The Making and Remaking of China’s "Red Classics": Politics, Aesthetics, and Mass Culture 9789888390892

The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics” is the first full-length work to bring together research on the “red c

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The Making and Remaking of China’s "Red Classics": Politics, Aesthetics, and Mass Culture

Table of contents :
Contents......Page 6
Acknowledgments......Page 8
Introduction......Page 9
PART I - Creating the Canon: The “Red Classics” in the Maoist Era......Page 22
1. The “Red Classic” That Never Was......Page 24
2. Great Changes in Critical Reception......Page 43
3. How to Tell a Story of Imprisonment......Page 63
4. How Is Revolution “Popularized”?......Page 80
5. Shaping the “Red Classics” of Chinese Art in Early Socialist China......Page 95
Images 5.1-15......Page 114
6. Castration for the People......Page 130
PART II - Making over the Canon: The “Red Classics” in the Reform Era......Page 150
7. The Politics and Aesthetics of Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua of the Reform Era......Page 152
8. The Cultural Indigenization of a Soviet “Red Classic” Hero......Page 173
9. The Red Sister-in-Law Remakes......Page 193
10. Families, Intellectuals, and Enemies in the “Red Classic” Remake New Tunnel Warfare......Page 214
Contributors......Page 226
Index......Page 229

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The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics” “The Making and Remaking of China’s ‘Red Classics’ analyzes the creation of literature in the Maoist era as well as the way in which the revolutionary canon was rediscovered and imagined during the reform period. This book is a timely and fascinating set of studies, critically illuminating a foundational time during PRC history and its aftermath.” —Wendy Larson, professor emerita, University of Oregon “Creative works produced in the Mao era (1942–1976) are often dismissed as mere propaganda. Despite the fact that they are artistic reflections of that remarkable period, scholars have generally ignored these ‘red classics.’ This book throws much needed light on them. It is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the cultural scene in China.” —Kam Louie, honorary professor, University of Hong Kong and UNSW, Australia

Li Li is associate professor of Chinese and Asian Studies at the University of Denver. She is the author of Memory, Fluid Identity, and the Politics of Remembering: The Representations of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in EnglishCultural History / speaking Countries.

Literary Criticism / China

Cover image: Hung Liu, We Have Been Naught, We Shall Be All (2007). Oil on canvas, 80 x 240 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Printed and bound in Hong Kong, China

The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics” Politics, Aesthetics, and Mass Culture


Rosemary Roberts researches Chinese gender and culture at the University of Queensland and is the author of Maoist Model Theatre: The Semiotics of Gender and Sexuality in the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Edited by Rosemary Roberts and Li Li

The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics” is the first full-length work to bring together research on the “red classics” across the entire Maoist period through to the reform era. It covers a representative range of genres including novels, short stories, films, TV series, picture books, animation, and traditional-style paintings. Collectively, the chapters offer a panoramic view of the production and reception of the original “red classics” and the adaptations and remakes of such works after the Cultural Revolution. The contributors present fascinating stories of how a work came to be regarded as, or failed to become, a “red classic.” There has never been a single answer to the question of what counts as a “red classic”; artists had to negotiate the changing political circumstances and adopt the correct artistic technique to bring out the authentic image of the people, while appealing to the taste of the mass audience at the same time. A critical examination of these works reveals their sociopolitical and ideological import, aesthetic significance, and function as a mass cultural phenomenon at particular historical moments. This volume marks a step forward in the growing field of the study of Maoist cultural products.

The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics”

Politics, Aesthetics, and Mass Culture

Edited by Rosemary

Roberts and Li Li



The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics”

The Making and Remaking of China’s “Red Classics”

Politics, Aesthetics, and Mass Culture

Edited by Rosemary Roberts and Li Li

Hong Kong University Press The University of Hong Kong Pokfulam Road Hong Kong © 2017 Hong Kong University Press ISBN 978-988-8390-89-2 (Hardback) All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed and bound by Paramount Printing Co., Ltd., Hong Kong, China


Acknowledgmentsvii Introductionviii Rosemary Roberts and Li Li PART I: Creating the Canon: The “Red Classics” in the Maoist Era 1. The Red Classic That Never Was: Wang Lin’s Hinterland3 Lianfen Yang (Translated by Ping Qiu and Richard King) 2. Great Changes in Critical Reception: “Red Classic” Authenticity and the “Eight Black Theories” Richard King


3. How to Tell a Story of Imprisonment: Ideology, Truth, and Melodramatic Body in the Making of Red Crag42 Li Li 4. How Is Revolution “Popularized”? Rereading Tracks in the Snowy Forest59 Yang Li (Translated by Krista Van Fleit Hang) 5. Shaping the “Red Classics” of Chinese Art in Early Socialist China: Manipulating Tradition to Establish New Guohua74 Kuiyi Shen 6. Castration for the People: The Politics of Revision and the Structure of Violence in Hao Ran’s Short Stories Xiaofei Tian


