L aid for the disaster because it was basically a closed country at the time though one struggling through a transition of power that would eventually end the 37 year period of political revolution and point the nation state in the direction it remains facing today towards free enterprise without political reform The fact that ancient custom associates earthuakes with major power shifts makes the disaster narrative always already a political narrative Palmer s account follows the association to its logical end telling a shifting story about the end of the Cultural Revolution and the beginning of the new era and giving Tangshan its due as a generous window on the political the social and the personal Heaven Cracks is a deceptive achievement Full of steadfastly anti Communist pronouncements summaries of previous historical research and good old gumshoe ournalism it feels like a book any committed traveler could write Maybe everyone should But its delicate and efficient prose style folds together personal stories of pain and suffering with an account of the political intrigue at the top to give us a richly textured portrait of China Such work is never easy Excellent 5 because it was an easy read Narrative wise it could be rather bias but otherwise great start for people who have zero knowledge about the Cultural Revolution It s next to impossible to imagine what it was like on the ground at Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell on August 6 1945 But what if the blast had been ten times devastating than it was Utterly inconceivable There is no way to visualize it And yet the Tangshan earthuake that tore the coal mining city into rubble on July 28 1976 was eual in magnitude to 400 Hiroshimas In the 23 seconds that it lasted it killed about a uarter of a million Chinese and left only about three percent of the city s buildings standing and usable James Palmer in his wonderful book Heaven Cracks Earth Shakes brings the calamity to lifeThe 23 seconds of the earthuake were probably the most concentrated mass of destruction humanity has ever known In Tangshan alone it did damage than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki damage than the firebombing of Dresden or Hamburg or Tokyo damage than the explosion of Krakatoa It took lives in one fraction of northeast China than the 2004 tsunami did across the whole Indian oceanThe full name of the book is Heaven Cracks Earth Shakes The Tangshan Earthuake and the Death of Mao s China The earthuake is at the epicenter of the story but it is framed by the story of the end of Maoism and the rise of Deng The cracking of the heavens is the fall of Mao s China The earth s shaking is literal and figurative of course Nothing shook China like the Tangshan earthuake or the political upheavals that would follow it only a few short months laterNo year was as pivotal for China as 1976 The Cultural
REVOLUTION WAS DYING THE PUBLIC WAS SICK OF THE was dying the public was sick of the sloganeering and endless denunciations and rallies as the Chinese econo BLURB When an earthuake of historic magnitude leveled the industrial city of Tangshan in the summer of 1976 killing than a half million people China was already gripped by widespread social unrest As Mao lay on his deathbed the public mourned the death of popular premier Zhou Enlai Anger toward the powerful Communist Party officials in the Gang of Four which had tried to suppress grieving for Zhou was already potent when the government failed to respond swiftly to the Tangshan disaster popular resistance to the Cultural Revolution reached a boiling point In Heaven Cracks Earth Shakes acclaimed historian James Palmer tells the startling story of the most tumultuous year in modern Chinese history when Mao perished a city crumbled and a new China was bornOpening On 9 January 1976 He Jianguo left Tangshan and took the train to buy a goldfish She had been the only girl in her dormitory able to get time off that day and her dorm mates had picked her to go and get a pet not for pleasure but as an alarm systemThere had been at least two moderate earthuakes in the region every year for the previous six years some of the older people said uietly it was a sign that things were bad in China So Jianguo and the others had like thousands of people in Tangshan decided to get a goldfish based on media reports that animals could predict earthuakesThe title describes the start of my summer very wellPalmer s writing is not pleasing to my eye however it gets the ob done and has been up for awards China in 1976 was generally like this Mobs harassed tortured and murdered people for wearing too much hair pomade for having studied in Europe for having a globe of the world for who needed to know about anything outside China for having had a Nationalist husband wife or brother for once owning land and so on Anyone with any pretensions to intellectualism suffered Has it ever been known that a leader of a country has apologised for mismanagement Life is so cheap to despots especially those under meglomaniacal Cult of Personality figuresFacing invasion from the north by Manchu horsemen in 1644 a desperate Ming dynasty had deliberately broken the levees on the Yellow River causing mass flooding in an attempt to hold back the enemy a tactic repeated 400 *Years Later By The *later by the government against the Japanese Both times it killed hundreds of thousands of people and barely slowed down the invaders page 60The first hundred odd pages deal with setting the political backdrop it is only after that we have the parallel incidents of vicious earthuake and Mao on his deathbed Well researched short read with extensive notes acknowledgements and bibliography. To the Cultural Revolution reached a boiling point In Heaven Cracks Earth Shakes acclaimed historian James Palmer tells the startling story of the most tumultuous year in modern Chinese history when Mao perished a city crumbled and a new China was bor. .
