9780385524575

Journey of a Thousand Miles

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780385524575

  • ISBN10:

    0385524579

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-09-08
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
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Summary

"Number One" was a phrase my fatherand, for that matter, my motherrepeated time and time again. It was a phrase spoken by my parents' friends and by their friends' children. Whenever adults discussed the great Chinese painters and sculptors from the ancient dynasties, there was always a single artist named as Number One. There was the Number One leader of a manufacturing plant, the Number One worker, the Number One scientist, the Number One car mechanic. In the culture of my childhood, being best was everything. It was the goal that drove us, the motivation that gave life meaning. And if, by chance or fate or the blessings of the generous universe, you were a child in whom talent was evident, Number One became your mantra. It became mine. I never begged my parents to take off the pressure. I accepted it; I even enjoyed it. It was a game, this contest among aspiring pianists, and although I may have been shy, I was bold, even at age five, when faced with a field of rivals.Born in China to parents whose musical careers were interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, Lang Lang has emerged as one of the greatest pianists of our time. Yet despite his fame, few in the West know of the heart-wrenching journey from his early childhood as a prodigy in an industrial city in northern China to his difficult years in Beijing to his success today. Journey of a Thousand Milesdocuments the remarkable, dramatic story of a family who sacrificed almost everythinghis parents' marriage, financial security, Lang Lang's childhood, and their reputation in China's insular classical music worldfor the belief in a young boy's talent. And it reveals the devastating and intense relationship between a boy and his father, who was willing to go to any length to make his son a star. An engaging, informative cultural commentator who bridges East and West, Lang Lang has written more than an autobiography: his book opens a door to China, where Lang Lang is a cultural icon, at a time when the world's attention will be on Beijing. Written with David Ritz, the coauthor of many bestselling autobiographies,Journey of a Thousand Milesis an inspiring story that will give readers an appreciation for the courage and sacrifice it takes to achieve greatness.

Author Biography

was born in 1982 in Shenyang, China. He has played with the leading orchestras in all of the major concert halls throughout the world. DAVID RITZ is a bestselling music writer who has cowritten autobiographies with Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and B.B. King, among others.

Excerpts

Revolution


The Cultural Revolution, which spread over a decade beginning in 1966, had an enormous impact on practically every person in China. I was born on June 14, 1982, some six years after the Revolution had ended, and I still felt its enormous reverberations. The Revolution was a large-scale, society-wide social and political upheaval in which all students and intellectuals, including musicians and artists, were sent away from the cities to labor on farms and learn from the peasants. Millions of professionals were forced to leave their homes. China was to be self-reliant and was closed to the West.

When I was around seven years old, I began asking my mother questions about our family's past. One night, while my father was at his job policing the nightclubs and entertainment district of Shenyang, and after I had completed my long practice session on the piano, my mother sat down next to me, handing me slices of fresh oranges and a glass of cool water. It didn't take much prodding to get her to start talking about her youth.

I loved listening to my mother's stories. Because she had been a singer and an actress at her school, she spoke theatrically, with bubbly enthusiasm and great dramatic pauses. As she told me the story of her life, and my father's, and how their lives intertwined, music in my head accompanied each tale--ever since I can remember, I have had a kind of soundtrack playing in my head, accompanying my life's most memorable moments. I heard etudes and concertos, sonatas and great symphonies. I heard the harmonies and counterpoints. I heard the action of the music. To me, music was action. And my parents' lives were action packed, the stuff of drama and thrilling music.

"Music," said my mother, "was an early love in my life. Music always lifted my spirits and brought me joy."

Mom told me how, when she was four, her parents moved the family--her and her three brothers--from Dandong on the coast of North Korea to Shenyang in the north of China, where her father worked as a highly skilled technician in an iron plant and her mom became a bookkeeper. Her grandfather loved to sing songs from the Peking opera, so music filled the house.

"What about my grandmother?" I asked. "Why don't I know her?"

"She died of a lung disease when I was young."

"How young?" I asked.

"I was nine."

My heart started beating like crazy--I was suddenly terrified. "Will you die when I become nine?"

"Oh no, darling," she assured me. "I'll always be here with you."

"Were you scared?" I asked.

"Yes, I was afraid. Being the only daughter, I was so close to my mother. Losing her hurt a great deal. I was afraid of living without her."

"Then what happened?"

"The world went on," said my mother. "The world always goes on."

Her father excelled at his job in the ironworks factory. He invented a device that improved manufacturing efficiency, and he was rewarded accordingly. My mother went to school and did well; they were all bright students in her family. At school, she began acting in little plays, singing, and dancing. Then, in 1966, came the Cultural Revolution--and everything changed.

Mom's paternal grandfather was a landlord, even though my mother had never seen this "land." Though her father was a successful inventor and invaluable technician at the ironworks factory, he was now considered untrustworthy and was supervised closely. Rumors circulated that my grandfather was conspiring against the Cultural Revolution. Of course, the rumors were false, but they persisted. To protect Mom and her brothers from worry, her father never mentioned any of this. They only found out when a friend came to their house one day and cried out, "They have your father in the f

Excerpted from Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story by David Ritz, Lang Lang
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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