PART II: Making over the Canon: The “Red Classics” in the Reform Era 7. The Politics and Aesthetics of Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua of the Reform Era Rosemary Roberts


vi Contents

8. The Cultural Indigenization of a Soviet “Red Classic” Hero: Pavel Korchagin’s Journey through Time and Space Frederik H. Green


9. The Red Sister-in-Law Remakes: Redefining the “Fish-and-Water” Relationship for the Era of Reform and Opening Qian Gong


10. Families, Intellectuals, and Enemies in the “Red Classic” Remake New Tunnel Warfare177 Lara Vanderstaay List of Contributors 189 Index192


This project is a collaboration among a group of international scholars. The editors want to thank all authors for the contributions of their critical insights and for their unfailing efforts to undertake the revisions that made this a better book. The editors are particularly grateful to Krista Van Fleit Hang, who took on the translation of Chapter 4 under unusual circumstances but completed it in a timely manner; and to Richard King, for his advice and editorial assistance beyond the obligations of an author on a number of the other chapters. Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation provided generous support to the symposium held in the summer of 2015, at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane. The symposium allowed the authors of this collection to present and to discuss the early versions of their respective works, including those in this volume. Rosemary would also like to thank the University of Queensland, Brisbane, for provision of the venue and its administrative support in hosting the event. Li is thankful to the University of Denver for an Internationalization Grant, which gave additional support for her participation in the symposium and for a small grant from Dean’s Office of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences that assisted in the translation of the first draft of Chapter 1. The editors are grateful to the two anonymous external reviewers whose thorough readings of the manuscript and insightful suggestions to the revisions greatly improved this collection. The editors are grateful to Eric Mok, the acquisitions editor at Hong Kong University Press, for his confidence in this project, his patience, and his push for improvement.

Introduction Rosemary Roberts and Li Li

The term “red classics” first emerged in the early post-Mao period and became established in Chinese cultural discourse during the 1990s. Initially narrow in scope, at first the term referred to the widely popular major novels that were published in state-run publishing houses in the Seventeen Years between the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 and the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. These included a fixed core of eight novels consisting of Wu Qiang’s 吳強 Red Sun (Hong ri 紅日), Yang Yiyan 楊益言 and Luo Guangbin’s 羅廣斌 Red Crag (Hong yan 紅岩), Liang Bin’s 梁斌 Genealogy of the Red Flag (Hongqi pu 紅旗譜), Liu Qing’s 柳青 The Builders (Chuangye shi 創業史), Yang Mo’s 楊沫 Song of Youth (Qingchun zhi ge 青春之歌), Zhou Libo’s 周立波 Great Changes in a Mountain Village (Shanxiang jubian 山鄉巨變), Du Pengcheng’s 杜鵬程 Protect Yan’an (Baowei Yan’an 保衛延安), and Qu Bo’s 曲波 Tracks in the Snowy Forest (Linhai xueyuan 林海雪原),1 along with a less fixed set of secondary works that included novels such as Zhi Xia’s 知俠 Railroad Guerillas (Tiedao youjidui 鐵道游擊隊) and Zhou Erfu’s 周而復 Morning in Shanghai (Shanghai de zaochen 上海的早晨). These novels are characterized both by their thematic coherence and by their adherence to the requirements for literature set out in Mao’s 1942 Talks at the Yan’an Forum and the principles of Revolutionary Realism, or their later replacements Socialist Realism, or the Combination of Revolutionary Realism and Revolutionary Romanticism. Thematically they fall into two categories: historical tales of the exploits of the Communist heroes of the revolutionary war, and tales of the struggle to transform Chinese society through the socialist reform of agriculture and industry. In style, aesthetics, and ideological conception, the novels place workers, peasants, and soldiers at the forefront: as heroic protagonists, as drivers of the revolution and of social transformation, and as the readership whose standard of literacy and whose literary and aesthetic tastes had to be catered to so that literature could achieve the required 1. Known together as “san hong yi chuang, qing shan bao lin” (三紅一創,青山保林; three reds and one build, youth-mountain-protect-forest).

