Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao's Great Famine
Author: Jisheng Yang
'I call this book Tombstone. It is a tombstone for my father who died of starvation in 1959, for the thirty-six million Chinese who also starved to death, for the system that brought about their death, and perhaps for myself for writing this book.'
In one of the 20th Century's most nightmarish events, an estimated thirty-six million men, women and children were killed by starvation or physical abuse from 1958 to 1961 during China's Great Leap Forward. More people died in Mao's Great Famine than in the entire First World War, yet the Communist Party continues to deny it was anything more than 'three years of natural disaster'. This official concealment and what Yang Jisheng calls 'historical amnesia imposed by those in power' mean one of the most harrowing and dramatic chapters of human history has remained substantially untold, even among the victims and their families, until now.
Tombstone is Yang Jisheng's challenge to this eradication of memory by totalitarianism. As a journalist and Communist Party insider, with privileged access to official and unofficial sources, he has at last uncovered the true scale of the staggering human cost of this tragedy. Based on a vast array of new sources and personal testimonies taken over many years, Tombstone is as significant and powerful a work as Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. It remains banned in China, but its publication in English serves as a memorial to the lives lost - an enduring tombstone to the memory of the dead - and as a hopeful anticipation of the final demise of the totalitarian system.