Colors of the Mountain

( 26 )

Overview

Colors of the Mountain is a classic story of triumph over adversity, a memoir of a boyhood full of spunk, mischief, and love, and a welcome introduction to an amazing young writer.

Da Chen was born in 1962, in the Year of Great Starvation. Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution engulfed millions of Chinese citizens, and the Red Guard enforced Mao's brutal communist regime. Chen’s family belonged to the despised landlord class, and his father and grandfather were routinely beaten and ...

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Overview

Colors of the Mountain is a classic story of triumph over adversity, a memoir of a boyhood full of spunk, mischief, and love, and a welcome introduction to an amazing young writer.

Da Chen was born in 1962, in the Year of Great Starvation. Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution engulfed millions of Chinese citizens, and the Red Guard enforced Mao's brutal communist regime. Chen’s family belonged to the despised landlord class, and his father and grandfather were routinely beaten and sent to labor camps, the family of eight left without a breadwinner. Despite this background of poverty and danger, and Da Chen grows up to be resilient, tough, and funny, learning how to defend himself and how to work toward his future. By the final pages, when his says his last goodbyes to his father and boards the bus to Beijing to attend college, Da Chen has become a hopeful man astonishing in his resilience and cheerful strength.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
?A story about suppression, humiliation, vindication and, ultimately, triumph.??The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The grandchild of a former landlord—China's most spat-upon class after the Revolution—Chen was regularly beaten to a pulp by other children and, despite performing at the top of his class, repeatedly denied the right to continue at school. His family of nine—including his brother, three sisters, grandparents and parents—subsisted on moldy yams alone for entire winters. Meanwhile, his grandfather was attacked randomly by neighbors and forced by the local authorities to guard lumber and tend fields. Chen's father, with his prerevolutionary college education, eventually managed to extract himself from the labor camps by becoming skilled in acupuncture (he used the biggest needles on the hated "cadres"). At the climax of this survival story, Chen, the book's first-person narrator, and his older brother, Jin, both compete in China's first nationwide, open educational tests in 1977: "We were out to make a point. The Chen family had been dragged through the mud for the last forty years.... Now it was time." Scoring among the top 2% of the country, the 14-year-old Chen achieved his dream of attending Beijing Language Institute. According to the epilogue, after graduating with high honors, he wound up in New York at age 23, where he won a scholarship to attend Columbia Law School, and later landed a job on Wall Street and married a doctor. Despite the devastating circumstances of his childhood and adolescence, Chen recounts his coming of age with arresting simplicity. Readers will cry along with this sad, funny boy who proves tough enough to make it, every step of the painful way. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
Born in 1962, Da Chen grew up in rural China. His parents and grandparents were landlords; they were considered the lowest of the low and all family members were treated terribly. Da Chen was the youngest of five children. Despite his apparent intellectual abilities, Da was mercilessly tormented and actively discouraged from most academic activities. His best friends consisted of some of the local hoodlums who spent their time gambling, smoking and having a good time. Da felt that he had no future: he was doomed to a life as a farmer, as were his brothers and sisters. Then Mao died and slowly things changed. Opportunities opened up and there was talk of college even for those in rural areas. Da realized that his only means of escape was to go to college, so he committed himself to study. Trying to make up for missing years, he studied from sunrise to 11 at night. His older brother also decided to try to pass the college exams and studied with him. We follow Da's early life. What impresses the reader is his ability to look at his life and realize he must change. His single-minded determination is a testament to his strong family support. Both Da and his brother passed the exams and were accepted at colleges, obviously the beginning of a new life for both of them. In telling his own story, Da presents a fascinating look at growing up in a changing China. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Random House/Anchor, 310p, 21cm, 00-698913, $13.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Robin S. Holab-Abelman; White Plains, NY, May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
VOYA - Voya Reviews
Da Chen grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China as the child of intellectuals. He and his siblings were taunted by teachers and students alike, then kicked out of school by government officials. Da persevered, however, as he learned to play the violin, studied English with an elderly Christian, roamed town with a gang of delinquents, and replaced his sister as a factory worker. Eventually he was accepted back into school before taking his English skills to Beijing University. His family also persevered. His father learned acupuncture to supplement his meager state wages, and one of Da's brothers made it into university as well, years after being forced out of high school. This volume is an excellent coming-of-age story. Da learns about love, ambition, respect, and true friendship from his family, friends, and mentors. That he overcame such odds to enter one of China's most prestigious universities is a testament to his own and his family's will. In a time when Cultural Revolution memoirs are full of the nastiness of the favored, it is wonderful to read about the teacher who took Da under his wing and about his elderly eccentric tutor. The translation of Chinese slang into American slang, however, causes the story to lack flavor at times. The American speech pattern is often jarring and takes away from the Chinese setting. This is an unfortunate blot on an otherwise marvelous work that is recommended for older teens. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 1999, Random, Ages 16 to 18, 311p, $25. Reviewer: Kendall Diane Brothers
Library Journal
Over the past few years, Chinese memoirs dealing with adolescence in Communist China, written mostly by women who subsequently moved to the United States, have proliferated. These include Anchee Min's Red Azalea, Jaia Sun-Childers's The White-Haired Girl: Bittersweet Adventures of a Little Red Soldier, and Rae Yang's Spider Eaters. This work, written by a young man who came of age after the Cultural Revolution, is similar in some respects: Chen's bourgeois family was persecuted by the state, and he eventually left China to live in the United States. But Chen's story is different from the others because he grew up in rural, not urban, China. It carries an easily recognizable theme (boy falls in with hoodlums, then pulls himself up to succeed against all odds), which is at once uplifting and unsatisfying. Chen, who attended Columbia University Law School on a full scholarship and has worked on Wall Street, has written a clear and fast-moving book, but readers looking for either a modest narrator or a way to make sense of recent events in China will be disappointed. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
—Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, IL
Chang
Colors of the Mountain is a completely engrossing coming-of-age that's surprisingly free of cynicism or bitterness. His stories are made all the more poignant by the wonder and vulnerability in the voice of their child narrator.
Newsweek
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385720601
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/16/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 123,877
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Da Chen

