China in Ten Words

I think that Yu Hua has made several criticisms in the five chapters we have read thus far. The most interesting criticism I think Yu makes is how there was very little intellectually stimulating material for the people of China to read/enjoy during the Cultural Revolution. When Yu talks about the first shipment of books that arrives in his town, he describes the “sensation as if today a pop star were sighted in some celebrity-deprived suburb” (53). Yu, and the entire town, were beyond thrilled that books were finally returning. The way that Yu describes the return of books creates such an image on just how deprived the town was of intellectually stimulating material. Yu also describes the return of literary journals and the need for writers as, “like hungry babies wailing for milk, a whole array of fiction columns required nourishment” (81).  Again, Yu uses rather stark and powerful phrases to illustrate how welcomed the return of literature was to China. Everyone had been so deprived of literature as well as deprived of an outlet to express any creativity. I think that Yu was making a criticism about one of the ways the CCP handled the Cultural Revolution poorly.

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Research Update

Unfortunately, the last couple of days have been filled with assignments for classes that were due the next class, as well as a few other long term projects/papers I have been working, so I have not gotten as much done in regards to this paper as I would have liked. I requested and then picked up another book, I think will prove to be particularly helpful in my research, Children of Mao: Personality Development and Political Activism in the Red Guard Generation by Anita Chan. I’ve looked at Jonathan Spence’s bibliography from The Search for Modern China, as a way to find more reliable secondary sources. I’ve also started typing up my notes for another secondary source.

My next three steps for this paper are to:

  1. Continue reading secondary sources and typing up my notes on evidence to use from them
  2. Finish reading my primary sources and typing up the quotes/points that I find particularly intriguing/fit with my paper topic
  3. Create the outline of the my paper


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Research Troubles

For me, when it comes to researching, I’ve always had problems finding credible sources. For my 297 paper, I came across a great secondary source about my topic, only to find out the author had been accused of forging primary sources which basically made any information I was going to use from the source not credible. Luckily, I was able to use the fact that the author had forged the primary sources in my Literature Review, so it all worked out. But I still am weary when picking secondary sources, lest I have any more surprises.

I also find it difficult sometimes, to know if an author of a secondary source is writing with a specific agenda in mind or if they are truly just working with the facts, so bias comes into play here (as we’ve talked about with Primary sources in the past).

And, unfortunately, as a student juggling other classes, work, and club activities, it’s sometimes hard to find the time throughly research the authors of secondary sources to make sure they are credible.

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Primary Source: Morning Breeze

Lo, Fulang. Morning Breeze: A True Story of China’s Cultural Revolution. San Francisco: China Books and Periodicals, 1989.

One of the primary sources that I will be using in my research paper on the Red Guards, is titled Morning Breeze: A True Story of China’s Cultural Revolution by Lo Fulang. Lo was born in 1948 and had just graduated from high school when the Cultural Revolution began. Morning Breeze shares her experiences throughout the entire Cultural Revolution, from the moment she went to school one day to see everyone making posters to the day that Deng Xiaoping took charge. Lo shared her experiences as a “Gray Sort” (someone who was not from a peasant family or a capitalist party) trying to rise in the ranks of the Red Guards as well as her experiences once the Red Guards were sent to live with peasants to be “re-educated” (8-9) Throughout her story, Lo shared how her thoughts and beliefs changed, from being skeptical and just going along with it because she was told to, to being in full support of the Red Guards because she was proud to be Chinese, to being angry, frustrated, and feeling betrayed by Chairman Mao’s actions.

Morning Breeze offers the perspective of a young woman (she was active in the Red Guards from the ages of approximately 17 to 22), who lived in the Cultural Revolution and participated in the Red Guards. Lo rose to leadership positions, and at one point commanded over 10,000 Red Guards in her city (83). Throughout the source, Lo also shared conversations she had with family, friends, and fellow Red Guards that demonstrate other points of view from the Cultural Revolution.

