China: Cultural Revolution turns forty

One interesting aspect of blogging in China is that the strict controls on newspapers, magazines, television and news websites from time-to-time leaves many bloggers with the responsibility and freedom to determine and define coverage of major issues and stories while mainstream media, despite all their resources, have no choice but to remain silent.

May 16 this year is one of those such times. Forty years ago today, Mao Zedong issued the infamous ‘notice’, a manifesto of sorts, which sparked the power and class struggles that kept the Cultural Revolution going and saw millions of lives wasted until his death in 1976.

The competition one would normally see between rival media outlets seems to have been left behind by Chinese bloggers for a more results-based sharing model in which content is seldom repeated and individuals pursue their own interests which leads to a greater whole.

Starting off strongly but informatively is the Big Shapeless Bull (大牛无形) blogger who posts and translates two American magazine covers from the mid-1960s and suggests better ways to search for Cultural Revolution-related information online:

顺便说一下,在今天的百度,你不可能用文化大革 命直接搜索出你要的东西,百度会告诉你:您输入的关键词可能涉及不符合相关法律法规的内容。

Today is a memorial day…for those who know what today is and deliberately keep quiet or shy away, or even attack those who know and speak up, you're more fascist than Hitler. And by the way, with today's [Chinese search engine] Baidu, if you try and do a direct search for ‘Cultural Revolution,’ Baidu will tell you: the keyword(s) you have entered appear to touch upon or do not conform to the relevant laws and regulations regarding content.

The Democratic China Blog II blogger seems to have received this advice as a post today contains a documentary on the Cultural Revolution from Hong Kong public television station RTHK, as well as some astute blogmentary:


The Cultural Revolution showed us the Communist Party of China's true colors. Twenty million innocent Chinese died non-natural deaths in the Cultural Revolution. Deng Xiaoping himself said: “For something like the Cultural Revolution to happen in western countries such as England, France or America would be impossible.” What we need to figure out is WHY!!”

On journalist-blogger Priest Liu's MSN Spaces blog we see a full copy of the forementioned notice [zh], matched by veteran blogger Nick Wong but also including the numerous additions to the document as the goal of the Cultural Revolution took its many twists and turns. Other posts from earlier in the week leading up to today include mention of China's first ever Cultural Revolution museum which opened late last year in Shantou, just northeast of Hong Kong and a look at Guo Yushan's Sohu blog dedicated to martyrs of the revolution. A short historical timeline of the ten years (1966-1976) the Cultural Revolution spanned can also be found on Lian Yue's Eighth Continent blog.

Jxhill's MSN Spaces blog gives a impressive description of the impact the Cultural Revolution had on the national psyche, and how the spiritual fallout still affects Chinese today:


The ten years of the Cultural Revolution not only led Chinese society into chaos, but also brought China's economy to the brink of collapse; sporting the banner of ‘culture’, the movement led to the deep destruction of traditional Chinese culture, struck a fatal blow against humanity and heavily twisted people's psyches into something not seen since ancient times. Today, thirty years since the end of the Cultural Revolution, its presence and pain can still be felt at any time, in any place, sometimes hidden, sometimes showing.


Following the Cultural Revolution, many Chinese became devoid of faith, spiritually hollow. The authorities, in attempts to revive people's spirits, have launched campaigns aimed at constructing a spiritual civilization, from Five Stresses (decorum, manners, hygiene, discipline and morals), Four Beauties (beauty of language, behavior, the mind and environment) and Three Loves (the motherland, socialism and the Communist Party of China) to Hu Jintao's recent plugging of his Eight Honors and Eight Disgraces [see this Global Voices post], The Party has shown what could not be said is a lack in attaching importance to the molding of a spiritual civilization, although the results themselves have been a little lacking. People are pretty apathetic to each other, money worship is king, the concept of the law is lacking and anything goes if it will give you an advantage. It's hard to place responsibility for this anywhere other than with the destruction and residual pain of the Cultural Revolution.

At the River of China blog we see a post written for Mother's Day but focusing on the blogger's family life against the backdrop of growing up in the midst of those turbulent times:


In my childhood, my family could never make ends meet. Mother would count all expenses down the very last cent, but come the end of every month we would always have to thicken our skin and ask the neighbors for a yuan or so just to get through the last couple days. When I was a bit older I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with the monotonous and crude food we had to eat. Following my first time tasting meat, I began to develop a very strong interest in it. Every time we passed a meat vendor I would stubbornly stop and with legs planted like nails, stand there and pleadingly look at mother. Every time, mother's eyes would always fill with tears. It would be many years later before I came to understand how much suffering and devastation my own ignorance brought into my mother's heart.

And the discussion is put on a more personal level in a post from the Migratory Fool with a recount of a well-known story of one young man who was executed for refusing to renounce an essay he had written.

“血统论” 的出现, 使许多“出身不好”的青年所受到无端的打击和迫害。许多敢怒不敢言。 有一位年轻人, 挺身而出, 公开化发表了公开发表了批判血统论的论文《出身论》。遇罗克一针见血的指出:“一个新的特权阶层形成了,一个新的受歧视的阶层也随之形成了。而这又是先天的,是无法更改的。”在文章最后他号召:“一切受压抑的革命青年,起来勇敢战斗吧!”文章一问世,就就在社会上引起了巨大反响, 引起千百万人的共鸣。但也冒犯了文革当局。遇罗克一九六八年初被捕入狱,七零年三月五日惨遭处决,年仅27岁。

With the appearance of discussions of ancestry, more and more ‘bad birth’ youth for no reason began receiving beatings and persecution. Many people were outraged but didn't dare speak out. There was one, who boldly came out and openly published an essay entitled ‘Birth Discussions [zh],’ which criticized the practice of discussing people's one's ancestry. Yu Luoke's pertinent point: “a new priviliged class has been formed and with it a new discriminated-against class has also been formed. Moreover, it is innate, unchangeable.” Towards the end of his essay, Yu makes a call for “all revolutionary youth having received oppression to bravely stand up and fight!” As soon as the essay was published it attracted a huge response from society, resonated with millions of people. But it also displeased the revolutionary authorities. In early 1968 Yu Luoke was arrested and put in prison and executed on March 5, 1970 at the age of twenty-seven.

遇罗克之弟遇罗文撰写的长篇纪实文学《我家》中记述了一次姐弟间的谈话:“有一天弟弟对姐姐诉说了心中的烦闷,姐姐说:‘妈妈、爸爸反右时只顾自己痛快,说了几句真话,害得我们跟着受 罪。’一旁看书的罗克插话道:‘不要责怪父母。他们说真话有什么错?我看他们说得太少了。整个社会上说真话的人也太少了。如果大家都说真话,不说假话,就不会有这种不平。何况即使真是父母错了,也不能由子女承担责任。’”

Yu Luoke's younger brother Yu Luowen, in his long non-fiction piece of prose My Family, narrates a conversation that once took place between his older sister and younger brother: “one day he let out to her all the irritating things inside his heart. She said: ‘During the anti-right times, Mother and Father only cared about their own happiness. They told a few truths and as a result caused us to suffer hardships.'”

“Reading a book beside her, Luoke jumped in to say: ‘don't blame mom and dad. They told the truth—what's wrong with that? The way I see it, they said too little. All of society tells too little of the truth. If everyone just spoke the truth, stopped telling lies, there just wouldn't be this kind of injustice. In any event, even if our parents really are mistaken, us children can't be held responsible.'”

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