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This book is a nice effort to explain the political and social mood in China in 197576 as the Chinese experience the loss of Zhou Enlai a terrible earthuake in Tangshan and the death of Mao It was probably not the best read for me as I was looking for detail regarding the earthuake and less of the political details I have read several other exhaustive tomes on the subject of the political climate of the time and so was less interested in that aspect This book was about 30% earthuake and 70% politics There were some really interesting stories of survivors One section I particularly liked was about the uinglong district and how their leaders who happened to be very interested in earthuakes on a personal level took the warnings and signs very seriously and made a big effort to prepare their district It is possible that their efforts led to fewer casualties in the rural areas than some of the other districts experienced Another story told about how soldiers worked in 10 minute shifts through the night to open the floodgates of the Douhe reservoir The reservoir s floodgates had to be opened and the water let out into the spillway before the dam gave out under the strain but the electricity that fed the dam s controls was dead In an astonishing feat of physical endurance and communal spirit the artillerymen seized the winding mechanism that controlled the floodgate never designed to be moved by hand and began to lift the fifty ton gate millimeter by agonizing millimeter It took eight torturous hours to lift the floodgate and release the water sparing Tangshan from a second disasterOverall this was a pretty decent read well researched and fairly insightful for such a short book Honest history is hard to do in China given the determination of Beijing to put forward a historical narrative that presents an essentially benevolent Communist Party guiding China from weakness to strength and occasionally going astray through no fault of its own James Palmer The Death of Mao As a self proclaimed China observer I ve had my share of reading elaborate accounts of this fascinating country s turbulent past Some have been biographical accounts written with the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution as their backdrops Others have been gone further back in history highlighting among others Zheng He s voyages and the Opium WarBut none of them beat James Palmer s The Death of Mao The Tangshan Earthuake and the Birth of the New China in terms of readability is that even a word Anyways it was a pleasure to read this gem of an account which narrates the year 1976 in China s modern history A year when the much beloved Premier Zhou Enlai died Chairman Mao Zedong laid helplessly on his deathbed he would also die in 1976 the Cultural Revolution was a national wound that kept on being reopened the infighting among the political elite reached its apex and Deng Xiaoping re entered politics It was the year when earthuake measuring
78 on the Richter scale hit the small industrial town of Tangshan in Hebei Province killingon the Richter scale hit the small industrial town of Tangshan in Hebei Province killing 650000 people People who lived through the tragedy remembered the earth moving as if attacked by an atomic bomb not one not two or three but four hundred HiroshimasTo say the least 1976 felt like a cursed year for many Chinese people The mandate of heaven seemed to have run out on Mao as China was on the brink of political collapse Economic wise the country was a basket case after purges spread economic inefficiency killed many of China s bright minds and destroyed the people s competitivenessIn general the people were tired of the violence and propaganda of the political elite While Jiang ing Mao s ultra leftist wife watched imported movies daily the people were hungry unsheltered afraid down and beaten The Tangshan earthuake which was also felt strongly in Beijing was a nail on Mao s coffin even as he was still gasping for his last ounce of airObviously this book is not only about the earthuake Yes there are photos of the destruction Palmer also described the scenes during and after the earth shook But it was ust enough Not too much tugging at the heart strings or gory descriptions of the impact of the uake What James Palmer did was to tell the story of China in those days with the earthuake tragedy at its center Many things were elaborated including the monstrosity of the Cultural Revolution how it came about and how its excesses scarred the Chinese population for years to come The book also talks about Zhou Enlai the venerable leader loved by the people The other leader who worked diligently while Mao built a modern empire on the blood sweat and tears of the Chinese proletariats And of course it talks about Tangshan as symbol of how life was in a city neither as big as nor as near to Beijing but constantly affected by the follies of the political elite in the country s capitalThe book also highlights the problem with the writing of history in Chinese books Honestly I have never had the pleasure of reading about Chinese history from books usually given out to students my Mandarin is nowhere at the level to comprehend such thick texts But I could imagine the events and perspectives that may have been left out in order to *Paint A Rosy Picture *a rosy picture the government and most importantly the Chinese Communist Party I lived through Indonesia s New Order era and I know very well previous attempts to re write Indonesia s history according to the preferences of Suharto and his cliueThe Tangshan earthuake is often remembered in China as a moment of grief The Chinese history books may put up pictures of the PLA working hand in hand with the local people to help sur. When an earthuake of historic magnitude leveled the industrial city of Tangshan in the summer of 1976 killing than a half million people China was already gripped by widespread social unrest As Mao lay on his deathbed the public mourned the death of po. ,
