Review: Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China

Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China, by Zhengguo Kang (W. W. Norton 2007)

Review by Cynthia Setchell

Not long ago I read the autobiography of a Chinese Christian pastor of a “house church” in central China. House churches are illegal and have been suppressed by the government. The book told of imprisonments and tortures.

More recently, I came across another autobiography, this one written by a Chinese Buddhist who finally escaped to the USA in the mid 1990s. He is Kang Zhengguo, and he now teaches language and literature at Yale University. His book is Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China.

Kang Zhengguo details his life as a man who only wanted to study ancient Chinese texts. He is expelled from high school and from college, sent to work camps, rejected by his family but not accepted by the peasants he is sent to live with. He has many run-ins with the local governments. It is an amazing story of a man who seems to bear no grudges against the system which set out to destroy him but did not succeed. It causes me to ask how much has really changed in mainland China during the last 60 years.

This is a good read about modern China. The well-known scholar Perry Link pays it a high complement in his introduction, saying that it “may be the best account of daily life in Communist China that I have ever read…”

[From November 2007 CAFAM Newsletter]

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The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine provides forums and outreach that promote cultural interchanges between the US and China.

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