|Understanding the Cultural Revolution|
Introduction Lecture and Class Discussion
The events leading up to and during the Cultural Revolution in China can be confusing for students to sort out. Before beginning the Red Scarf Girl, read the following short articles below as a springboard for a class introduction lecture and discussion that introduces the historic context of the book and the events of the Cultural Revolution:
Read the following short article at the beginning of the lesson:
Introduction to The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1966-76
The period of The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (approximately 1966-76) was the most extreme in modern Chinese history. Though its underlying causes were political, it had profound cultural and economic consequences. Chairman Mao began the Cultural Revolution as an attempt to regain power after criticisms emerged about the ruling of China. His goal was to return to the ideals of the Chinese Communist Revolution. Liu Shaoqi and other "revisionists" had advocated relying on an urban intellectual elite to lead national development, and they favored using bonuses as incentives to increase production. Mao Zedong, however, emphasized that workers and peasants were the true revolutionary forces, and he sought to increase production through political idealism (including propaganda and "re-education"). He closed the schools and called upon all youth to take up the cause of revolution as "Red Guards." They were to fight against those who were "taking the "capitalist road." With the support of the Red Guards and the army, Mao had Liu Shaoqi removed from power by the end of 1968; revolutionary committees were established at all levels to replace the centralized bureaucracy associated with Liu. Party cadres were sent to the countryside to learn respect for physical labor and "correct" political thinking. The Red Guards attempted to eliminate the "Four Olds": old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. They traveled around the country destroying religious icons and ancient art works, changing names of streets and parks, forcing women to avoid "bourgeois" clothing and long hair, and violently attacking counterrevolutionaries and foreigners. The Red Guards purged one faction after another, often with no apparent consistency, and fought with one another. Thus, it was dangerous to speak and write, because what was proper one day might be considered counter-revolutionary the next day.