By Beth Klemick
In the spring of 1997 I had the opportunity to visit China, at that time Hong Kong was still independent from mainland China and the control of Beijing. In fact I can recall standing in Tiananmen Square looking at a gigantic sign along the one side of the square that was counting down the days until Hong Kong was "to be returned" to the control of mainland China. Although dazzled by metropolitan Hong Kong, Beijing and the political history of China absolutely fascinated me. A friend took a picture of me next to the statue of Mao Zedong, Chairman and leader of the Chinese Communist Party, the ruling government of Mainland China. Mao's legacy has produced a large amount of controversy. Some Chinese mainlanders continue to regard Mao Zedong as a great revolutionary leader, but he is most known for the diastorous Cultural Revolution which purged, tortured, and publicly humiliated millions. That visit sparked my interest to read and learn more about Mao Zedong's life and China, while in my searches for reading material I came across the novel Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. Although this novel is listed as fiction it provides strong, factual background. The great appeal of this book to me was the focus on Mao Zedong's wife, Jiang Qing. Madame Mao Zedong is universally known as the "white-boned demon", and some believe she was the driving force behind the Cultural Revolution. The book was rich in detail and character building while providing intimate details of the myth of Madame Mao Zedong and the history of China and this dynamic, controversial couple.