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Colors of the Mountain

Colors of the Mountain

4.5 26
by Da Chen, Daxing Zhang (Read by)

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
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
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)
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
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.
From the Publisher
“A completely engrossing coming-of-age tale…a defiantly happy book, big-hearted and sincere.”—Newsweek
“This is a mad sad story with soul and spirituality. A child rises to man in these pages, forgiving those who did him ill, and tells his story with compassion and warm humor. Read this book and cheer a child who triumphes over the darkness and indeed becomes a beacon.” –Malachy McCourt
“A story about suppression, humiliation, vindication and, ultimately, triumph.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Here is that rarity in these times, a truly marvelous book…big-hearted and humorous, written in simple, evocative prose.”—The Denver Post

Product Details

Audio Literature
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4 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 6.96(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

"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.

Meet the Author

Da Chen 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 children.

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Colors of the Mountain 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Michael35 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nicole Young More than 1 year ago
very funny and interesting
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
High_Noon More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿`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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An enchanting story which tells how a person in the worst position can always get out when they reach for their dreams.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I though this book was extraodinaryily compeling,
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The memoir of Da Chen reads like a sixteen years olds¿ journal for one year. In fact, it is supposed to cover from 1962 (his birth) to 1978 (his entering to college). The contents are heavily filtered and grossly distorted via his current sentiment about the status of that period of China. One would be more forgiven if such recollection contains any verifiable truth and real feeling about the time. It stated that both his grand father and his father are college educated. It is very rare in China that a college educated person would choose to remain as a landlord. The landlords (not your regular meaning) are a strange group of people. They are the idle class of Chinese countryside. Their professions are own land and do nothing but excelled a heavy rent (more than 50%-70% of all harvest) on the share-croppers (or poor peasants). It is no wonder that they are often the most hated people in countryside even before liberation (1949). The nationalist in Taiwan even engaged some form of land-reform to strip the feudal landlord¿s privilege. There is no explanation as why his father (another college educated person) is dismissed from his teaching position other than the stated reason that because of grandpa¿s landlordship. This could not be the truth. Many teachers¿ parents were landlords. You will not loss your teaching job simply because your father was a landlord. Most probable reasons are counter revolutionary activities (if so, I¿m sure he would have proudly stated) or petite crimes like embezzlement, theft or adultery which probably would get you fired in this country too (as a teacher). His caricature description of communist cadres is very sickening. Those could be any people who have the power (e.g., the landlord over the share-croppers). He discribes Guo Muo Ruo as a Commie-sucker. Did he forget about his Commier-sucking years? Why there is no description of his eagerness of joining the Red Guard and how happy he was when he joined the Communist Young League. One should not pay much attention to his gang-related activities. Those big tells are second hand by most. Don¿t forget at the time that he was only 9 years old. This is not the countryside that we have lived through but from his distorted imagination.