I think this primary source has a few weaknesses, one of which is that this was written by Lo Fulang herself, so there is the chance of bias here. We cannot be one hundred precent certain whether or not she omitted certain details, or if she embellished certain parts. This was also published a little over a decade after the Cultural Revolution had ended, so it is possible that she may not have remembered certain details as clearly as she had written them.

This source does have it strengths though. Lo’s story shares with us what the Cultural Revolution was like, from beginning to end, for someone who actively participated in the Red Guards, as well as provided some insight into how people might have opposed the Revolution, but kept it to themselves. Another strength is Lo’s sense of dedication to the truth. Lo met a woman during her travels, Tao Kuang, who encouraged Lo to become a writer, and to be completely honest in her writing. The last line of Lo’s book is, “Write honestly, because life itself is honest” (243). Tao had told Lo that the night they had met. I think that this brings a sense of sincerity to Lo’s record. I think she tried to be as truthful as she could, and the result is what she remembers of the Cultural Revolution–which is what I’m looking to explore in my paper. I want to look at how members of the Red Guard recall their experiences, how they remember feeling, what they remember doing, and to also see how the feel about it years later, when it’s over.


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Research Project Update

Upon emailing Dr. Fernsebner my top two topics, I’ve actually decided to change my project topic. Instead of focusing on short stories and how they were used for propaganda, I’ve decided that I would rather focus on the Red Guards. I was really intrigued by Benson’s comment, “For a whole generation, the realization that their loyalties earned them only manual labour jobs in rural China and that their supposed ‘counter-revolutionary’ targets were exonerated contributed to changing attitudes toward the Party and its ageing leadership” (45). I want to focus on why people joined the Red Guards, what it was like during their time in the Red Guard, and how they felt about it later in the life.

As of now, I’m building my bibliography that will consist of oral interviews, documentaries, and what other historians have said on the topic of Red Guards.

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The Yield is Abundant


“The vegetables are green, the cucumbers plumb, the yield is abundant.” Click on the image to access the website, or scroll down to the citation at the bottom of the post!

The poster I selected is captioned with “The vegetables are green, the cucumbers plumb, and the yield is abundant.” It was created in February of 1959 by Jin Meisheng.

In the center of the picture, there is a young, healthy, happy rose-cheeked girl selecting a few of the vegetables that dominate over a quarter of the image. There is a wide variety of vegetables and they all look ripe and perfect for eating. In the background we can see two other people working to collect more vegetables to add to the large, healthy looking pile, which certainly looks large enough to provide more than enough food for the village/commune. The colors on the poster appear to be somewhat muted, but are also still bright at the same time, invoking a happy and content feeling.

The girl in the center looks to be only collecting a few vegetables, only taking her share, and not trying to grab as much as possible in fear that it will be gone soon. She’s not in a rush, she’s taking her time, making sure she is getting the best ones she can find.

When I look at this image, I immediately think of how fruitful the harvest must have been that year for those people and how everyone is going to have enough to eat. Knowing that this image was created in 1959 during the Great Leap Forward (and the resulting famine), I think the point of this particular poster was to provide a sense of hope in people that the famine would end soon and that soon their hard work will pay off and they will have bountiful harvest too.

I’m truly curious as to how people reacted to this image, because I feel like this could have been a slap in the face to people, a reminder that they didn’t succeed in having a large enough harvest and were now starving as a consequence.

Jin, Meisheng. “The vegetables are green, the cucumbers plumb, the yield is abundant.” Poster. Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, February 1959. Chinese Posters, IISH Collection. (accessed February 8, 2016).

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Potential Research Topic: Short Stories & Propaganda

For my research project, I want to focus on short stories and the propaganda that was included in the stories during the Maoist era of China. I was intrigued by our reading in “Heroes of the Great Leap Forward” and I wanted to explore more short stories and their propaganda. Short stories are full of symbolism, warnings, and morals that teach the audience as well as entertain them.

