This essay examines the acceptance and public interpretation of modern China’s rather turbulent past in light of Yu Hua’s novel To Live and Zhang Yimou’s film adaptation. It explores how fictionalized traumatic experiences have the ability to ultimately and effectively communicate social truth. Other aspects examined are the utilization of death as an effective political critique, the overall significance of and interpretive variances caused by the urban-rural divide in Chinese society, and also the particular molding of citizens’ lives that occurs due to either Mao’s overbearing presence or the conspicuous lack thereof. Types of sources referred to and used throughout the analysis include other significant interpretations of the text and film, recent studies that reveal new perspectives on relatively unexplored territory in China’s past such as the Great Leap Forward and its famine, and other articles that strictly examine Yu Hua’s writing style and his treatment of trauma throughout his literature.