My Books, My Teacher: The Diary of Wang Wenxing

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My Books, My Teacher: The Diary of Wang Wenxing, published by the Wang Jingwei Irrevocable Trust in collaboration with Eight Corners Books is available worldwide on April 1, 2024 through Elephant White Cultural Enterprise. Readers can purchase the printed book from online retailers such as Books.com, Eslite, Kingstone, and other major bookstores. The ebook will be available at Google Books and Apple Books using the links below.

Written in the form of a diary, Wang Jingwei’s eldest daughter Wang Wenxing (1914-2015) chronicles the emotional journey of a young woman living in war-torn China under Japanese occupation from November 1937 to April 1938. The diary also includes comments and lengthy passages handwritten by her father Wang Jingwei (1886-1944), who became his daughter's private tutor after she was no longer able to attend school due to the Japanese occupation. During this period, Wang Jingwei gave his daughter various assignments such as the diary. Wang Jingwei's corrections and comments in the margin of the diary pages reveals the private conversation between father and daughter. Their exchanges on seeking the path to saving the nation are heartfelt and often riveting.

For many years the diary was catalogued at the Nanjing Library as the work of an unknown person and was only recently identified as the work of Wang Wenxing and her father Wang Jingwei. 

Who is Wang Wenxing? Why should we read her diary?

Wang Wenxing (1914-2015) was the eldest daughter of Wang Jingwei (1883-1944) and Chen Bijun (1891-1959). Born in Toulouse, France, her courtesy name was Zhongwen. Her French name was Louise Michelle, after the 19th century revolutionary Louise Michel. She was tutored by the scholar Qu Xiangbang and attended the Beijing Overseas Preparatory School with Ho Mang Hang (1916-2016) whom she married on February 26, 1939. Wang Wenxing was also a middle school student in Nanjing and studied education at the provincial college in Jiangsu. She moved to Hong Kong in March 1948, where she became a school teacher until retirement. She emigrated to the United States in 1984 and co-founded the Wang Jingwei Irrevocable Trust with her husband in 2010 and passed away in New York City in 2015.

My Book, My Teacher covers a wide range of subjects, revealing the private moments, inner-most thoughts and sentiments of a young woman living in an important household in China. The diary served as an exercise in literary composition and includes many comments and lengthy passages handwritten by her father/teacher Wang Jingwei. 

The book also includes complete manuscripts of the never-before-published diary and covers a wide range of subjects, revealing the private moments, inner-most thoughts and sentiments of a young woman living in an important household in Nanjing.

The book includes the original text, images of every page of the original manuscript, never-before-published photographs of the author and her family, and news reports that confirm the account of daily life that Wang Wenxing recorded in this most personal example of a young woman’s coming of age story. Read together with Cloud, Smoke, Scattered Memories—the Memoir of Ho Mang Hang, the diary serves as an irreplaceable historical document.

How does this book help our understanding of the Sino-Japanese War?

If the decision is not to fortify the city, then there should have been proper preparations so that people could leave. Daily pronouncements about how mighty the defense is only mislead the citizens, who suffer the most! On top of this, to condemn them with the label of “traitorous obedience” is too unfair to those who put their trust in their government.Wang Wenxing. December 27, 1937
The diary entries are inseparable from daily current affairs, from the government’s westward move to Chongqing, the fall of Nanjing and Wuxi, to the establishment of wartime children’s education and the Battle of Taierzhuang, and more. These historical events provide a clear outline of the situation surrounding the Sino-Japanese War.

How does this book reveal the most intimate sentiments of Wang Jingwei and his daughter?

When parents notice their children’s rights and wrongs, their lessons should be strict, but they need to come from kindness. This way, even if they feel unhappy, their parents’ kindness will offer them comfort. If children are only scolded, it will hurt their nature. Wang Jingwei, April 23, 1938

1937 to 1938 marks the time from Wang Jingwei’s return to China from France after the Xian Incident to the release of “October 29th Telegram.” For Wang to shoulder the responsibility of tutoring his daughter during this busy period, considering her diary’s every word, offering suggestions for improvement, provides the modern reader with the rare opportunity to see Wang as private man: a devoted father. Using the diary as a daily exercise in composition, father and daughter exchanged their views on the current situation: from the application of the scorched-earth policy and the tactics of the Communist Party, to military discipline, and much more. These detailed discussions offer readers a glimpse of the many ideas, occasionally laced with raw emotion, that father and daughter expressed to one another about critical affairs that affected the fate of the nation at a pivotal moment in history. 

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