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 Nien Cheng

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Nien Cheng

  • Birth 28 Jan 1915 Beijing, Beijing Municipality, China
  • Death 2 Nov 2009 Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, USA
  • Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered
  • Memorial ID 44110027

Author. The survivor of more than six years of torture in a Red Chinese prison, she wrote a best-selling account of her experiences. Raised in a wealthy family, she studied at the London School of Economics where in 1935 she met her future husband, Kang-chi Cheng (deceased 1957). Following their marriage, the couple worked in the foreign ministry, establishing an embassy in Australia and holding a high position in Shanghai at the time the Communists took power in 1949. Declining an opportunity to escape to Taiwan, Mr. Cheng became general manager of Shell Oil; after his death, Mrs. Cheng served as an advisor for the company, while the couple's daughter Meiping studied to be an actress. Essentially left alone until the Cultural Revolution of 1966, she saw her home invaded and ransacked by Red Guards and found herself locked in a Shanghai prison where she was confined to a small unheated cell and interrogated while handcuffed. Though she lost all her teeth and suffered other health problems, Mrs. Cheng never gave her captors the desired "confession", instead often laughing at them. (Apparently, they were trying to incriminate Prime Minister Zhou Enlai by having Mrs. Chang state that a trip she and her husband had taken to England was a "spy mission"). With her 1973 release which came after she had initially refused to leave without an apology, she found that her daughter had been murdered in 1967 and herself reduced to poverty; able to leave for Canada in 1980, she settled in Washington in 1983, and could finally access Mr. Cheng's overseas bank accounts, allowing her live in some comfort. In 1987 she published "Life and Death in Shanghai", an inside account of her ordeal and of the Cultural Revolution from the viewpoint of a victim. The work was translated into multiple languages, hit the top of the sales charts, and led to her being a guest of President Reagan at the White House. Mrs. Cheng took American citizenship in 1988, appeared regularly on the lecture circuit, and in 1990 was even honored by singer Corey Hart in a song on his album "Bang!". She lived her final years in Washington and died of chronic cardiac and renal disease. Of her book she said: "I really didn't do anything. I just recorded what I saw, and I wrote it for my daughter".

Bio by: Bob Hufford


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 8 Nov 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 44110027
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Nien Cheng (28 Jan 1915–2 Nov 2009), Find A Grave Memorial no. 44110027, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes scattered.