Da Chen is thirty-seven years old and is a graduate of Columbia University Law School, which he attended on full scholarship. A brush calligrapher of considerable spirituality who also plays the classical bamboo flute, he lives in New York's Hudson Valley with his wife and two small children.

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Read an Excerpt

In September 1971, I entered third grade. Dad had come back from the camp on the mountain and was at another reform camp ten miles away from our town. They made him dig ditches from morning to night to expand an irrigation system that eventually failed to work, while continuing to press for more confessions about my uncle in Taiwan, which had always been China's sworn enemy.

Sometimes I was allowed to visit Dad and bring him food. I would stand on the edge of the work site, searching for signs of my father among the hundred or so other people being "reformed." Tired, curious faces would look at me, word would pass on down the line, then eventually out would come my dad from the ditches, his back straight, head held high, and a dazzling smile on his face for his son as he busily dusted off his ragged clothes. I would have nothing to say and could only look at his blistered hands, while he asked how everybody was and how my schoolwork was going. Then it was time to leave; if I delayed, the foreman would chase me off the site with his wooden stick.

Grandpa was suffering all the time now. An expensive medication was bought to cure him, but he was outraged when he heard its price, since he knew that what it cost could have bought the whole family some decent food for a month. Despite his frail condition, he was still ordered to go to the rice fields every day to chase the birds. After he had had an especially bad night, I brought in another petition. The cadre ripped it to pieces in front of me.

"The stinking dogshit!" he screamed, and spat on the floor. "Tell your no-good grandpa to wake up. I've already given him the lightest job and he doesn't appreciate it. What does he want, to sleep in his warm bed all day and plot his revenge against our Communist system? Well, that's not going to happen with me in charge." He thumped his chest. "Do you hear me? And as for you, you little shit, I don't want to see you this often. You'll be in trouble yourself one of these days, running all these errands for your no-good family."

I ran home angrily and told Grandpa the answer was no.

My eldest sister, Si, had graduated from junior high school. Brother Jin had had to stop one year short of completing it, and Ke and Huang were asked to leave before finishing elementary school. The Red Guards took over the classroom and put some teacher on a humiliation parade. They had made the lives of landlords' children and grandchildren miserable. Si's classmates had hacked at her hair with scissors, which made her look like a mental case, and Jin, while he was still in school, had been constantly hassled and beaten by his classmates.

