Ai Weiwei’s 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows Book Review, Summary & Characters

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows Book Review


Spread over 400 pages, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows was originally published on the 2nd of November, 2021. It is a memoir by artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

The author has portrayed the legacy of his dad alongside his artistic uprisal. He has also expressed his views regarding what he had to suffer in the past and asked many questions.

Download the eBook (Buy it in Amazon)

About The Author Ai Weiwei

AI WeiWeiBorn on the 28th of August, 1957, Ai Weiwei is one of the most talented artists in the world. Alongside being an author, he is also an activist, documentarian, and contemporary artist.

Weiwei’s life has seen many ups and downs. He was once held up without charge for eighty-one days. Poetry and political convictions can be found encapsulated in his works, including in his photographs and sculptures. Chinese social and political issues can be viewed in his works as well.

Ai has lived in multiple places, including Cambridge, UK, and Berlin, Germany. Since 2021, he has been living in Portugal with his family. He is a father of one, Ai Lao, whom he shares with Wang Fen, a documentary filmmaker. His wife, her name is Lu Qing, a contemporary artist.

Thanks to his achievements and contributions, Ai has been awarded GQ Men of the Year 2009, Marina Kellen French Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award, and many others.

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Since 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows is a memoir, we can consider Ai Weiwei, the author, as the main protagonist. The book is his narrative about his life, relationships, and other significant events to date.

Other characters are his father, Ai Qing, the Chinese government, and multiple people he has met throughout his life.


Ai Weiwei’s 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows Book Review, Summary & Characters 2Ai Weiwei’s memoir starts with a reflection on his confinement by the Chinese government. This reminds him of his father’s political detention many years ago.

Despite being born in an affluent family, Ai Qing was raised by a peasant. He was deemed that he’d be the reason behind his parents’ demise and was considered a bad omen.

Nevertheless, Weiwei’s father, Ai, showed his enthusiasm for art from an early age. Later on, to focus on his interest, he leaves for Paris and becomes a renowned poet.

Because of that, he was seen as a threat and coined peddler of bourgeois literature and arts, and exiled to Little Siberia during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Ai and his family had to suffer a terrible fate for a decade. After escaping all those troubles, Ai Weiwei went to New York to study arts and later gained more interest in photography. Finally, after more than a decade, Weiwei flies back to his home country to spend time with his sick father.

He does see many changes, but the right to freedom and speech is still lacking there.

Unfortunately, once Ai Weiwei was flocked by police before catching his plane to Taipei and was detained for 81 days. Even after being released, he never got a definite reason for his arrest.

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The whole book is the author’s memoir which showcases the struggles, troubles, and censorships he had to endure and what led to the path he has paved now.


Ai Weiwei’s life story has multiple themes in it. One of its significant themes is the bond and relationship between a parent and child. Well, Ai Weiwei wrote the book in his father Ai Qing’s remembrance and as a memory for his son.

Other themes covered throughout the book are the right to express one’s feelings, exile & detention, and most arts as a form of liberation and voice for the people.

Strength and Weakness

The book tells China’s epic tale via Ai Weiwei’s life and his father’s legacy. The story also presents how the author’s artistic prowess unfolded over time and how he relates to his father in so many ways.

One weakness of the book is that the reader sometimes has to put down the book to process and take in Ai Weiwei’s words.

My Take on the Book

Ai Weiwei’s book 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows has received an admirable rating of 4.3/5 from Goodreads and 4/4 from BookMarks Reviews. So many hardships are mentioned, and every chapter is more intense than the previous one. Plus, the writings show the vocal and provocative nature of the multi-talented artist.

Download the eBook (Buy it in Amazon)