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Life & Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng. Who is Nien Cheng?. ~ Born on January 28, 1915 in Beijing ~daughter of a wealthy land owner ~Attend the London School of Economics in 1935 (Father was an Anglophile)  shortened her name Yao Nien Yuan to Nien

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who is nien cheng
Who is Nien Cheng?

~Born on January 28, 1915

in Beijing

~daughter of a wealthy land owner

~Attend the London School of Economics in 1935

(Father was an Anglophile)

shortened her name Yao Nien Yuan to Nien

~Met husband, Kang-chi Chang & converted to Christianity

~Return to China

the communists allowed husband to become the head of Shell…he died in 1957… Nien joined Shell as an adviser.

nien cheng january 28 1915 november 2 2009
Nien Cheng January 28, 1915 – November 2, 2009

“Nien Cheng, 94, whose memoir "Life and Death in Shanghai" was widely praised as one of the most riveting accounts of the Cultural Revolution, died Nov. 2 of cardiovascular and renal disease at her home in Washington.”

~The book you are about to read, Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng was first published in 1986.

Cheng’s story conveys her personal struggle for survival during the communist take over of Shanghai.

As you prepare to read this book, take a few

moments to think about what you know actually know about communist beliefs and the

history of communism in China.


a system of social organization based holding all property in common ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.

Marxism is the theory

Communism is the practical implementation of Marxism

Marxism is a philosophy that supports the idea that there should be no difference between the rich and the poor

Communism is a political system with a class less, egalitarian and stateless society based on common ownership, which promotes equality and fairness.

pre communist china
Pre-Communist China

~A dark period in China’s History:

After the fall of Qing Dynasty

without an authority to rule over

warlords took advantage of the situation

period lasted from 1916 to 1927

-warlords fought against each other regardless of

common ideas or purpose

~Boxer Rebellion1 of 1900:

starvation, extreme poverty, and grief resulting in the loss

of many innocent lives

who was mao zedong
Who was Mao Zedong??

~poorly educated as a child but highly


~member of the Nationalist Army

~was introduced to & became

powerfully influenced by Marxism

Great Revolution (1914—1918)

--China saw several movements which strongly

fostered a path into Communism

~1949: Mao brings Communism to China

Proletariatian: working class of the 19th century

(demand for labor, not capital)

quick write 1
Quick write #1
  • Think about a time when you had to stand up for your beliefs even though others around you were too afraid to? Were you able to actually do it? What were the consequences of your choice?
  • What helps give you strength when you need it? When others are pushing you to cave in to peer pressure and you know it’s the wrong thing to do, what gives you the strength to do what’s right?
  • What do you think life was like for a well-to-do person living in Shanghai during the Proletarian Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong?
quick write 2
Quick write #2

Read the one page “Author’s Note.”

  • What might Cheng’s motives have been for writing this book?
  • How difficult would it be to write about this experience?
  • Why does Cheng claim to have some reluctance? Explain.
  • Who do you think is the intended audience for this book?
reading rereading
Reading & ReReading

~Why take notes / annotate when you read?

Our first reading of a book gives us the story line, the major conflicts, and a sense of what the author intends.

The second (or third) readings provide richer analyses and a deeper understanding of the text.

**taking notes alleviates the need to completely reread the text.