One day we received a notice from the local school authorities. It read, "Due to overcrowding in our school system, it has been decided by the Communist party that the children of landlords, capitalists, rich farmers, and the leftists will no longer be going directly to Junior high or high school. This new policy is to be implemented immediately for the benefit of thousands of poor farmers." The curt notice didn't explain the logic behind such a decree. But we understood that they considered us the enemy and a danger to their world. Education could only further our cause and threaten theirs.

Thus I became the last student in our family. Every day Morn would whisper to me before school that I should cherish this precious opportunity. I should work hard and be a good student, or I would have to stop school like my siblings and become a farmer or a carpenter, with no hope for a better future. She said the more they wanted you out of school, the more you should show them how good you are. She admonished me to behave myself and not give them reason to throw me out.

The pressure weighed heavily on me. The idea of being a farmer for the rest of my life, working in the fields unceasingly, rain or shine, chilled my bones. I saw my sisters and brothers, still so young, getting up before dawn to cut the ripened rice in darkness before the biting sun made work unbearable. They came home by moonlight after laboring a full day, their backs cramped and sore, cuts on their fingers, blisters covering their hands. Sometimes they were humiliated because the older, more experienced farmers in the commune trashed them for making mistakes. And sometimes they were angry because they were made to work the heaviest jobs, like jumping into manholes to scoop up manure. At night, my sisters often cried in Mom's arms. They were no longer children.

I looked at school in a different light. It was still a fun place, but now it was much, much more. It was the key to a bright future. I knew if I could somehow stay in school, I would do well. There was hope. I arrived at school early every morning and volunteered to sweep the classroom and clean the blackboard. I still managed to have my morning reading assignment done before the others arrived so that I had time to play and help those who needed some tutoring. But the new teacher wasn't the least impressed with me. I sometimes became aware of him staring silently at my back as I sat alone in class doing my work. He was cool and abrupt and seemed disgusted with the little boy who wanted so hard to please him.

My third-grade teacher was a young man about twenty-five years old. He had icy, protruding eyes, and thin lips that squeezed out his words slowly and deliberately. His nose was pointed, with long, black hairs sticking out of both nostrils, and a receding chin that melted into his long neck. He had a habit of looking at his reflection in the window, preening and recombing his hair before entering the classroom. His name was La Shan.

La Shan invited many of his students to his dormitory on campus, where they played chess and talked long after school. He also organized basketball games among the students, but I was never included. I stood at a distance, watching them play with the energetic young teacher, laughing and shouting. When I sometimes quietly inquired about what they did in his dormitory, my friends Jie and Clang would tell me that they played and listened to La Shan talk about politics, about things like the class struggle and what to do with bad people like landlords and American special agents.

I became quieter and less active in his class. He continued to act as if I didn't exist, and I became more and more isolated, but I still carried on my work with pride and always scored the best in quizzes. I missed my teacher, Mr. Sun, terribly.

In the back of each classroom there was another blackboard on which the best poems or compositions by the students were displayed. It was an honor to have your work posted, and mine used to appear there every week. Many years under my grandfather's tutelage had made me the best calligrapher in the entire school, and I had won school-wide competitions against older students. But since La Shan had become my teacher, my work never appeared on the blackboard. He also deprived me of the task of copying the poems onto the blackboard with chalk, a task only students with the best calligraphy were allowed to do.

I was no longer the head of the class. In my place stepped the son of the first party secretary of Yellow Stone commune, the most feared man in town. La Shan also made him the head of the Little Red Guard, a political organization for children. I was the only one in class who was not a member. I coveted the pretty red bands worn on their arms and had applied to join, but La Shan told me I needed to make more of an effort, that he wasn't sure I was loyal in my heart to the Communist cause like other children from good working-class families. Whenever a Little Red Guard meeting was held, I was asked to step outside. I would hang around the playground by myself until they finished.

My whole life seemed to be drifting away from the crowd. It puzzled me and kept me awake at night as I stared up at my mosquito net. I didn't tell my family about any of the changes; they already had enough to worry about. At home, I pretended to be cheerful and told them how well I was doing in school. Once a cousin of mine mentioned to my brother that I was no longer doing the blackboard copying. I made up a story, telling my family that I needed a change, so was giving my fellow students a chance.

