Heralded as a literary masterpiece and a best-seller in the Chinese-speaking world, The Great Flowing River is a personal account of the history of modern China and Taiwan unlike any other. In this eloquent autobiography, the noted scholar, writer, and teacher Chi Pang-yuan recounts her youth in mainland China and adulthood in Taiwan. Chi’s remarkable life, told in rich and striking detail, humanizes the eventful and turbulent times in which she lived.
The Great Flowing River begins as a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of China’s war with Japan. Chi depicts her childhood in pre-occupation Manchuria and gives an eyewitness account of life in China during the war with Japan. She tells the tale of her youthful romance with a dashing pilot that ends tragically when he is shot down in the last days of the war. The book describes the deepening political divide in China and her choice to take a job in Taiwan, where she would remain after the Communist victory. Chi details her growth as an educator, scholar, and promoter of Chinese literature in translation and her realization that despite her roots in China, she has found a home in Taiwan, giving an immersive account of the postwar history of Taiwan from a mainlander’s perspective. A novelistic, epoch-defining narrative, The Great Flowing River unites the personal and intimate with the grand sweep of history.
I don’t know of any other memoir in English that is quite like this. It is of enormous significance because it adds so much for those with an interest in the Republic of China in both China and Taiwan. -J. Megan Greene, author of The Origins of the Developmental State in Taiwan: Science Policy and the Quest for Modernization
An inspiring life story of unvanquished resilience. -Kirkus Reviews
A personal memoir set against the history of modern China and Taiwan. . . . From coming of age during China’s war with Japan to her eventual move to Taiwan, Chi’s story remains both intimate and historically connected. -World Literature Today
The Great Flowing River is a grand memoir. It tells a story of loss, suffering, fortitude, and the nobility of sacrifice. It is a personal narrative that reflects the fate of the Chinese nation, especially the fate of those who were driven away from their homeland and managed to survive elsewhere with integrity and dignity. There is a calmness and tremendous power in the wise narrative voice, whose resonance lingers long after the last page is turned. -Ha Jin, author of Waiting and other novels
An engaging read for those interested in memoir, 20th-century Chinese and Taiwanese history, and Chinese culture. -Library Journal
The Great Flowing River is one of the great memoirs of modern China. Telling the story of one woman’s odyssey through the twentieth century, this is not just a deeply moving account of Chi Pang-yuan and her family, but a window into how the Chinese people came through the trauma of war and turmoil, and created a new set of civilized values in their aftermath. -Rana Mitter, author of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945
This is a memoir of epic proportions. Chi’s work is a testimony of this tremendous historical period that is the long twentieth century for the Chinese and the Taiwanese peoples. The English translation of this epochal memoir is most certainly significant. -Letty Chen, author of Writing Chinese: Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity