Nien Cheng

By now, dozens of memoirs about the horrors inflicted during China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution line the bookcase of human evil, next to diaries from the Soviet Gulag and Holocaust concentration camps. But when Nien Cheng's harrowing Life and Death in Shanghai was published in 1986, the bamboo curtain was just lifting on the decade of madness that had seized the People's Republic beginning in the mid-1960s. Cheng was an improbable survivor of Chairman Mao's brutal campaign, a porcelain-boned diplomat's wife who spent the precommunist years swathed in silk. Yet as she recalled in her best-selling account, she would learn to...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!