Because I was driven and still confident in my abilities, I worked even harder and volunteered even more for tasks before and after school. It was like throwing myself against a stone wall. The harder I tried, the more the teacher disliked me. He even criticized me in front of all the students about my overzealous attempts to win his praise. This upset and confused me. What more could I do to try and fit into the place that I once used to love?

My first real brush with La Shan came when he was collecting the weekend homework. The assignment had been to copy a text of Chairman Mao's quotations, but my work had been soaked in the rain on the way to class and I had thrown away the smeared, useless paper, intending to redo it in the afternoon. When he found out I had nothing to turn in, La Shan called the class to attention. "Students, Chen Da has not done his homework, which he knew was to copy the text of our great Chairman Mao. It is a deliberate insult to our great leader."

"I did the homework like I always do," I protested loudly, "but the rain got it all wet."
The whole class looked at me quietly.

La Shan turned red, the muscles in his cheeks twitching. He had lost face because I had answered back.

"What did you do with it?" he demanded.

"I threw it into a manhole on my way to class because it was all messy." The students laughed.

" "at did you say?"

"I said I threw it into a manhole," I screamed back. I knew I was acting irrationally, but couldn't stop.

"You threw Chairman Mao's quotations into a stinking manhole?" His face flamed and spittle flew from his mouth with each word. "Do you realize how severe an offense you have just committed?"

A deadly quiet came over the class. Everyone looked at me, waiting for my reaction. In that split second, I glimpsed the possible serious trouble he could make if he chose to. Mom's words, "Stay out of trouble, " rang in my ears.

I felt dizzy, as if I had been hit with a club. I already regretted my actions and wished I could take everything back, but it was too late, the damage had been done. I thought of Mom and Dad and the trouble I might have just brought to my family if the teacher blew this thing up. My head began to pound.

"I am sorry, honorable teacher. I will redo my homework and hand it in as soon as possible."

He stared at me silently with his icy eyes, looking like a wolf that had just caught a rabbit in a trap.

"You think it's going to be that easy?" He shook his head slowly. "Everybody!" His voice cracked out. "Let's have a vote. Those who wish to have Da thrown out of our classroom, raise your hands."

There was a moment of silence. Then slowly, the son of the party secretary raised his hand. A few more hands from the La Shan club went up. Next the whole class raised their collective hands, even my friends Jie and Clang.

I felt trapped. I felt half-dead. I couldn't understand how even my best friends could vote against me.

"Please, I don't want to leave this class. I would like to stay."

"We'll see about that. Class is over for the day," La Shan said, slamming his book closed and walking out of the room, his disciples trailing behind him.

I walked home in a daze. Nobody talked to me. I redid my homework and turned it in right away. I waited for La Shan to throw me out of school, but nothing happened. I sat in the back corner of the class by myself. No one talked to me, not even my friends. Occasionally, La Shan would throw disgusted glances my way. The worst thing was when he disparagingly called me "that person in the corner" without looking at me. Why did he take the whole thing so personally, as if I had desecrated his ancestor's tombstone?

Then one day during the morning exercise break La Shan called my name and asked me to stay behind while the others noisily poured out of class.

"I have received reports about you," he said, pacing in front of the classroom. "Really bad reports."

My heart began to race. "What kind of reports?"

"You have been saying antirevolutionary and anti-Communist things to your classmates, haven't you?"

"No, I haven't." He was trying to paint me as a counterrevolutionary, just as they had done to Yu Xuang, a fifth-grader whom they had locked in the commune jail for further investigation. It was a dangerous situation.

"I have never done anything like that! You know that!" I said, using the best defense a nine-year-old could muster.

"I have the reports here"-he waved a thick sheaf of paper-"and I can ask these people to testify against you if necessary."

"The people who wrote those reports were lying. I have never said anything against our country or the Communist party."

"Shut up! You have no right to defend yourself, only the chance to confess and repent," he spat out angrily. His voice deepened. "Do you understand what kind of trouble you are in now?"

"I have nothing to confess!" I was losing control again. My throat dried up and my arms began to tremble.

"I said, shut up! You have today and tonight to write a confession of all the treasonous things you have said, to explain the motivation, and to state who told you to say these horrible things. Like perhaps your father, mother, or your landlord grandparents."

