Tombstone Book Summary - Tombstone Book explained in key points

Tombstone summary

Yang Jisheng

Brief summary

Tombstone by Yang Jisheng is a meticulously researched account of the devastating Great Chinese Famine, caused by Mao Zedong's policies. It illuminates the untold tragedy that impacted millions of lives.

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    Summary of key ideas

    Unveiling the Famine

    In Tombstone, Yang Jisheng begins by revealing the shocking truth about China's Great Famine of from 1958 to 1961. The catastrophe was the result of Mao Zedong’s disastrous policies, including forced collectivization and industrialization, which were blindly implemented. Encapsulating individual stories within the larger narrative, Jisheng offers an unprecedentedly detailed account of how the bureaucratic system failed its own people.

    Across China, rural populations were left starving as food was requisitioned by the state. Ironically, grain silos were left full while the people were driven towards starvation by the poverty-stricken peasants. The fear of punishment, incentivized lying about grain production, leading to the creation of excessively ambitious state quotas that communities could not meet, further spiral down to exacerbating the situation.

    Interrogating the Communist Party's Role

    Jisheng questions the Chinese Communist Party's role in the famine, describing the systemic flaws and suppression of information that contributed to the magnitude of the catastrophe. Local officials falsely inflated grain production statistics to please their superiors, resulting in the government confiscating grain based on these inflated figures. This full-fledged totalitarianism led to millions of innocent deaths.

    Furthermore, the Chinese regime harshly punished whistle-blowers or anyone who attempted to expose the truth about the famine. The systemic violence and mismanagement are vividly portrayed, making Tombstone a shocking yet crucial documentation of the struggle and suffering during this devastating period in Chinese history.

    Victims Telling Their Stories

    Jisheng narrates countless heart-wrenching stories acquired from his extensive research and interviews with survivors and victims’ relatives. Hunger became so prominent that cannibalism occurred, and in some areas, families exchanged children to eat to avoid the taboo of consuming one’s own kin. These accounts highlight the unimaginable hardship experienced by the population and provide a human context to the dire statistics of the famine.

    The author also introduces various individuals who dared to confront the highly oppressive authorities, although almost all faced punishment. The stories serve as a testament to fearless individuals who chose to value truth over their lives. What stands out is the fact that few heroes or villains exist in this narrative—only victims of a circumstantially horrifying situation.

    Exposing the Truth Amidst Political Retaliation

    In the final part of Tombstone, Jisheng reflects on his own complicity as a CCP member and his transformation into a critic of the regime. The author admits his earlier ignorance, which is laid bare for readers: his father's death from starvation, his initial acceptance as a tragic necessity, and his later realisation of its cause being political mismanagement.

    In conclusion, Tombstone, is a brave and searing indictment of the Great Famine and the Chinese Communist Party's role in the calamity. The book is not just a historical account, but a monument — a tombstone — for those who were lost and cannot be mourned openly due to political reasons. It is a lasting testament to the consequence of political fanaticism, a testament to the tens of millions of people who suffered needlessly in the name of an ideal."

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    What is Tombstone about?

    Tombstone is a groundbreaking account of the devastating consequences of China's Great Famine, which took place from 1958 to 1962. Through meticulous research and firsthand accounts, Yang Jisheng reveals the true scale of the tragedy, with an estimated 36 million people dying from starvation. This powerful book sheds light on a dark chapter in Chinese history and serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of political ideology.

    Tombstone Review

    Tombstone (2012) by Yang Jisheng is a compelling account of the Great Chinese Famine and its devastating impact on millions of people. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its detailed research and firsthand accounts, it provides a harrowing look into one of the darkest periods in Chinese history.
    • The book explores the political and social factors that contributed to the famine, shedding light on the tragic consequences of government policies.
    • Written with empathy and humanity, it brings to life the stories of ordinary people who suffered and died during this period, making it a powerful and moving read.

    Who should read Tombstone?

    • History enthusiasts interested in understanding the Chinese Cultural Revolution
    • People passionate about social justice and human rights
    • Readers curious about the impact of political ideologies on societies and individuals

    About the Author

    Yang Jisheng is a Chinese author and journalist known for his in-depth research on the history of the Chinese Communist Party. His book, "Tombstone," is a groundbreaking work that documents the devastating impact of the Great Chinese Famine, which occurred from 1958 to 1962. Through extensive interviews and archival research, Jisheng exposes the true scale of the tragedy, revealing the government's role in causing the deaths of millions of people. "Tombstone" has been widely acclaimed for its courageous exploration of a dark chapter in China's history.

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    Tombstone FAQs 

    What is the main message of Tombstone?

    The main message of Tombstone is a powerful exposé of the Great Chinese Famine, revealing the devastating consequences of government policies.

    How long does it take to read Tombstone?

    The reading time for Tombstone varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Tombstone a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Tombstone is a compelling and eye-opening book that delves deep into a tragic period of Chinese history. It is definitely worth reading for its insightful perspective.

    Who is the author of Tombstone?

    Tombstone is written by Yang Jisheng.

    What to read after Tombstone?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Tombstone, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Simply Complexity by Neil F. Johnson
    • Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday
    • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
    • The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz