Daughters of the flower fragrant garden : two sisters separated by China's Civil War

by Li, Zhuqing, 1963-

Format: Print Book 2022
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Jun and Hong were scions of a once great southern Chinese family. Each other's best friend, they grew up in the 1930s during the final days of Old China before the tumult of the twentieth century brought political revolution, violence, and a fractured national identity. By a quirk of timing, at the end of the Chinese Civil War, Jun ended up on an island under Nationalist control, and then settled in Taiwan, married a Nationalist general, and lived among fellow exiles at odds with everything the new Communist regime stood for on the mainland. Hong found herself an ocean away on the mainland, forced to publicly disavow both her own family background and her sister's decision to abandon the party. A doctor by training, to overcome the suspicion created by her family circumstances, Hong endured two waves of "re-education" and internal exile, forced to work in some of the most desperately poor, remote areas of the country.

Ambitious, determined, and resourceful, both women faced morally fraught decisions as they forged careers and families in the midst of political and social upheaval. Jun established one of U.S.-allied Taiwan's most important trading companies. Hong became one of the most celebrated doctors in China, appearing on national media and honored for her dedication to medicine. Niece to both sisters, linguist and East Asian scholar Zhuqing Li tells her aunts' story for the first time, honoring her family's history with sympathy and grace. Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden is a window into the lives of women in twentieth-century China, a time of traumatic change and unparalleled resilience. In this riveting and deeply personal account, Li confronts the bitter political rivals of mainland China and Taiwan with elegance and unique insight, while celebrating her aunts' remarkable legacies.

Published Reviews
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Li (Reinventing China), a professor of East Asian studies at Brown University, mixes family memoir and geopolitical history in this compassionate portrait of her two aunts, Hong and Jun Chen. In the book's first half, Li documents the sisters' privileged upbringing in the southeastern city of Fuzhou in the 1930s and explains how their plans--Hong yearned to become a doctor, while Jun wanted to teach--were disrupted by the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Twelve years later, during the height of the civil war between Communist and Nationalist forces, Jun took a trip to the island of Jinmen--"a fortress on Taiwan's defensive front line"--to visit a friend. While she was away, Communist forces captured Fuzhou. Soon after, the U.S. Navy began patrolling the Taiwan Strait, "seal the separation of Taiwan from the Mainland, Jun from Hong." Jun was recruited by the Nationalist party as a newspaper columnist and organizer, while Hong, a doctor at Fuzhou Hospital on the mainland, became the family breadwinner. The sisters endured years of deprivation, violence, and persecution before reuniting in 1982. Laced with frank reflections on the author's own experience as a Chinese immigrant to the U.S., this is a poignant and intimate chronicle of the Chinese diaspora. (June)"
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Additional Information
Subjects Chen, Wenjun, -- 1923-2014.
Chen, Hong -- (Pseudonym)
Chen family.
Sisters -- China -- Fuzhou Shi (Fujian Sheng) -- Biography.
Families -- China -- Fuzhou Shi (Fujian Sheng) -- History -- 20th century.
Refugees -- Taiwan -- Biography.
Fuzhou Shi (Fujian Sheng, China) -- Biography.
Taiwan -- Biography.
China -- History -- Civil War, 1945-1949 -- Biography.
Publisher New York, NY :W.W. Norton & Company,2022
Edition First edition.
Language English
Description xiii, 353 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
ISBN 9780393541779
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