He was trying to involve my family. They would put my dad in prison. They would take Grandpa out into the street and beat him to death.

"They did not tell me to do or say bad things against the party! They didn't!" I cried. I couldn't afford to have my family dragged into this. I was scared and began to sob helplessly. The sky had just caved in and I felt that nobody could help me. I would be a young counterrevolutionary, a condemned boy, despised by the whole country. I would be left to rot in a dark prison cell for life. That was what had happened to Shi He, another high school kid, who was caught listening to an anti-Communist radio program from Taiwan, and worse, to the banned Teresa Deng's love songs. His prison sentence had been twenty years.

I don't remember how long I cried that morning. When I walked home alone in the afternoon's setting sun, I felt the weight of shackles already around my ankles.

A condemned man at the age of nine! Confession tomorrow! The thoughts played over and over in my mind.

When I got home, I told Mom what had happened and she started sobbing, hitting her face and chest and pulling out her hair. She mumbled hysterically, in broken sentences, that their generation had brought the curse to the next generation. After a while, she sat down quietly, weak and limp like a frightened animal. Finally, she got up and sent Si and Jin to Dad's camp to ask for advice. They got to talk to him by using the excuse that Mom was very sick again.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

1. Da Chen's mother has taught her children "to be quiet, stay out of trouble, and wait for better days" [p. 4]. Given their position in the village, is it possible for them to follow this advice? Is Da's grandfather's rebellious behavior a more natural reaction to the cruel and arbitrary rules imposed during the Cultural Revolution? In what ways does his mother show a spirit of defiance, and what impact does this have on Da's character?

2. When his teacher chooses him as class monitor, Da writes, "I was born with a political defect that no one could fix. But once in a while they threw a bone out to us . . ." [p. 15]. What does this tell you about Da's sense of himself? Why does he become so popular with the other students, despite his "political defect"? Later, when the Communist party escalates its campaign against former landowners and intellectuals, Da is ostracized by his new teacher and his classmates. Could a more sympathetic teacher have made a difference?

3. Are Da's descriptions of his life at school unique to his circumstances? Or do his experiences—for example, his feelings about being excluded from the Red Guards [p. 23] and reactions to Han and his gang [p. 41]—resemble incidents that might be experienced by every school-age child? How do they differ from the experiences of a child going to school in America?

4. Why is praying to Buddha with his mother so important to Da? Beyond its religious significance, what role does it play in their lives? Why does the family maintain traditions like the opulent New Year's Day feasts even during the most difficult times? What events in the book show the extraordinarily close ties among the family members? For example, what do you learn about Da's brothers and sisters when he helps them in the fields [pp. 164-66]? How do the familial relationships Da describes differ from those in American or other Western families? Do you agree with Da's description of his father as "the dreamer" and his mother as the more practical parent [p. 217]?

5. Da objects strongly to the corruption and bribery rampant in the commune, yet when he is forbidden to continue his education, his father, an acupuncturist, treats the principal's ailing father, and Da is allowed back into school [p. 125]. Da's father is also treated well at the reform camp because of his medical skills [p. 113]. Do Da's father's actions compromise his integrity?

6. When Mao dies, why does Da say, "In my heart, there was no other leader who mattered as much to me . . . good or bad. . . . Even though my parents' generation hated him, I had embraced him in my own way" [p. 138]? Compare this passage to his sharp criticism of Mao [pp. 256-57]. Is the ambiguity that Da feels understandable? Does the book offer any evidence, either explicit or implicit, that Mao made positive contributions to Chinese life and society?

7. In addition to teaching Da English, how does Professor Wei expand his view of the world? Why does the fact that the Wei sisters are "the closest thing to real Westerners" in the village [p. 154] enhance their status even though the government is so vehemently opposed to the West? How does Da bring to life the closeness between the shy, awkward boy and the elegant, elderly professor?

8. How does the summer Da spends working at a factory enrich your impressions of him? In what ways is he more mature than an American child of his age? More naive?

9. The contradictions between the Chinese government's austere policies and life as it was actually lived by party officials [pp. 180-81] appears to reveal the profound hypocrisy of Mao's rule. How do these hypocritical tendencies differ from those of governments in the rest of the world?

