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The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History…

The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History (Studies of the Walter H.…

by Joseph W. Esherick

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Esherick et al. are trying to reexamine the Cultural Revolution two decades after it ended, accessing new documents to develop a fuller picture. They look at various aspects and phases with a particular emphasis on the human cost. The first essay, by Xiaowei Zheng, looks at the first phase and decisions made by the Red Guard at Qinghua University. He argues against a single cause for Red Guard decisions. Previous scholarship identifies bloodlines as the key to factionalism in universities, particularly in Guangzhou. Other scholarship says that factions developed in response to work teams. Zheng suggests that one cause is not sufficient, but that both explanations are adequate in some situations. Other divisions include rural v. urban students over an emphasis on technical skills for university entrance. He also suggests political calculations motivated many Red Guards, particularly in Beijing where the political winds shifted frequently.

Dahpon Ho looks at the cultural side of the Cultural Revolution. He says that despite the violence against cultural items, many people at the center protected cultural artifacts, such as art and books. He looks at the alliances to protect a Confucian temple against the rampages of the red guards in Qufu.

Yang Su looks at the violence of the second phase, from 1968 to 1971. He looks a riots and mass killings in three rural areas. He sees people looking for conspiracies but, not finding any, they targeted vulnerable members of society. Su shows that this was not random mob violence, but orchestrated by government officials.

Jiangsu He looks at a single place and incident, writing a microhistory of Yangjiagou. He sees the source of his murder not as the class antagonism because there were many landlords left alone. Instead, the target was his brother-in-law who was a political official who had come under attack elsewhere.

Jeremy Brown looks at Xiaojinzhuang, which was supposed to be the model village. It turned out to be an elaborate sham, complete with pageants and scripts, promoted by Jiang Qing. Once she was ousted, the sham collapsed.

Sigrid Schmalzer looks at science and how it was interacted with politics. Peasants became involved in archeological expeditions, but scientists still maintained their own sense of superiority in their knowledge and training.

Elya Zhang looks the rise and fall one individual. His letter was answered by Mao and he became a celebrity. He was inducted into the CCP and given official positions. After the end of the Cultural Revolution, he was expelled and publicly humiliated. Zhang says that he was typical of many cases of meteoric rises and falls during the Cultural Revolution.

Finally, Liyan Qin looks at the legacy of Cultural Revolution, saying that it continues to reverberate as China tries to come to terms with what happened. Qin looks at popular fiction and memoirs. One very popular book presents the Red Guard as genuine but misguided, giving an almost romantic presentation of the CR. Another tries to overcome the dichotomy of villain and victim. Overall, Qin sees no consensus and believes that China has yet to deal with the trauma of the CR. ( )
  Scapegoats | Dec 4, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804753504, Paperback)

Based on a wide variety of unusual and only recently available sources, this book covers the entire Cultural Revolution decade (1966-76) and shows how the Cultural Revolution was experienced by ordinary Chinese at the base of urban and rural society. The contributors emphasize the complex interaction of state and society during this tumultuous period, exploring the way events originating at the center of political power changed people's lives and how, in turn, people's responses took the Cultural Revolution in unplanned and unanticipated directions. This approach offers a more fruitful way to understand the Cultural Revolution and its historical legacies.

The book provides a new look at the student Red Guard movements, the effort to identify and cultivate potential “revolutionary” leaders in outlying provinces, stubborn resistance to campaigns to destroy the old culture, and the violence and mass killings in rural China.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:51 -0400)

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