In 1912, five thousand years of feudal rule ended in China. Warlords, Western businessmen, soldiers, missionaries, and Japanese all ruled China, exploited, and fought one another, and the Chinese. In 1949, Mao Zedong came to power. China Witness is a personal testimony from a normally silent generation, a huge, major work of oral history which sums up, in their own words, the vast changes which have overtaken China and its people over a century. The book is at once a journey by the author through time and through her own country, and a memorial to an extraordinary generation who have lived through war and civil war, invasion, revolution, famine, modernization, Westernization - and have survived into the 21st century to tell the story of their times. In the lifetimes of these men and women, China has transformed from a largely peasant, agricultural country of more than 1.3 billion people into a modern state. These are ordinary people - a herb woman at a market, retired teachers, a legendary 'bandit' woman, Red Guards, oil pioneers, an acrobat, a naval general, a shoemender, a lantern maker, taxi drivers, and others - from across the vast country, now in their seventies, eighties and nineties and whose memories will soon die with them. Xinran has gone all over China, from west to east, between the Yellow River and the Yangtze, interviewing them about their lives, their feelings, their hopes and fears, and their memories.They are a reticent generation from a country where the idea of collective guilt is deeply rooted and where freedom of speech can be a dangerous and unfamiliar concept. and for the first time many of them will speak out about their lives and private thoughts, about what they witnessed and what they felt - about everything from the Long March to oil pipelines, from land reform to folk medicine, from Mao to marriage.Together their stories are perhaps the only accurate record of modern Chinese history and paint an unprecedentedly intimate portrait of this vast and powerful country and its people, close-up and personal. Its aim, as Xinran says is 'to help our future understand our past'. First published 2008.