10. Da recalls his difficulty with the English language in a wonderfully charming and funny way [p. 212]. How does his confusion offer insights not only into his impressions of the English-speaking world, but also into Chinese culture as well?

11. When Da and Jin are admitted to college, some of the villagers write letters of protest to the government. Da says, "It was okay to let people know when you were suffering, but not when you were celebrating" [p. 295]. What motivates the villagers? How universal are their sentiments and their actions?

12. At times, Da seems too perfect. He even says of himself, "Most of [my classmates] hated me because I was arrogant, pompous, and too much of an artistic star" [p. 192]. In what ways is he just an ordinary boy, sharing the familiar concerns and anxieties of childhood? How does the narrative convey this? Does the memoir succeed in presenting a balanced and believable portrait of a young boy?

13. How do the style and language of Colors of the Mountain contribute to the effect the book has on readers? While Da and his friends use slang and obscenities and tease each other about girls in the familiar manner of young boys, many of Da's thoughts and observations are presented in poetic language. For example, in describing his visit to his cousin on an isolated island, he writes, "Staring at the stars through a wide skylight, I heard the lulling sound of the ocean. The rhythm of its waters sounded like an . . . ancient legend as the waves lazily washed against the shore" [p. 46]. Do these voices seem equally authentic?

14. Da Chen takes the title of his book from a couplet his grandfather painted on the old Chen mansion—"Colors of the mountain will never leave our door/Sounds of the river will linger forever in our ears." How do the themes of the book embody the poem's message?

15. Da Chen is now in his late thirties and has achieved success as a university professor and lawyer, yet he presents his story through the eyes of a child. Why does he choose to present his story that way? How do his perceptions and feelings as a young boy shape his depiction of life in China? Would other members of his family have told the same story?

16. Many memoirs such as Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl and Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings deal with the profound impact of political upheavals, class conflict, and racial prejudices on ordinary people. How does Colors of the Mountain compare with other memoirs in this genre?

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  • Posted February 9, 2010

    Colors of the Mountain

    In the book Colors of the Mountain, a young boy named Da Chen grows up during a tough period in time. Born in 1962, the year of the Great Starvation, Chen is growing up in a time of hate, starvation, and communism as Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution was about to engulf millions of Chinese citizens, the Red Guard to enforce a brutal regime of unfair power and abusive force towards communism. Chen's family belongs to a despised landlord class and his father and grandfather are consistently beaten and sent to labor camps to be forced to work against their will. Growing up isn't easy without the man of the house to teach you right from wrong, and it is that reason that Da starts getting into trouble and befriends a gang of mischievous hoodlums. The decision he makes that saves his life is also befriending an elegant, elderly Chinese Baptist woman who teaches him English and how to become a friend to society without getting into trouble. Catching frogs, working in the rice fields, and feasting on oysters and peanuts in this tough era, Chen has it far from easy, or good. But thanks to the elderly woman, and the little bit of time he gets to spend with his grandfather and father, he grows up and lives a healthy, successful life.
    The main part of the book that I liked was the main message portrayed throughout the book which is stay ahead of everyone else and stay on top of the influence when life gets tough. If Chen wasn't involved with a few certain people that saved his life, he wouldn't have made it through the Starvation alive. However, I strongly disliked how most of the book talked about Da Chen. The book is supposed to be about Da Chen and his life, but in my opinion there wasn't enough about the Great Starvation and the abusive authority suppressed upon all Chinese citizens.
    If I were to say someone should or should not read this book, I would say read it. This book is a touching novel about a young, troubled Chinese boy that grows up to become a functioning, well, hard-working man. An overall rating of this book is an 8, for the fact that this is a heart written book that has made a career for an aspiring young man.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2007

    Triumph over Hardship

    Da Chen¿s ¿Colors of the Mountains¿ is the inspiring and heart touching story of his childhood during the communist revolution in China. His grandfather, being a landowner, had doomed the rest of the family to be pinned with ¿anti-revolutionary¿ banners. Now the peaceful and kind family has to suffer through various ¿punishments¿. All of his siblings had been banned from school, and his father was stuck in a reform camp while his mother struggles to feed the family. Da is constantly facing ridicule at school, and gets accused of ¿anti-communist¿ things, and is forced to face severe punishment for the acts he didn¿t even commit. Though Da is extremely bright, he is eventually forced to quit school, and in his time away from the books, he befriends some hooligans, and falls in love with western music. Eventually, he begins to learn English. He struggles, but somehow, he gets to the end of the path. This book contains perfect imagery and lots of different cultural tidbits. It¿s inspired me to do better with what I have, and appreciate my life a bit more. The beginning page of the story I consider to be a bit unnecessary, but other than that, I love everything about this memoir. I¿d suggest this book to anyone who¿s interested in culture, rags to riches stories, or just a good book in general. There¿s no chance for disappointment with this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2000

