The Dragon's Village: An Autobiographical Novel of Revolutionary China Paperback – January 1, 1981
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If you're interested in China, and the changes just after the arrival of the Communists, this book gives an excellent if course non exhaustive point of view on the events from a small village in Northwest China. It is rare to have an semi-autobiographical account of this time.
Ling Ling gets swept up into the excitement. When a friend from school asks if she can hide from the police for the night, she says yes, and suddenly she's questioning her upbringing and beliefs. Her aunt flees to Hong Kong, but her uncle tries to stay put a little longer. Soon he must leave too, and Ling Ling decides to stay and see what will become of this new nation.
She joins a group of land reform workers, whose job is to go out into the country, examine the land deeds of the landlords, and redistribute the land. Landlords will lose their wealth and status, and the peasants will be empowered.
Except that things aren't quite that simple. Reading this book, I have the benefit of hindsight. I could tell how naive Ling Ling is, how little she really knows of farming or of poverty, how little she understands human nature. All too soon, she finds that things are much more complicated than she imagines. There are tragedies along with occasional triumphs. Ling Ling learns more about herself than she imagined, and finds that she is capable of being independent.
I really enjoyed this book. I was anticipating a tragic end, but I was pleased to see that that wasn't the case, at least not completely. I found myself wanting to read more, to see what happens to the villagers Ling Ling meets and befriends. The title calls this an 'autobiographical novel', and I would love to know more about the author. The only notes in my edition say that the author was also a land reform worker, and I really want to know how much of her experiences are reflected in the book. I would recommend this to anyone who could find a copy. I found it very enlightening and a good story besides.
THE DRAGON'S VILLAGE provides an ant's eye view of this major event in human history, an event seldom thought about outside China now. It is the semi-autobiographical tale of one bourgeois girl's journey to a poor, remote village in Gansu province to assist in the land reform. While lyrically descriptive at times, the girl's own lack of understanding or perspective prevents us from thinking in a wide fashion about the whole process. We read and perhaps realize in a very concrete way what individual cadres might have gone through at the time. The story struck me as extremely honest with little attempt to write about anything not personally experienced. While interesting from a social, historical, or political point of view, I would not call THE DRAGON'S VILLAGE great literature. Anti-climax follows anti-climax, the end is disappointingly flat. I believe that such an ending reflects reality, but art forms need not imitate life so exactly. The author does not explore her personal trials and tribulations in a reflective manner, leaving us wondering what she felt ultimately. In sum, for a historical moment of such excitement and importance, the novel is amazingly mild. We appreciate the barren landscapes of northwestern China in winter, the descriptions of poverty and suspicion of the peasants. However, the transformation process and meaning of the resistance to it are seriously underplayed. I would recommend this book for university (or even high school) classes on the Chinese Revolution.