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Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Revolution’

Reading “Catch 22”

Thursday, February 21st, 2013


My reading group recently selected Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. I read the book years before and barely remembered any details except the increase of flight missions. I must admit that this time it took me a while, nearly a third of the book, before I was able to really get into it.

What bogged me down was the dark humor and the style—after a few chapters, I felt it repetitive in a way that you could tell the author would use the same method to make the war and everything resulted from it ridiculous.

As I read on, however, it dawned on me how much truth lay beneath the mocking, which, in turn, shocked me and made me feel depressed.

Joseph heller

Joseph Heller

I forged on because our discussion date was approaching, until one day I found myself drawn deeply into it. The black humor, accompanied with such grotesque exaggeration, exposed the cruelty and meaninglessness of war. One couldn’t help from laughing, though not without a heavy sense of sadness. The narrative, going back and forth in time, also amazed me—it often goes back to the same event, revealing more details each time a particular scene was re-visited. Very cleverly done.

As I got deeper into the novel, it occurred to me that if someone could write about China’s Cultural Revolution in this manner, it would be brilliant! The absurdities, betrayal, despair, destruction, vulnerability and fear of individuals, and the extremity of situation were the same, if not more. Perhaps, Mo Yan’s novels were the closest to Heller’s ridicule, but without such poignancy and directness.

Our group met last Sunday over a delicious corn soup, apple cake, pasta, BBQ pork, fruit, veggies, and a variety of cheese and crackers. I thought we needed the food to cheer up a discussion of such dark and serious issues. The food certainly helped, but what brought the discussions alive was the different perspective of the reading by each of our members, as we always do.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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“China in Ten Words”

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

I finished reading Yu Hua‘s “China in Ten Words” this morning, giving out a heavy sign when I closed the book.

The book is well written, with a light touch on sections about his growing up during the Cultural Revolution, with essays titled “people,” “leader,” “reading,” “writing,” and “Lu Xun.” He didn’t pass direct judgment, but no reader would miss the irony and absurdity of the era. It was the writings dealing with current situation, in which he compared the similarities between the happenings today to those of the Cultural Revolution that sent chills down my spine. “Disparity,” “Grassroots,” “Copycat,” and “Bamboozle” reflect so much of today’s chaos under the surface of prosperity. Incidentally, a friend emailed me two writings today, (both were claimed to have earned “zero” point at the college entrance examination this year), with one in prose under the title “Time Flies” and the other in poetry. Both expressed despair and rage at the current situation in China—the disparity in society, the corruption, and the lack, or rather none existence of values from the top to grassroots. It made me feel China is walking on eggshells.

Looking at the last 60 years of China under the Communist Party, Yu observed that Mao’s Cultural Revolution gave the grassroots the chance to “press for a redistribution of political power” and Deng‘s economic reform, the chance to “press for a redistribution of economic power.” The striking part is, despite the differences in time and content, many methods people utilized to achieve their goals in both movements were very similar, and Yu drew many parallels in his ten essays!

To understand the impact of the Cultural Revolution on China will help people understand many phenomena in the country today. Check out the book and you will for sure gain some deeper insights.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper. Visit for more information.

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Mulberry Child Returns to Chicago

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

After three sold-out screenings in the “Stranger than Fiction” documentary series in January, Mulberry Child returns to Chicago with 11 screenings from March 30 to April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, in partnership with the Chicago Public Library’s One Book One Chicago spring program.

My heartfelt thanks to you all for your support! The responses I’ve received are overwhelmingly touching. I’m thrilled and humbled.

Please help us spread the word of the upcoming screenings if you have seen the film. For those who couldn’t make it in January, hope you can join us this time. Once again, we strongly recommend obtaining your ticket(s) in advance.

My daughter Lisa and I will do Q & A after the last screening each day except Wednesday, April 4.

“a powerful and touching film,” stated Roger Ebert who gave the film 3 ½ stars.

Read full review.

I had a discussion about the film with Phil Ponce on Chicago Tonight Show, WTTW.

Watch the interview.