    A great book that touches the soul

    This is one of the greatest books I've read in a long time. Although some of the dates may be wrong, the details and journalistic qualities of this book are fantastic, especially for a Chinese teenager who wants to learn more about Chinese culture and its past.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2000

    Fiction desguised as autobiography

    I was excited to acquire the book after reading all the positive reviews. I wish I could get my money back now. It is, at best, a fiction desguised as autobiography. The story is full of holes. For instance, three years of great starvation ended in 1961,not 1962, as stated in the book and Cultural Revolution started in 1966, not 1962, as stated in the book's front jacket. Then there is the 'heartbreaking' scene of him lacking 3yuan to pay for tuition because pigs were not ready for sale. Tuition and books were free in China. A landlord's family would not be allowed to have pigs. (My grandparents were landlords. Everything of any value was taken away.) The college entrance exam was extremely competitive the first year it was offered in 1976 after 10 years of the Cultural Revolution (I was the only one to pass the exam at my commune where about 300 took it). By 1977, the second year the exam was offered, the competition was not so fierce as Da Chen led the readers to believe.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 1999

    Colors of the Mountain Rich and Rewarding

    Da Chen's COLORS OF THE MOUNTAIN is a rich and satisfying memoir of a young boy coming of age in rural China during Mao's Cultural Revolution. Young Da Chen starts off life with a handicap: he is the son of a landlord, and landlords are now shunned and ridiculed in this new society. No matter how bright he is in school, no matter how hard he tries to make friends, he is damned if is does and damned if he doesn't. We follow Da through a love affair with music, the stilted agony of beginning lessons in English, and ultimately, a triumph over a world which has condemned his family and their way of life. There are echoes of Solzhenitsyn here - man surviving in the white-hot heat of a stultifying, dehumanizing system which is more corrupt than anything we can imagine; and there are echoes of ANGELA'S AHSHES where, in the midst of tragedy and dire straits, raucus humor breaks through to remind us of how we are all essentially alike, and how ultimately, we must laugh at ourselves in order to survive. Young Da befriends a rough gang of boys who struggle with the peccadilloes of adolescence while finding ways to outwit the system and sharing an intense loyalty with one another. The characters are fully conceived and will stay with you long after you have finished COLORS OF THE MOUNTAIN. Da Chen's ingenuous prose is without self-indulgence, rich with evocative imagery which conjures rural China; and the colors are clear. His story is remarkable. I have recommended it to my fifteen year old son, as well as everyone else.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    great book

    very funny and interesting

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  • Posted September 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a must read

    This book was totally absorbing and I learned a lot about pre and post revolutionary China. It was a personal story by a man who lives in the Hudson Valley. Da Chen has two additional books that would be very worthwhile to read. I am not a historian, usually liking just a good read, but I appreciated what I learned about a different culture.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2008

    Experiencing the Colors of the Mountain

    ¿`I did my homework as I always do, ¿ I protested loudly, `But the rain got it all wet. ¿ The whole class looked at me quietly. La Shan turned red. `What did you do with it?¿ He demanded. `It was messy, so I threw it in a manhole.¿ The class laughed. `What did you say?¿ `I threw it down a manhole!¿ I screamed back. `You threw Chairman Mao¿s Quotations into a stinking manhole? Do you realize how severe an offense you have just committed?¿ A deadly silence came over the class.¿ Colors Of The Mountain is a compelling memoir, telling the touching true account of Da Chen, growing up in communist China. Born in 1962, the Year of Great Starvation, he was constantly singled out and abused by loathsome teachers and children because he was prejudiced to the then-despised ¿Landlords¿ class, and was forced deal with the mistreatment and shame brought to his family. His father and grandfather 'who were indeed landlords, but not with the harsh view of others, as the post-revolutionary ¿Red Guard¿ assumed', were routinely beaten and forced to go into labor camps. Living on moldy yams and the hope for a better life, Da was regularly denied the right to go to school. In his struggle to fit in and ultimately live in the small seacoast village of Yellow Stone, he became friends with many unlikely people and learns that with a little hope and a lot of determination, you can climb over the zenith and truly experience the vivid colors of the mountain. I found his rich rural scenery and potent, poetic language most empowering, from catching frogs and chasing birds through fields to stealing away in the dead of night to escape public humiliation. The story of a young boy¿s dreams to become successful inspired me, and most likely many others, to follow your dreams. I would recommend this book to everyone and anyone who loves adventure and suspense, to those who love to learn of a world far away from their own, and to the people who just want a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2007

