I may have only figured out that the three body problem is a famous math problem halfway through the book, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it from page 1.
Every once in a while, HD's parents ask, in that voice they might use for babies that they also use for me since my Chinese level is about on par with a two year old, whether or not I know about the Cultural Revolution. I say "yi dian dian," or "a little," which I find I say a lot these days. I know a little Chinese, I have been in China just a little, I am used to Chinese food a little, I have few friends here. Well, I hear their stories, through HD translation, and though a tragedy is made simple when told through baby language, I realize how horrible it must have been. Of course, I also knew about China's modern history before arriving here.
I know very few details, however, and certainly don't know much about imperial Chinese history. It's a strange experience, getting fragments, nano-sized shards of Chinese history, through the footnotes smushed into the bottom margins of the book. Through the footnotes, for example, I am introduced to Mozi, but the only image of him I have in my mind right now is of a video game character with glowing bright eyes floating in the darkness. Yes, that is my impression of the founder of the Mohist school of philosophy during the Warring States Period. It's like someone from outside the US being introduced to George Washington as an alien character in a scifi book in translation. If I read enough Liu Cixin, maybe my sense of history will be as warped as his fiction.
The Cultural Revolution, the incoming alien revolution, the worlds are parallel and history repeats itself, perhaps in an infinite, unknowable three-body pattern.