Directed by Susan Morgan Cooper, USA, 85 min. Narrated by Jacqueline Bisset

This many-layered documentary saga begins in Chicago with a disconnect between Chinese-born Jian Ping and her thoroughly American daughter Lisa Xia, and journeys into the heart of China for a personal history of one family’s trauma and eventual triumph over Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Through colorful reenactments, historical records, and moving interviews, director Morgan Cooper (AN UNLIKELY WEAPON) follows the trail of Mulberry Child, Jian’s powerful memoir of growing up amid the hardship and injustice of the Cultural Revolution, and traces daughter Lisa’s gradual understanding of family love. Presented in partnership with the Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago program, which features Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li this spring.

Screening schedule: (Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Chicago, tickets are now available at the box office or the Ticketmaster)

Fri, Mar 30th at 8:15pm

Sat, Mar 31st at 3:15pm; 5:00pm; and 7:45pm

Sun, Apr 1st at 3:15pm; and 5:00pm

Mon, Apr 2nd at 6:15pm and 8:00pm

Tue, Apr 3rd at 8:00pm

Wed, Apr 4th at 6:15pm

Thu, Apr 5th at 8:15pm

Hope you can join us at one of the screenings if you are in the vicinity. Thanks.

Jian Ping, autor of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China

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Touching Moments

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Audience at Q & A with Jian and Lisa after watching Mulberry Child

All three screenings of Mulberry Child at the Gene Siskel Film Center were sold out.  I was amazed and touched that the audiences of different ages and backgrounds connected with our life stories!

At our 2nd screening, I was pleased to see a number of Chinese in the audience. I was most eager to hear what they had to say. The moment I stepped down from the podium after Q & A, a young Chinese woman in her 20s stood up from her front row seat and hugged me.

“Thank you for sharing your story,” she said in a low voice. I realized she was crying.

I put my arms around her as she laid her head over my left shoulder and sobbed. Two of her friends stood by, their eyes welled up with tears.

The young woman lifted her head and gave me an embarrassed smile, wiping away her tears.

“It’s OK,” I said, padding her on her back as she lowered her head over my shoulder again.

Lisa and Jian addressing audience's questions

“Just call your mother tonight and tell her you love her, too,” I said, trying to make it light.

A young Chinese couple, both graduate students from UIC, waited patiently as our conversation kept being interrupted by friends who came to give their congratulations and bid farewell. It turned out that they both came from Changchun, the city where I was born.

“We never learned much about the Cultural Revolution,” the wife said. “I feel I get to know my parents much more by watching your film.”

I was deeply moved by their reaction and comments.

More than two dozens of people lingered behind and talked until the staff at the Gene Siskel Film Center called out to close the theatre at 11 p.m.

The last screening was equally moving. Only one or two people left when we started the Q & A. I felt the connection from the audience and took turns with my daughter Lisa to address their questions on China, our relationship, and the impact of the film on us.

The next day, I found one posting from a Chinese woman named Li. I remembered talking to her the night before. She was Lisa’s age. She wrote: “Every Chinese should watch this film.”

Jian with graduate students from IIT

I received numerous moving comments from my friends via email during the week after the screenings. I was so touched that I selected a few each day to forward to my director Susan and executive producer Ellis, stating these are the “love letters of the day.”

Mulberry Child was so well received by the audience that the Gene Siskel Film Center invited us to come back for a weeklong screening from March 30 to April 5, with 11 shows. The Chicago Public Library also invited us to participate in the spring’s One Book, One Chicago program, stating Mulberry Child would be a “wonderful companion” to the selected book, so we formed a three-way partnership.

I’ve committed to do Q & A with Lisa at the last screening of each day during the screening period. I look forward to connect directly with as many viewers as possible.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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At Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival (2)

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Jian and Jodi who performed Jian as a child met at the theatre at PSIFF

I arrived at the Regal Theatre to attend the 1st screening of Mulberry Child shortly after 12 noon on Saturday and was surprised to see two long lines of people in front of the entrance. I had never been to this theatre before and thought one had to wait to get in for all the screenings.

“Jennifer,” a man in the line waved to me.

It took me a second to recognize Sean Valla, my film editor. I met Sean quite a few times during the editing process of the film in Los Angeles and was always impressed by his dedication and patience combing through mountains of footage and the endless close ups of my face for all the interviews that my director Susan conducted.

I was thrilled to see him and surprised to learn the two lines were all for entry to the screening of Mulberry Child: one line for ticket holders and the other, people standing by for the possibility of getting in at the last minute, for tickets had been sold out the week before. My heart skipped a beat.

