“What is your understanding of the Chinese revolution and how has it changed your life?

It is 1978.  Mao has been dead for two years, and you have passed the examination to become a member of an elite university class in Historical Documentation.  Your first assignment is to collect two oral histories that provide different angles on the topic: “What is your understanding of the Chinese revolution and how has it changed your life?  Which national events and campaigns from 1949 to 1976 affected you the most?  What are the main achievements and problems of the Mao years?”

You pick TWO of the following three people to interview (your choice):

  • Li (b. 1925), a Beijing writer. Labeled a Rightist in late 1957 for publishing critical stories and essays. Sent to labor with the peasants from 1958-1961. He spent much of the 1960s and 1970s under a political cloud.  His Rightist “hat” has just been removed in 1978 and his position in the Writer’s Union restored.
  • Zhang (b. 1934), a villager from Shaanxi. Activist.  Broke off her arranged engagement at 17.  Later married a fellow Peasant Association member.  Became a champion cotton grower and labor model in the late 1950s.  Five children.
  • Chen (b. 1952), a former Shanghai middle school Red Guard. Spent nine years (1968-1977) in Anhui, in an area where the Great Leap Forward had caused a famine in 1959.  Now at university, where some classmates have spent years in the countryside, while others were Shanghai factory workers before testing into university.

Note: this is not an interview about Mao.  Each of the interviewees thinks of Mao as an integral part of the background and environment.  The questions is how Maoist initiatives affected or did not affect the interviewees, and how the interviewees reacted to and even changed the course of those initiatives.  In thinking about their experiences, consider how locality, class background, age, gender, profession, family background and personal experience might have shaped each of them.

Your Historical Documentation report may take the form of a transcript of the two interviews with an analytical introduction by you, or you may write it in the form of a report in your own voice.  You should use as many of the names and terms on the list below as you can in your essay as appropriate.  Random use of names and terms is not encouraged.

It should be 3-4 pages double-spaced, 12-pt. font. Choose your words carefully

Names and terms to use in your essay as appropriate:

Mao Zedong

Chinese Communist Party

Korean War

Land Reform

class labels: landlord, sublandlord,

rich peasant, middle peasant,

poor peasant, hired laborer

Marriage Law, May 1950

collectivization:  mutual aid teams,

lower producers’ cooperatives,

advanced producer’s cooperatives

danwei (work unit)

First Five-year Plan

work points

hukou (household registration system)

Hundred Flowers campaign

Stalin and Khrushchev

strike wave of 1957

Anti-Rightist campaign

Great Leap Forward (1958-59)

communal dining halls

exaggeration wind

Peng Dehuai

Sino-Soviet split (1960)

Three Hard Years (1959-61)

Lei Feng (1940-1962)

“people in positions of authority within the Party who take the capitalist road”

Cultural Revolution

Mao Zedong Thought/ Little Red Book

Liu Shaoqi

Deng Xiaoping


“Bombard the Headquarters”

Lin Biao

Jiang Qing

Red Guards

chuanlian (exchanging revolutionary experiences)

Five Red Categories:

poor and lower-middle class       peasants; workers; rev soldiers; rev

cadres; dependents of rev martyrs

Seven Black Categories:

landlords; rich peasants;

reactionaries; bad elements; rightists;

traitors; spies; “capitalist roaders in

positions of authority”; and the

“stinking ninth category,”



three great differences:

mental/manual labor, city/          countryside, workers/farmers

January Storm

Shanghai Commune

Revolutionary Committee (army, party,

mass organizations)


communes, brigades, teams

sent-down youth (“up to the mountains and

down to the villages”)

barefoot doctors

Richard Nixon

ping-pong diplomacy

Shanghai Communiqué

Zhou Enlai

Gang of Four:

Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao,

Yao Wenyuan, Wang Hongwen

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