Reading Yuan-tsung Chen's
The Dragon's Village: An Autobiographical Novel of Revolutionary China

The Dragon's Village (1980) is an autobiography of a young city girl who took part in land reform in a remote mountain village as a teenager. This book will engage students personally while giving them a firsthand account of how the revolution developed.

The young protagonist, Guan Ling-ling, chooses to remain in China on the eve of the Communist victory, while her family and fiancé flee to Hong Kong in 1949. After joining a revolutionary theater group, she departs her hometown of Shanghai to carry out the new reforms in China’s countryside. In a peasant village in Gansu province, located in China’s far northwest, Ling-ling’s patriotism and dedication to the ideals of the revolution are tested as she finds herself struggling not only with the hardships of life and the morality of violence but also with being a young woman in a male-dominated society.

Discussion Questions

  1. What was the land reform? Who previously owned land, and how did this change in China in 1948-1949?
  2. When Ling-ling volunteered to help implement land reform, she thought this law would not affect her or her family. Was she correct? Whom did it affect?
  3. How were groups in Chinese society "reclassified" as part of the land reform?
  4. Which local groups participated in the reform? Why did these groups feel their actions were justified? Did land reform proceed according to Ling-ling and comrade Cheng’s plan? If not, why? (Chapters 11-13)
  5. What did Ling-ling learn about the role and view of women in rural areas? Give examples. How did this compare to her own upbringing? How have the values and roles played by women in your own society changed over time? Are there any similarities to the situation in China?