By the time I managed to get into the theatre, my executive producer Ellis and his wife Gillian and Susan were already there. I saw the theatre was nearly full and felt sorry that many people waiting outside wouldn’t be able to come in.

Susan tapped me on my shoulder. “I want you to meet Jodi,” she said.

I looked at the little girl by her side. Jodi performed the 6-year-old me in the film and I had never met her before.

I wrapped Jodi in my arms. “You did a wonderful job,” I murmured in her ear.

Jodi gave her shy smile and looked at me with an expression I had seen so many times on the screen.

Jian and Lisa after Q & A when Jian signed books for interested viewers

I scanned the audience and was thrilled to see a few familiar faces, including Quyen Tran, my cinematographer and her husband, Sam, Eli Bergmann, my book editor, and his girlfriend Lily. They had driven all the way from Los Angeles to watch the film. I also noticed Chaz Ebert sitting next to Ellis, and a couple rows below, Norman Mark and his beautiful wife Grace. I was all the support.

Half way through the film, Lisa was ushered into the theatre. She had just flown in from Chicago this morning to attend the Q & A and I was relieved that she made it on time.

As it was at the Heartland Film Festival, many people in the audience asked questions about the film, my parents and their views on the Cultural Revolution, and Lisa’s on-going process of identifying with her Chinese roots. When the Q & A session ended, quite a few people lingered behind and continued the discussion. Once Chinese man’s comments particularly touched me.

“I also come from the Northeast of China,” he said, as we shook hands. “I was sent to the countryside for six years,” he continued. “I very much like the presentation of that historical period in your film as it was done sensibly, not an over kill.”

It meant so much to me the remark came from someone who had lived through the Cultural Revolution in China.

Once again, I was overwhelmed and touched by the reaction from the audience.

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Mulberry Child Movie Postcard

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Mulberry Child movie, directed by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset, is finally completed! The world premiere will be at the Heartland Film Festival on October 16, 2011 in Indianapolis and the film will be screened three times at the Festival.

Sunday, October 16, 5:45 PM at AMC Showplace 17, 4325 South Meridian Street,

Monday, October 17, 3:30 PM at AMC Castleton Square, 6020 E. 82nd St.

Friday, October 21, 7:15 PM at AMC Castleton Square, 6020 82nd St.

Check out the details at the link below.

On the right is the postcard of the film!

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A memoir of China. Visit, for more information.

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Mulberry Child Makes Premiere at the Heartland Film Festival

Thursday, September 29th, 2011


Little Jian in re-enactment

I’m so excited to share the news that Mulberry Child (MC) movie will start its premiere at the Heartland Film Festival on October 16 and will have two more screenings at the Festival on October 17 and October 21!


Of course, we are all excited about Jacqueline Bisset, winner of Golden Globe and Emmy Awards, to be the narrator of the film.

Susan Morgan Cooper, Director of MC, said: “I am delighted to return to Heartland’s nurturing and very classy film festival … The atmosphere of the festival inspires many lasting friendships.”

Susan’s last film An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story, was also shown at the Festival when it was first released.


Teenage Jian dreaming of flying away

It was a healing process for me to put the memories of the hardship I endured during China’s Cultural Revolution on paper. The book is also a legacy for my daughter—my effort to connect her to my family roots, and teach her the importance of resilience. I’m amazed by Susan’s wonderful job in expanding the film to include my life with my daughter in Chicago today. She successfully weaved my intentions for the book into episodes of my life stories in China and in the U.S.


The movie is a unique hybrid of documentary and narrative film, using rare archival footage, photographs taken surreptitiously by Li Zhensheng, and dramatic re-enactment. Susan succeeded in presenting the terrifying days of the Cultural Revolution and my fear as a little girl for my family. What Susan finds most compelling is what happens when the trauma of such a past haunts the future and impact my relationship with my daughter.

Check out the film at the Heartland Film Festival at

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit,, Mulberry Child movie is directed by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.




