union Square Press (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402756976
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402756979
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By David Mohr on July 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book about the Chen family and twentieth-century China. The chapters that show how Eugene Chen, the author's father-in-law, tried to help shape a responsible government in the 1920's are especially good. Eugene Chen, who grew up in Trinidad and spoke almost no Chinese, became a chief advisor to Sun Yatsen as well as his foreign minister. His greatest accomplishment was to take back two British concessions in Wuhan after he tricked the British into abandoning them. However, constant strife among warlords, Communists, colonial powers and Chaing Kishek doomed his government. Later chapters cover the period after 1950, especially the Cultural Revolution.

The book is a good read, but I found it difficult to get past the first chapter. This chapter discusses Ms Chen's grandfather-in-law and his role in the nineteenth-century Taiping rebellion. The author caveats much of what she says to the point of distraction. Once I got to where she discusses Eugene Chen, I read through the book at a good clip.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides an in-depth account of how events in the past 100 years have shaped the modern China and the involvement of one family during this period. A must read for anyone who is interested in China and likes good story telling!!
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Format: Hardcover
I bought a lot of China-related books at one time and it took a while before I started reading this one. However, I couldn't stop reading when I began because it was very detailed and down to earth. The people the author described in the book were both realists and idealists in a sense they all wanted a better future not only for themselves but others. I wish there was more information regarding the grandfather though. That was an interesting time and it would be nice to get a view of life through the average Chinese person rather than an Academian. Chen Youren, or Eugene Chen deserves an entire book devoted to his life.

I recommend this book because it's just great reading in general.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed the book and felt it was a worthwhile read. Told from the perspective of an insider,(Yuan-tsung Chen) it expanded my views and knowledge of China and how it became what it is today.
I highly recommend the book for both the entertainment and education value. If you have or hope to have business or investments in China, the book could be of great value.
Thanks for your work Ms Chen,
Brad Linder
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Format: Hardcover
Return to the middle kingdom-one family, three revolutionaries, and the birth of Modern China
Yuan-Tsung Chen
Publisher: Union Square Press 2008

This is an account of a family spanning over 150 years from three generations. Grandpa Chen Guixing (baptized as Joseph) of Hakka clan is from Guangdong. He unsuccessfully fought for a Christianity inspired peasant uprising during the Taiping Rebellion in 1852. In Huzhou, Jiangsu the rebels lost city after city. Ah Chen had a leg amputated and fled to Hong Kong plotting a return. With Hong Kong police looking out for him. Many supporters of the rebellion fled China to avoid persecution. Many left for South East Asia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Java. Some went to Hawaii, Caribbean islands for opportunities. Chen Guixing being too poor to pay for passage, he signed a labor contract to migrate to Jamaica. He met a Cantonese lady Marie Longchallon (Luong) and married her at Fort de France in Martinique in 1875. Later they moved to Trinidad in 1877.

Trinidad was a British colony and they all took English baptized names. Eugene (1878-1944), Joseph Leon, Lionel David, Bernadine, Ronald, and Alfred Bruno are names of their six children.

Eugene became a prominent lawyer in Trinidad. He married a French Creole. Alphonsine Agatha Gantheaume (aka Aisy) in 1899. From Trinidad they went to London around 1903 and connected with many young Chinese overseas community leaders. Shortly after the 1911 Chinese revolution he decided to try his career in Peking and took on an English newspaper editor's position with Peking Gazette. Sun Yat-sen, a revolutionary was educated in Hawaii. He attended the same school as President Barat Obama at Loani School. Eugene and Sun have similar training and many things in common.
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