Autographic style book by Dr. Li Zhisui ( the private life of chairman mao pp433-546), and the short stories by Chen Jo-hsi, and the movie The Blue Kites, are all about these authors' and director's experiences of the tumultuous year of the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. In what way do you think their works (book and movie) are valuable as historical documents?
The Communist Revolution in China was fighting against corruption and government officials who were out of touch with the people. Once they were in power, the communists had their support to a certain extent. However, these views began to change as a series of brutal crackdowns resulted in many people losing faith in their leaders. (Schrecker) (Gao)
To fully understand what was happening, a series of works were created which are highlighting these shifts. The most notable include: the Private Life of Chairman Moa, short stories by Chen Jo-Hsi and the movie The Blue Kites. Each one serves as a historical backdrop of these events and the lasting impact on everyone. This offers specific insights of these events and how they influenced various social attitudes during this time.
The Mid 1950s to the Early 1960s
Two of the different works start out by showing how the Communist Revolution was about dealing with the challenges which had plagued China for many years. The most notable include: corruption, brutality (at the hands of the state) and incompetent leaders. At first, many people supported the communists. This is because they were challenging the status quo and offered hope. These changes occurred with them promising to redistribute the concentration of wealth, provide greater opportunities and help China to become a world power.
For instance, in the film The Blue Kites, the beginning is set in the 1950s. This is when China is changing with everyone having their own opinions of the revolution. Yet, these transformations are so new that no one fully understands what is happening or the lasting impacts it will have. These ideas are demonstrated with the Father being seen as hopeful about what was happening during the Hundred Flowers Campaign. This is when everyone is encouraged to express their ideas about building a new China. ("The Blue Kite")
On the surface, it seems like China is changing and become more responsive to the needs of the people. However, Chairman Moa changes his mind and subsequently goes after dissent. This is problematic, as the family is torn between supporting the revolution and going against the new policies. That is introduced by the central government. ("The Blue Kite")
Moreover, the Private Life of Chairman Moa is discussing how he was open to change and wanted to create a new China during the mid 1950s. However, he became increasingly paranoid about different rivalries and infighting within the Communist Party. As his personal physician, he saw these changes first hand with many of those close to him quickly being thought of as rivals. This led to the changes in attitudes about what was happening in China and the lasting effects on him. The result is that Moa suddenly reversed course and began going after anyone who he felt was a direct threat to him. (Zhisui)
The basic idea was to utilize these areas as a way to protect the integrity of the revolution. This meant quelling any kind of discontent, with these changes by sending millions of people to hard labor camps. During this process, they were taught about how their limited views were making China worse off. At the same time, they were encouraged to repent their beliefs in order to become more aligned with the communist ideal. This was Moa's way of dealing with possible threats by trying to reform the new society. Throughout the mid 1950s and early 1960s, this became a program he used to build hope that China was slowly changing for the better. (Zhisui)
In this case, both works are useful in illustrating how these shifts had an influence on the Communist Revolution. This occurred with people having hope about the future in the mid 1950s. After the crackdown and reversal by Chairman Mao, is when they were subject to a reign of terror. This is from his paranoia with those around him and what they stood for. The result is that society saw their ability question the government squashed. (Schrecker)
These events are illustrating how society went from hope to despair. Yet, they became afraid to speak out against what was happening with them. Once this happened, is the point many were sent to labor and reeducation camps. The basic idea was to purge the individual of their old ideas from the previous regime. After they have renounced them, is when they could be trusted and were subsequent ally released. (Zhisui)
This was a part of the program known as the Great Leap Forward. During this process, Moa wanted to shift society from an agrarian society to one that was industrialized. These changes occurred; through collectivization and shifting the focus of society towards embracing the communist ideals. (Zhisui)
The two works are showing the transformations from the views of the ordinary person and the inside Chairman Moa's inner circle. These shifts were something where many people had hope for the future. Yet, this was quickly destroyed based upon the fact that Moa began to impose more radical policies that were designed to lead China forward. The problem was that the reforms led to the Great Famine and they were so radical that the average person was worse off in contrast with the old regime. (Zhisui)
The Early to Mid 1960s
In the next phase, the people are becoming disillusioned with the Communist Party and their policies. This is taking place with them facing the continuing results of the Great Famine. A good example of this can be seen in the film The Blue Kites. During the second part of the movie, is when the Uncle Li feels a sense of remorse for sending his friend to the work camp (i.e. Lin). He dies at this location and Li spend every moment, helping his wife and child to ease the distress they are facing in a rapidly declining society. ("The Blue Kite")
Li is considered to be a loyal individual who supported the revolution and the new policies of Chairman Moa. Yet, he is rejected for membership into the Communist Party and tries hard to become accepted. At the same time, he works to provide for his family during the Great Leap Forward. The problem is that there are not enough basic resources and everyone's quality of life falls backwards. At the end of this episode, is when he dies of malnutrition in trying to reach these objectives. ("The Blue Kite")
Zhisui (1994) is showing these shifts from the perspective of the inner workings of the Communist Party. In this case, he is becoming increasingly delusional and frustrated with the lack of progress the country is making from these new programs. As a result, Moa feels that those close to him are secretly plotting their own mini revolution. This is when he orders a series of purges against some of the most loyal individuals inside his inner circle. (Zhisui)
In many cases, Moa used anything he could to go after someone. The most notable include: personal sexual habits, views about the revolution and rumors about activities they may have engaged in. These were covered up by a series of slogans calling for society to work together to support the larger good of China. Yet, underneath the surface, Moa was becoming even more detached and paranoid as time when by. These changes are a part of an effort to illustrate how the revolution was changing. (Zhisui)
As a result, both the movie and Zhisui book are taking a historical view of events which occurred in the mid 1960s. This is when China was supposed to be moving forward through rapid industrialization and collectivization. The problem is these changes were so extreme, that they led to a sense of disillusionment about the revolution. This occurred with Moa challenging what happened and shifting his focus towards those around them. In this case, he became paranoid and felt that everyone was out to get him. While the movie, is illustrating the frustrations the ordinary person is facing from trying to make these adjustments. Yet, they are unable to become a part of the social elite through Communist Party. This is when they are subject to a life of hunger and poverty. (Zhisui)
The Mid 1960s to 1976
All three works are illustrating the sense of dejection society has towards Moa, his policies and revolution itself. This takes place from the mid-1960 until Moa's death in 1976. During this time frame, Moa feels that the revolution has been sabotaged by the old guard in the Communist Party. They are continuing to secretly embrace these polices of the former regime and are plotting against him even more. (Gao)