In a small, desperately poor village in north-east China, a young peasant boy sits at his rickety old school desk, interested more in the birds outside than in Chairman Mao’s Red Book and the grand words it contains. But that day, some strange men come to his school – Madame Mao’s cultural delegates. They are looking for young peasants to mould into faithful guards of Chairman Mao’s great vision for China.
The boy watches as one of his classmates is chosen and led away. His teacher hesitates. Will she or won’t she? She very nearly doesn’t. But at the last moment she taps the official on the shoulder and points to the small boy. ‘What about that one?’ she says.
This is the true story of how that one moment in time, by the thinnest thread of a chance, changed the course of a small boy’s life in ways that are beyond description. One day hi would dance with some of the greatest ballet companies of the world. One day he would be a friend to a president and first lady, movie stars and the most influential people in America. One day he would become a star: Mao’s last dancer, and the darling of the West,
Here is Li Cunxin’s own story, a story that very nearly vanished, like millions of other peasants’ lives, amidst revolution and chaos. It is a story of courage, a mother’s love, a young boy’s longing for freedom – a beautiful, rich account of an inspirational life, told with such honesty, dignity and pride.