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An estimated thirty-six million Chinese men, women and children starved to death during China's Great Leap Forward in the late '50's and early '60's. One of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century, the famine is poorly understood, and in China is still euphemistically referred to as the "three years of natural disaster." As a journalist with privileged access to official and unofficial sources, Yang Jisheng spent twenty years piecing together the events that led to mass nationwide starvation, including the death of his own father. Finding no natural causes, Yang lays the deaths at the feet of China's totalitarian system and the refusal of officials at every level to value human life over ideology and self-interest. Tombstoneis a testament to inhumanity and occasional heroism that pits collective memory against the historical amnesia imposed by those in power. Stunning in scale and arresting in its detailed account of the staggering human cost of this tragedy, Tombstoneis written both as a memorial to the lives lostan enduring tombstone in memory of the deadand in hopeful anticipation of the final demise of the totalitarian system. Ian Johnson, writing in The New York Review of Books, called the Chinese edition of Tombstone"groundbreaking...The most authoritative account of the great famine...One of the most important books to come out of China in recent years."
Yang Jisheng was born in 1940, joined the Communist Party in 1964, and worked for the Xinhua News Agency from January 1968 until his retirement in 2001. He is now a deputy editor at Yanhuang Chunqiu (Chronicles of History), an official journal that regularly skirts censorship with articles on controversial political topics. A leading liberal voice, he published the Chinese version of Tombstone in Hong Kong in May 2008. Eight editions have been issued since then.Yang Jisheng lives in Beijing with his wife and two children.
Stacy Mosher learned Chinese in Hong Kong, where she lived for nearly 18 years. A long-time journalist, Mosher currently works as an editor and translator in Brooklyn.
Guo Jian is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Originally trained in Chinese language and literature, Guo was on the Chinese faculty of Beijing Normal University until he came to the United States to study for his PhD in English in the mid-1980’s.
Table of Contents
“In 1989 hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Chinese died in the June Fourth massacre in Beijing, and within hours hundreds of millions of people around the world had seen images of it on their television screens. In the late 1950s, also in Communist China, roughly the inverse happened: thirty million or more died while the world, then and now, has hardly noticed. If the cause of the Great Famine had been a natural disaster, this double standard might be more understandable. But the causes, as Yang Jisheng shows in meticulous detail, were political. How can the world not look now?”—Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching, Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, University of California, Riverside
“Hard-hitting. . . It's a harrowing read, illuminating a historic watershed that's still too little known in the West.” —Publishers' Weekly
“Groundbreaking…The most authoritative account of the Great Famine…One of the most important books to come out of China in recent years.” —Ian Johnson, The New York Review of Books
“The most stellar example of retrospective writing on the Mao period from any Chinese pen or computer.” —Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair for Innovative Teaching, Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, University of California, Riverside
“The first proper history of China's Great Famine.” —Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post
“A monumental work comparable to Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Prize-winning work The Gulag Archipelago.” —Xu Youyu, Chinese Academy of Social Science