Vivors But the truth is that Beijing s unwillingness to accept international assistance demonstrated the government s lack of empathy It showed that while the propaganda of the Party continued to eschew the fight for the people in actuality the people were suffering from policies after another hammered down by the political eliteThe Tangshan earthuake was a moment when the death of so many people underlined the ineptness of the government at the time thus ushering the desire for changes to happen Palmer described a bit of this towards the end book as if setting the stage for analyses on present day Chinese politics by other China observers I for one am thankful of Palmer s narration as I try to understand and about this country where I may be spending time in the future Other reviewers have mentioned that this book is a somewhat uneasy combination of earthuake and Communist China at the demise of Mao They also mention that nevertheless it works and I agreeI was drawn to this book after reading The Big Ones How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us in which the This is a great book Heaven is the rarefied air of the Party complex at Zhonganhai where the Great Helmsman lies drooling semi conscious and not long for the world Earth is the grim daily grind of the long suffering everyday Chinese the vicious currents of the Cultural Revolution in retreat but still pulling people under James Palmer captures the sweep and the fine details of both as he weaves two pivotal decades of Chinese history in microcosm around the catastrophic Tangshan earthuake of July 28 1976 Whew You certainly cannot rate this book on an enjoyment scale Both dichotomies of horrific events interacting One was despicable and the other catastrophe What made me pick this up the second I eyed it on the New shelf was that it was Cultural Revolution specific in timing There are certain movement techniues and agitations to anger that I find parallel to groups use today in the USA Because of this in the last 4 or 5 years I ve read memoir or history of eyewitness Cultural Revolution experience especially in the late 1960 sAnd that is all here The torture the ostracism the driving to suicide the disdain the imprisonment the endless and endemic starvation But overall the pure cruelty and ignorance itself championedAnd ust as the MIGHTY LEADER is in his final death throes comes a tragedy of earthy horror beyond my poor description Or theirsBut here is a uoted attemptThe 23 seconds of the earthuake were probably the most concentrated instant of destruction humanity has ever known In Tangshan alone it did damage than either Hiroshima or Nagasaki damage than the firebombings of Dresden or Hamburg or Tokyo damage than the explosion at Krakatoa It took lives in one fraction of north east China than the 2004 tsunami did across the whole of the Indian Ocean The actual strength of the earthuake itself was not remarkable 78 on the Richter scale terrifying but not that rare It was the speed timing and placing of the uake that made it
so devastatingIt was 400 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomicdevastatingIt was 400 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic July 28 1976 at 342 am a sleeping Tangshan with majority in their beds nearly every structure 97%collapsed 240000 dead but those estimates are most probably under estimated As China s population is today as well This author details why But the aftermath was even worse Those in the country were absolutely ignored and medicine was completely on your own Starvation which had been bad now *reigned to finish The last uarter of the book centers on the politico *to finish The last uarter of the book centers on the politico the Gang of
four in someIn some as I caught this author in assumptions that I KNOW are not true Looters don t exist after catastrophe HUH And other bias that I can read that he holds I think the entire lost an entire star But other than that the photos alone and his eye witness reports and bedside Mao conversations from witness were an incredible read And after this lack of succor or relief there was some because IN Tangshan the industry factories HAD to be replaced for Chinese Army supply Yet there the signs were still raised in the make shift classrooms Father is good mother is good but Chairman Mao is best So much depends upon an earthuake that razed an entire region right beside its dying king James Palmer is at his best with ournalistic prose describing exactly what happened in Tangshan China on Wednesday July 28 1976 at 34253 Li Hongyi was a nurse working on the late shift at the No 255 hospital the biggest in Tangshan At 330 she decided to get some fresh air and went outside to sit at a stone table underneath a large oak Everything was unnaturally still and she felt nervous in the dark on her own Suddenly she heard a shrill sound like a knife cutting through the sky Scared she ran back inside sat down and bolted the door Then the sky turned a bright red and there was another noise like hundreds of trucks all starting at once She d heard the same sound before because she d been caught in the Xingtai earthuake ten years previously As the building shook she struggled to unbolt the door but could only force it open a few inches Sueezing out she ran instinctively to the shelter of the tree as the hospital collapsed behind her hugging on to the trunk with all her strength The earth roared and she and the tree both collapsed into an open pit from chapter 4The earthuake was devastating to the city of Tangshan and the surrounding region so the book falls within that somewhat dubious genre of books about disasters But the full story of the wreckage involves than seismometers compasses and fault lines one should understand that China turned down internationa. Pular premier Zhou Enlai Anger toward the powerful Communist Party officials in the Gang of Four which had tried to suppress grieving for Zhou was already potent; when the government failed to respond swiftly to the Tangshan disaster popular resistance.