Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two Sidneys in China

Read this interesting article (thanks to Aaron Gardiner who pointed me to it) about the two Sidneys (and two rivals) who had both participated in China's revolutions and lived nearly their whole lives in China.

I didn’t know anything about Sidney Shapiro before reading this article, but I had heard Sidney Rittenberg’s Chinese name Li Dunbai during my childhood and youth in China.

Three years ago, after reading Rittenberg’s book The Man Who Stayed Behind, I posted a review on Amazon. To my surprise, three months later, just before Christmas, I received an email – in Chinese – from Rittenberg, who not only read my review but also one of my short stories online. In his email with the subject "谢谢" (thank you), he called my review 公正 ("fair-minded") and generously praised my story "Second Encounter" as 诚实而深刻 ("honest and profound"). Rittenberg compared the story to He Dong’s Ask the Sun, also about the Cultural Revolution.

From our correspondence I learned that Rittenberg, already 84 years old in 2005, and his wife of 50 years, Wang Yulin, had been working as business and cultural consultants for several US companies doing business in China. The couple made business trips to China five or six times a year. “The reason I can still live healthily is largely due to my strong, outstanding and lovely wife,” Rittenberg wrote. I couldn’t help but admire this old couple. After all the tribulation, including 13 years in China’s prisons, Rittenberg seemed still full of hope and energy for life.

And again I highly recommend The Man Who Stayed Behind for anyone who’s interested in learning about China’s revolutions from the 1940s to 1970s.


Aaron Gardiner said...


I can't remember his name, but there is a guy who lives out by the Summer palace whose story goes something like this: His parents were radical British communists who came to Beijing to help the revolution. Needless to say, they got thrown into prison during the CR. The authorities decided that he was okay, and despite being in his early teens, he was allowed to stay in their apartment and kept receiving his parent's salaries and food coupons. When his parents were released, years later, they decamped for England, but he stayed on. Now he lives in a siheyuan with a bomb shelter underneath it, that he uses as a wine cellar. I am good friends with an American who knows him, so I will see if I can rustle up some more details.


Xujun Eberlein said...

Aaron, I think I know who you are talking about. I visited him last summer in Beijing, introduced by a Chinese friend. He has great stories.