China Witness is the personal testimony of a generation whose stories have not yet been told. Here the grandparents and great-grandparents of today sum up in their own words - for the first and perhaps the last time - the vast changes that have overtaken China's people over a century. The book is at once a journey by the author through time and place, and a memorial to those who have lived through war and civil war, persecution, invasion, revolution, famine, modernization, Westernization - and have survived into the 21st century. We meet everyday heroes, now in their seventies, eighties and nineties, from across this vast country - a herb woman at a market, retired teachers, a legendary 'double-gun woman', Red Guards, oil pioneers, an acrobat, a US-born general, a shoe-mender, a lantern maker, taxi drivers, and more.
Xinran travelled from west to east, between the Yellow River and the Yangtze, from the cities to the remote countryside of her homeland. She met and talked with a reticent generation, amongst whom the idea of collective guilt is deeply rooted, and freedom of speech can be a dangerous and unfamiliar concept. They spoke to her about their lives, their private hopes, fears and struggles, about what they witnessed and what they felt - about everything from the Long March to oil pipelines, from land reform to folk medicine, from Mao to marriage.Together their stories paint an unprecedented, intimate portrait of this vast and powerful country and its people. In such a rapidly changing world its aim, as Xinran says, is 'to help our future understand our past'.