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Talking at Central DuPage Rotary Club

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

by Jian Ping

Bill Keffer, President of the Rotary Club, chaired the meeting

I gave a talk about my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China to the Central DuPage Rotary Club early this morning. They meet every Wednesday at 7 a.m. over breakfast. I left downtown Chicago before 6 a.m. and got to the Cantigny Golf Clubhouse in Wheaton just on time. Rick Nelson, Program Chair of the Club, met me at the door and introduced me to the group.

As always, Rotary Club members are a very engaged audience. They are interested in other cultures and participate in activities that help others. Today, two local high school seniors, who are the recipients of college scholarship from this Rotary Club, expressed their gratitude for the honor and support. It is always inspiring to see so many people care and take actions.

Rick Nelson, Program Chair and President Elect, at the meeting

I talked briefly about China’s Cultural Revolution, using my family story to illustrate its devastation. After a short Q & A session, I signed books and engaged in a discussion about today’s China with a few club members. Our topics went from the fast economic developments in China today to their impact on people’s lives and the environment, and the social ramification of the one-child policy.  

 Below are a couple of photos I took at the club meeting.

Jian Ping is the author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit or Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.
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Talking to Women’s Book Club

Monday, February 28th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Beverly invited me to talk to her women’s book club at noon today in Downers Grove, a western suburb of Chicago. I readily agreed. I knew the area, close to where I used to live in the western suburb of Chicago.

Beverly advised that her group had been together for many years and some of them were friends since high school. I always enjoyed talking to book clubs—they would have read my book by the time we meet and the questions they raise are always more thought provoking.

The 15 or so of women were already at Beverly’s home by the time I arrived, thanks to the traffic jam on I-55. Beverly greeted me at the door. I felt like I had known her for a long time. She said she was a “planner”. I was certainly impressed by her timely follow up and attention to details ever since she approached me via email—she provided me with detailed driving directions, sent me a list of questions that she’d like to ask, and made a comprehensive list of events that happened to my family and China in chronological order. Even today, to go with the China-themed discussion, she offered Chinese food: eggroll, orange chicken, rice, and of course, fortune cookies.

Our talk started at noon, followed by lunch and our continued discussions on Mulberry Child and China in general. I was planning to leave at 2:30 p.m. but didn’t depart until nearly 4 p.m., making it the longest appearance I had ever had at a book club! Our discussions went from the happenings to my family, mother-daughter relationship, parenting, to the development of China today. I very much appreciated their genuine interest in my story and China, and enjoyed our discussion and interaction.

It is moment like this that makes me realize why I write.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit or for more information.

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One Day, Two Events (2)

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Book signing at Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, MI

I met Hank seven years ago at the Graham School, University of Chicago. We were attending the Basic Program—great books of the West. We moved on to take the Asian Classics when the four-year program was finished, and Hank’s wife Joyce joined us in this new program. They have been very supportive to my book since the beginning—coming to my first talk at the Printers Row Book Fair and invited me to talk to their respective “men’s” and “women’s” book groups. Recently, they also introduced me to talk at the “Kitchen Cabinet,” a social club in Barrington.

It was through them I met Sharon, Joyce’s cousin. Sharon attended one of my talks in the Chicago area. Afterward, she invited me to meet with her book group in Kalamazoo, MI and be her house guest. I readily agreed. That Thursday, Hank raced on the highway to “Kazoo” and we arrived at Sharon’s home shortly before 5:30 P.M., the start of the event. We rushed into Sharon’s car and headed toward the Kazoo Books, a local bookstore. Most of the women in the book group were already there when we walked in. We shook hands and sat around a table that was covered with food they had brought—salad, cheese, bread, fruit, pasta, cookies, cakes and various types of drinks. I was impressed that Gloria, owner of the bookstore, designated a room for such events and allowed people to bring in food and drinks.

 I chatted with the group, addressed their questions and listened to their comments. At 6:30, the event was open to public and more people joined us. We changed the setting and I stood in the front and gave a talk about my book and China’s Cultural Revolution, with visuals to help the audience have a better understanding. Many in the audience raised questions, and we had a very lively discussion—this was one of those events that I knew I connected with the audience.

Gloria invited everyone to have a piece of carrot cake at the end of my talk, and I joined her by passing a bag of crispy peanut candies from China. After book signing, a few women lingered to continue our conversation. It was well after 8 P.M. when we returned to Sharon’s house.

I felt most fortunate to have the generous support of friends and the genuine interest from many readers.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.,

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