Son of the Revolution

"Liang Heng was born in 1954 in Changsha, a large city in Central China. His parents were intellectuals — his father a reporter on a major provincial newspaper, his mother a ranking cadre in the local police. This is Liang Heng’s own story of growing up in the turmoil of the Great Cultural Revolution. His story is unique, but at the same time it is in many ways typical of those millions of young Chinese who have been tested almost beyond endurance in recent years. In his words we hear an entire generation speaking." (text taken from Amazon)
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
ISBN Number
Average: 4.5 (2 votes)


Please login to review this resource

Review of Son of the Revolution

Field of Interest/Specialty: Chinese History
Posted On: 07/26/2012

Reveiw by Dr. David Kenley
Born in the 1950s, Liang Heng experienced firsthand the twists and turns for China’s Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. The son of an intellectual, Liang is an ardent supporter of both the party and the Cultural Revolution. Eventually, however, Liang’s own father is denounced by the Red Guards and Liang starts to question his faith in the party. Liang is a young teenager more interested in basketball and girls than communist ideology, a very sympathetic character for American teenagers. An easy read, Son of the Revolution has been used in high school classes for many years.
After the death of Mao in 1976, many writers and intellectuals began discussing their victimization at the hand of the government and its misguided foot soldiers, the Red Guards. In many ways, Son of the Revolution is a product of this environment. While you feel tremendous sorrow for Liang, he is nevertheless complex enough to engender classroom discussion. When using this in my own classroom, I use the following questions to stimulate discussion:
According to Liang Heng, who are the victims and who are the perpetrators of the Cultural Revolution?
Is the text sufficient to understand the Cultural Revolution? Which perspectives do you wish you had to supplement this account?
What particular aspects of the Cultural Revolution did Liang experience?
What is Liang's thesis? What are his assumptions?
Is Liang's story instructive in studying the Cultural Revolution? Is his experience unique? Is he an ordinary citizen?
Is Liang a believable character? Why or why not?
Has this book changed your view of Mao? How?
How did people get information regarding the top levels of government?
Could it be argued that the GPCR was actually several miniature revolutions rolled together? How do we classify the GPCR? Was it a political event led by Mao, a period of ideological adjustment, a public display of pent-up frustrations, or something else altogether?
For further information regarding the Cultural Revolution and the use of memoirs, see Education about Asia, volume 4.3 (Winter 1999). Younger students (fourth through eighth grade) may choose to read Red Scarf Girl, whereas more advanced students (honors high school students) may choose to read Spider Eaters or Wild Swans.

Son of the Revolution: An Adventure during the Cultural Revolution

Field of Interest/Specialty: History
Posted On: 06/26/2012

Tim Jekel
High School History
World History I & II, Western Civilization, AP US History, AP European History
West Shore Christian Academy
Liang Heng lived what can only be described as a harrowing childhood. Caught in the political shear of first the Great Leap Forward and then the Cultural Revolution, he experienced a series of crushing events in his individual and family life. This story is a good read for any high school student, but some of the events it describes are of a mature nature and the teacher should be cautious in choosing when to assign this.
Liang Heng found himself in trouble for political graffiti he did not write. His mother was torn from her safe government job for criticizing her superiors. The trouble was that she was order to criticize. Accused as a rightist, Liang’s mother was increasingly a political liability to the family. After a series of measures intended to protect the family from her troubled status, Liang’s father feels compelled to divorce his mother and create a strict separation from the family. Despite this, nothing improves for the Liang family and Heng’s older sisters sneak visits with their mother despite the ban.
Liang experiences hunger during the nationwide famine of 1960.
Estranged from his mother and blaming her for the family troubles, Liang is sent to stay with relatives in the countryside. Here he experiences the harsh but worry free life in the countryside. He eventually lives in barracks at the edge of starvation. After returning to family life, his father is beaten and arrested for being an intellectual, since he is a writer. With both parents gone or in prison, he lives alone and is victimized by local ruffians. Things deteriorate as his city, Changsha, slides into civil war as factions fight in the streets of the city.
Eventually, Liang Heng hikes the trail of the Long March with Red Guards, visits Beijing and sees Mao speak in person. He witnesses a horrible crime on a train and later finds that his path to salvation lies in….playing basketball! In all a remarkable story.
In a unit on the Cultural Revolution, I have the boys read Son of the Revolution while the girls read Red Scarf Girl. Both are excellent for 9th graders, but the greater harshness of Heng’s experience and what he describes tends to be less difficult for boys to deal with. A caution is that Heng witnesses a rape and is helpless to stop it. I do not assign this chapter but only have my students read the first half of the book which is equivalent in length to the entire Red Scarf Girl book. Having made multiple choice questions for each chapter, I quiz them and then discuss each chapter. I find that the discussions are better with the quizzes because more students keep up with the reading that way.
I would not rate Son of the Revolution high as a work of literature, but as a gritty first-hand account of the horrors and triumphs of the Cultural Revolution, it is a very useful source. More mature readers, in 11th or 12th grade could handle reading the entire book, but that does not match the scope and sequence at our school. I recommend you read this book in its entirety before assigning it. Not only do I believe you will find it fascinating, but it will help you decide whether it is right for your students.