Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mao's Last Dancer by Li CunXin

This is a Memoir by Li CunXin. I nearly missed out this book coz I thought I had enough of those sobs stories about the hardship in China during Chairman Mao's era. I am glad I didn't.

Li was from a remote village in northeast China. The village was so poor that most of the time a bowl of white rice was a luxury. 

Nevertheless, his childhood have been quite good. His parents were a loving and gentle couple. Seldom fight and they were blessed with 7 sons. Li was the 6th son.

When he was 11 years old, a bunch of delegates from Beijing came to his village. They represent Madame Mao who wish to expand China Cultural dance. Li was chosen to go to Beijing and study ballet.

His parent though worried but they were quite happy that Li have the chance to escape the circle of poverty that engulf their life in the village. 

In Beijing, Li misses his family a lot during his first two years in Beijing. His dancing were just at an acceptable level. But it was his 2nd brother who made him realised how lucky he was to be given a chance to do something different. 

Thanks to Teacher Xiao who helped him a lot in the academy. Slowly his attitude changed and clawed to the top. 

In 1979 he was given the chance to go to Texas as part of the Cultural exchange group. He was prepared to show the enemy class how great the glorious China was. When he arrived in America, he was surprised by what he saw and experienced. It was not the "America" that he was told back home.

It didn't take long for him to realise the truth. By the time for him to return to China, he felt terrible. He wanted to stay on longer to learn more.

He was lucky as he had one more chance to return to America. This round he fell in love and got married to an American girl. He was desperate to stay on but at the same time worried about what would happen to his family if he should defect.

It was a very hard hurdle for him to cross as his sense of loyalty to his family and friends were very strong. He felt that he was an ingrate to his family and his America host, Ben. 

With Li's defection, Ben would loose all the goodwill that he had gain in China. And because of that the Chinese Government would surely refrain giving other dancers the chance learn dancing in America. 

In the end he did defect. However, his marriage failed. Hence he concentrated on his dancing. Soon his skill improved and he become one of the world greatest dancer. But still he misses his family a lot especially his mother.

There is a good ending in this story thanks to China new policy.

Yes, it's a rags to riches type of book. I am amazed at his strength facing up the bad whiplash due to his defection. It must have been an extremely tough decision for him considering that he came from China and the sense of responsibility and loyalty have been hammer into him since he was born. Never bite the hands that feeds you. Always be grateful and loyal. When he defected he cause considerable heartache to his family and his American host.

I am glad things turns out well for him in the end.


cheeyee said...

Glad to know that the ending is good. I seldom read this kind of book, because I know usually it is sad and heart wrenching.

Small Kucing said...

Chee Yee

That's why ..i kinda tired of reading sobs stories. Just too many sobs stories and some not sure how much truth is in the stories. But this one kira good la. At least the ending was good

Dallas Single Mom Examiner said...

I love this book and the movie. It's one of those must saves I keep in the collection. the other book I want to read is: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back - However, you'd have to be more scripture oriented but I was in Mardel the other day and saw this in the front.

Small Kucing said...

There is a movie? I didnt know. Guess Ihave to grab this

Uncle Lee said...

Hi SK, I used to love read books on old days China, books by Pearl S. Buck....Dragon seed one of them.
As well Dr Han Su Yin's books too.
Have fun.

Small Kucing said...


ya i have some Pearl S buck books too


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