Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Wild Swans

Written by: on June 14, 2018

Wild Swans by Jung Chang is a revealing look inside what real life was like in China during Mao’s reign. At the time of it’s publishing, details of life in Mao’s China were still coming to light. Chang’s family story was a disturbing tale of life in closed communist world. Its biographical and auto-biographical in that she writes about her maternal grandmother, her mother and then transitions to writing about herself. I feel silly writing about this as this probably pretty common knowledge to our colleague Greg, we should be learning from him in this context. Chang dives into three different normal, but revealing stories of stories she was intimately familiar with. Some of the most engaging parts of the book were the bizarre insights into a world so foreign than our own. Talking about Warlords and concubines in the 20th century was so alien to me, as it sounded more like a biblical narrative from the Old Testament.


Through Chang’s family’s story we see some core values of the Chinese at that time, some of which are less important to the American mindset. One of Chang’s greatest themes in her book is. That is, both the importance of keeping loyalty, and the rejection of it. Loyalty one one hand is what kept the family together and alive through horrendous and inhumane treatment. And yet Loyalty is what brought so much pain and misguided revolution in China. It also is what slowed down change in China, for fear of speaking against one whom you should be loyal to. Chang writes as if loyalty and honor are valued above all else in the Chinese territory that Chang writes about.


One of the most pivotal moments for Chang was when her father, who had given his life to the communist party and did his duty was soon betrayed and forgotten by his own people. What did loyalty do for him? Chang realizes and begins to see her upbringing for what is really was, slowly in her life. Not that it was the west that enlightened her as much as she was able to step outside the system to get a full look of what it is. Like a man who only slowly comes to the realization in his adult years that he was in fact abused as a child, Chang begins experiences a drawn out epiphany of her young life in China.


The read should realize though, that the stories told here in this book are obviously selected and curated on purpose by the author to convey a message. The message being told through Wild Swans comes from Chang’s frustrations, deconstructions and rejection against the way she was brought up. Despite loyalty being emphasized over and over again, we have the three wild swans rejecting the conformity of the way of life that they inherited. Despite living in still severe limitations, they rebelled where they could. Chang writes herself, her mother and her grandmother as Beautiful and trying to be free, in some form or another. They were wild swans.


What can we do with this? First I feel a deep sense of humility. It makes me walk with meekness. I have a greater realization, as I prepare for China, of walking into a system where there is so much background and pain and cultural nuances and historically significant names & events that I know nothing about it. I’m reminded of walking into Capetown and feeling the weight of a system so large that still has its lasting effects sunk into a people. It makes me want to walk in and should I ever get the opportunity, minister at a much slower slower pace.


About the Author

Kyle Chalko

5 responses to “Wild Swans”

  1. M Webb says:

    Thanks for the review on Chang. I agree with your feelings of humility and privilege for what we have as US citizens living in a Western democracy versus Chan’s experience living in a Socialist regime in the East. Thankfully China is becoming more Christian with almost 3% of their population claiming faith in Jesus Christ! That number seems small, but it equates to over 30 million souls. PTL.
    Are you going to get a suit in HK?
    Stand firm, 站立得住
    M. Webb

  2. Thanks Kyle for your great post. I like your conclusion. I think slowing down before showing up with answers is a great idea.

    It’s interesting that a really good quality, like loyalty, can become a negative one when it is blinded by lies and deception. It’s almost haunting me, and makes me wonder what “good” qualities do I have that in excess or in ignorance are contributing to the darkness in the world.

  3. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Kyle,

    I am still amazed at how Chang seems to hold no bitterness after the atrocities described in her book. Therefore, I think you are on to something with the meekness and humility you described. She is truly humble in spite of her circumstances. Thank you for your writing and reminder of “minister at a much slower pace”.

  4. Shawn Hart says:

    Kyle, I too thought about our trip to South Africa while reading this, someone in anticipation for what we will experience in a few months in Hong Kong. I think the greatest lesson I learned in South Africa, that I hope I will see again, is that when love is expressed, people want to be open to it. We were welcomed into their worship, kids played with joy with that tall guy giving high 5s, and the people seemed sincerely happy to have us there; perhaps all of those were because we came in empty and willing to learn about them. We must not lose sight of the audience if we hope to have success with the message.

  5. Trisha Welstad says:

    Kyle, I felt a sense of disconnect as well with the text in the sense that it was foreign culturally and politically and took a dose of humility to not judge so quickly. I like your idea of moving slowly. I wonder if we will feel the oppression of China and their history as communicated by Chang through Hong Kong as they have slightly different stories.

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