The “Dragon’s Village” is a book written by Yuan-tsun Chen, which discusses the impact of communism in China. The book is set in the 1950’s when China had just emerged out of World War II. The book focuses on teenage girl, Ling-ling who chooses to stay back in mainland China as her family flees to Hong Kong.
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This is a day before the Communist party takes over power in the country. The story reveals how she goes to Northwest China to participate in peasant land reform. The book highlights struggles peasants in the Northwest have to contend with, to conform to new communist ideals advanced by the Communist Party.
The party intends to change the social structure of Chinese society by implementing a new economic and political agenda for the country. The issue of land reform stands out in the book because it highlights the way peasants are forced to collectivize their farms, even though this approach is not effective for them.
The book is a reflection of Chen’s biography, because she illustrates what she observed during her stay in the Northwest. This is the time of the Cultural Revolution and the government is using communist ideologies to change China’s economic, social and political systems.
Ling-ling gets first hand experience of harsh conditions peasants are exposed to as they toil, to produce food for themselves and their families. The collectivization process makes many of them to go hungry because they are not used to the new economic system.
The government’s decision to consolidate small plots into large tracts of land leaves peasants poorer than they were, which makes them more vulnerable to hunger and starvation. The book describes how this policy is implemented haphazardly, without giving incentives to farmers for the loss of their small plots.
Ling-ling has lived all her life in Shanghai, a bustling city and has very little knowledge of what rural life is like. She creates strong bonds with farmers and sympathizes with their plight even though they face many difficulties.
She manages to retell the situation faced by peasants she interacts with, which gives the reader more clarity on the issue being discussed. Their efforts do not help them produce more, considering that they do not have the skills needed to make these large tracts of land more productive.
Ling-ling chooses to stay in a harsh surrounding against the approval of her family, who flee to Hong Kong. This shows that she is independent and ready to face consequences of her decision.
The book manages to highlight how some land owners are not willing to let go of their land. Ling –ling faces more danger because some land owners are threatened by her land reform initiatives. She is motivated to serve the Cultural Revolution but this proves challenging because she is a woman in a male dominated society.
The collectivization of land threatens to deprive landlords of their property, which they feel is unjust. Ling-ling has a belief that this will bring more equality to the society as envisioned in ‘The Great Leap Forward’, the main economic blueprint of the Communist government.
Ling-ling shows the different faces of the revolution, from the urbane environment in Shanghai to the desolate farm lands in the Northwest. The author describes these events with a human face, showing the impact of the Cultural Revolution on peasants whose lives were changed by Communist policies.