I came across an article titled “The Short Story in the Cultural Revolution” by D.E Pollard. Pollard discusses the various parts of short stories and also dissects a story and explains the various meanings behind different events in a particular story (Ch’ing Ming’s “An Early Morning in Spring”). Pollard breaks down different events and explains the significance behind them. Pollard also talks about what has happened to the short story throughout the Cultural Revolution. I think this article will help me to get a firm footing on my potential topic.

Pollard, D.E. “The Short Story in the Cultural Revolution.” The China Quarterly, no. 73 (March 1978): 99-121. Accessed February 3, 2016.

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Young and Restless in China

One of the dynamics that I noted during this documentary was tradition and how deeply ingrained it is in their society. A trend that I noticed in relation to notion of tradition was a “us versus them” mentality. Yang Haiyan, when speaking about how important farmers are to the country, referred to everyone who was not a farmer as, “the outside world” (approx. 33:13). Her comment indicates that there is a strong division between the rural and urban areas. I think this was illustrated in the images that we saw throughout the documentary. There was a stark contrast between the urban cities of China and the rural villages of China, it looked and felt like they were truly two different worlds. Wei Zhanyan’s father made the remark, “Here in the countryside, you can’t go back on your word” (38:45). I think this heavily implies he, and his neighbors, believes that those who live in the city/urban areas often go back on their word and cannot be trusted. Both of these remarks seem to illustrate that a major divide between rural villages and urban cities. Those who live in the rural villages probably view themselves as more traditional and consider those who don’t follow tradition (aka, the big cities) to be turning their backs on tradition.



Another dynamic I noticed was gender and the roles that it played, particularly in the lives of women. Both Wei Zhanyan (12:45) and Yang Haiyan (33:46) left their education so their brother(s) could continue their education while they both went in search of work. Miranda Hong talks about how she wants to live her life the way she wants to and how she wants to “follow her heart” but at the same time is feeling pressure from her entire family to have children (1:33:15). Miranda Hong also mentioned that she was often asked during interviews how soon she was expecting to have children (43:22). Miranda has already spoken about how duty driven she feels in regards to her family (44:51). I found it interesting how it seems that women are expected to drop everything to help/support their male relatives and/or family while it appears the men would continue on their course to become a better provider. To me it seems like there is the notion that women provide temporary support (i.e, going out to work in factories and make money for the family while male siblings continue education), while men work on providing support in the long term.

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Introduction Post

Hello! My name is Shannon and I am a junior at the University of Mary Washington. I am currently enrolled in a 400 level History course titled, “A Cultural History of Late 20th Century China” for which this blog will be used to complete various assignments!

Here are some photos that best describe me:

  1. Travel: I love to travel, although I haven’t done much of it yet. That is changing this summer, though, because I will be participating in a study abroad program (and I’m really excited about it!).
Sweetjessie. two new globes. September 14, 2007. Flickr. January 11, 2015.

Photo 1

2. Reading: I love to read! For as long as I can remember, I have always loved to read. I always have a book with me, whether it be a physical copy or a digital copy!

TerHaar, Kate. "I <3 2 read" February 1, 2013. Flickr. January 11, 2016.

Photo 2

3. Dogs: I absolutely adore dogs. My family adopted a dog named Shadow and she is a mix (we believe) of a Beagle and a German Shepard. One of my favorite parts about walking around campus is seeing people walking their dogs, it never fails to put a smile on my face!

Baluganti, Bernardo. "'wof!' Beagle dog portrait in Casentino - Ritratto di un cane Beagle, Casentino" December 2, 2011. Flickr. January 11, 2016.

Photo 3


  1. Sweetjessie, photographer. two new globes. September 14, 2007. Flickr. (accessed January 12, 2016).
  2. TerHaar, Kate, photographer. I <3 2 read. February 1, 2013. Flickr. (accessed January 12, 2016).
  3. Baluganti, Bernardo, photographer. “wof!” Beagle dog portrait in Casentino – Ritratto di un cane Beagle, Casentino. December 2, 2011. Flickr. (accessed January 12, 2016).
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