    Inspirational

    This book is amazing. Very strong and real, Da knows exactly how to get into the hearts of the readers. Reminded me of my own childhood in a communist country. I couldn't put the book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2004

    Great Book, Inspires me to work harder in School!

    This Book is very good, Da chen has such a ambition for learning close to my own ambiton to learn also. I love the way the author made me feel I felt to attached to the Character, Wish I could give it more then 5 stars!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    Colors of the Mountain

    The book, Colors of the Mountain by Da Chen, is about a young boy who is the son of a landlord. Landlords in those days were very poor people can literally spit on them or beat them up. The story talks about the life of Da and all the hardships he goes through in life. Da lives in a family of nine; one brother, three sisters, his grandparents, and his parents. He was being continuously kicked out or denied to continue to go to school. <br> <br> I like this book because the story is very strong. It will hit almost every emotion you have in your body. From sad, happy, or to angry, it will get there at some point. I really like it when there is a happy part to the book. I like it because it made me feel really happy for Da. <br> <br> What else I like about the book was the detail of the story. The story had a lot of detail which made the book a lot easier to understand. The storyline was also a great part of the book. The book was very unique, the story had the same concept as other books but different because it was set in China. I recommend this book for everyone to read. You will enjoy it as much as I did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2002

    What an inspiration

    This was an amazingly inspiring book. Although Da had been completely discouraged throughout most of his youth life, he used it only as motivation to get out of where he was. Writing from Southern China right now, I have seen so many parallels in my every day life to the experiences he describes here, as far as the education system and the government. He has given me the inspiration to pursue my own education further as well as better understand of the China I am living in today. Thanks Da!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2002

    Outstanding writing

    This is a wonderfully written book in the same genre as Wild Swans and Son of the Revolution. Da Chen's language is beautiful, and his story is very inspirational. It made me want to read the sequels as soon as I had finished this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2002

    A real story

    An enchanting story which tells how a person in the worst position can always get out when they reach for their dreams.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    Angelas Ashes meets Huck Finn

    Incredably moving and funny coming of age tale set in China in the early 70's. Destined to be a classic - should be on every High School reading list. Can't wait for the sequel!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2001

    Unimaginable Triumph Catapulted By Courage, Determination And Love

    I have read a multitude of books that are similar to 'Colors of the Mountain', however the fact that this true story is told so poigantly through the eyes of an innocent child, pierced my heart endlessly. The homor was light enough to give the story real balance. Most of all, the hard cold facts of China during the time of the Cultural Revolution, no matter how many times I may have read it, I always seem to be quite shocked. Perhaps the most difficult to believe, is the cruelty of mankind. I loved this little boy and could not rest until I knew his fate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2000

    I simply enjoyed this book.

    If you are looking for a good story with interesting historical fact then this is a good book to choose. It seems the biggest problem people are having is whether or not everything Da Chen says he did in this book is true or not. It does seem like he is destiny's child in the book because he seems to be able to do anything. But so what! It makes for a better story. The book brings you up and down right when it should. I learned a lot about some aspects of China that I didn't know before. They were comfirmed by some Chinese friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2000

    Gripping Tale of Overcoming Challenges

    Chen's memoir is absolutely inspiring. Although I knew I should be studying for my exams, I couldn't help but read it until the end! I got caught up in the challenges that he faced. This is a very rewarding read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2000

    Best Book (besides Chinese Cinderella)

    I though this book was extraodinaryily compeling,

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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