Introduction ix

pedagogical function of fostering a new class and socialist consciousness. This meant that the novels adopted colloquial language, a lively style with entertaining fast-paced action, and a pantheon of larger-than-life heroes and villains. After the emergence of this narrow but clearly defined concept of “red classics,” buoyed by the waves of revolutionary nostalgia that swept society and the surge in demand for “red” products, the term evolved into a more fluid concept that incorporated both a broader time frame and a greater range of forms and genres. The temporal scope of “red classics” expanded to include the whole of the period of Maoist ideological domination from the time of the Yan’an Talks in 1942 to the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), incorporating works from the Communist “liberated areas” such as the stories of the “peasant” writer Zhao Shuli 趙樹理 and the fiction of the Cultural Revolution period novelist Hao Ran 浩然. The forms and media also expanded to include not just fiction but also popular and influential works in the fields of film, theater, sculpture, fine art, and picture storybooks as well as popular revolutionary songs and the major revolutionary modern operas and ballets, some of which were themselves adaptations of the earlier works.2 Because Chinese socialist literature had developed within the genealogy of Soviet-style Socialist Realism, foreign fiction and films created under these principles were immensely popular in the Seventeen Years. Some of these also reappeared as “red classics” in reform-era China. Since it is this broader range of “red classics” that have been the target of reproduction and adaptation in reform-era China, it is this broadest understanding of the scope of the “red classics” that we adopt in this volume. The creation of this body of literary and art works during the Maoist era reflected the results of a nationwide, state-sanctioned literary practice of constructing revolutionary myth to legitimize and secure the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in mainland China. At the same time the works demonstrate a wide-ranging social transformation by creating models of the socialist new person offering a vision of how the individual and collective should function in a more egalitarian, socially considerate, and selfless manner. While the thematic and stylistic potential initially demonstrated in the original forms of many of the “red classics” was rich and diverse, as the political climate in China changed, works were progressively made to fit into the CCP’s increasingly homogenized ideological system and literary and artistic framework through a complex process of appropriations and revisions. This process reached its extreme in the Cultural Revolution, during which the nation’s cultural landscape shrank into a single, narrow ideological mold dominated by class struggle and typified by the famous “model performances” (yangbanxi 樣板戲).

2. Most famously, Qu Bo’s Tracks in the Snowy Forest was adapted into film under the same name and during the Cultural Revolution was adapted into Revolutionary Modern Beijing Opera form as Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (Zhiqi Weihushan 智取威虎山). It was also published in picture storybook (lianhuanhua) form.

x Introduction

It is no surprise that after the end of the Cultural Revolution, this body of Socialist Realist literature and art was quickly abandoned, together with Maoist ideology, as  the Chinese people embraced the new era of reform. The ensuing 1980s saw a rapid economic expansion, a surge of new modes of literary and artistic experiments, and quickly shifting literary and artistic trends from modernism to postmodernism. In the 1990s and continuing into the new millennium, however, as the country’s economic reforms continued to expand, new problems emerged, including the evergreater disparity between rich and poor, and rampant official corruption. Paralleling this, a significant change occurred in China’s cultural landscape—a change ironically marked by the return of the literary and cultural products of the Maoist era, now elevated to the status of “red classics.” The novels, short stories, films, and picture books first made famous in the Seventeen Years were put back onto the shelves of the now privately owned bookstores. Old films about revolutionary heroes and heroines were remastered or remade; the “red classic” ballets and operas were restaged along with theater adaptations of “red classic” literature; old revolutionary stories were adapted into household television dramas; and red songs sung by popular rock stars could be heard from government conference halls to restaurants, karaoke houses, and even in public parks. Though disparaged by literary and cultural critics in the West and among the post-Mao Chinese literati, the “red classics,” with their epic vision of a society united in a heroic struggle to progress toward an egalitarian, utopian future, on the one hand, offered a comforting and familiar refuge for individuals struggling to survive and find meaning in a fragmented society directed by the fickle demands of the market. On the other hand, they provided opportunities for creative juxtapositions of critiques against and parody, mockery, or satire of the myths and icons of the Communist Party. At the same time, the reappearance of the “red classics” offered an opportunity to the CCP to reaffirm its relevance and legitimate right to rule at the time when its political capital was at a dangerously low ebb, so governmentcontrolled media and publishing houses, both central and provincial, played a supporting role to market demand in promoting a continuous stream of new adaptations of the old classics. Whatever the judgment on the literary quality or cultural value of the “red classics,” their continual reappearance in multiple forms at multiple points in China’s recent history attests to their importance as a cultural phenomenon and their worthiness as a subject for focused analysis. For a variety of mostly political and ideological reasons, the “red classics” have historically been neglected as a topic for research in both Chinese- and English-language scholarship. Recent years have, however, witnessed a gradual growth of critical attention to the field. To date studies have focused primarily on a single part of the Maoist period, and research has generally focused on a single genre.3 Further, while the 3. For primary publications on this topic consulted by the authors, see Bibliography.

Introduction xi

reappearance of “red” culture and the “Mao craze” in the reform era have received some attention as a sociological and psychological phenomenon,4 there has been no major study devoted to examining the reform-era adaptations of the “red classics” or their relationship with their predecessors. This current volume therefore seeks to address this lacuna in contemporary scholarship as the first full-length work to bring together research on the “red classics” from the Maoist era, including the Seventeen Years and the Cultural Revolution, to the reform era—across a representative range of literary and art forms and media, from novels and short stories to films, TV series, picture books (lianhuanhua 連環畫), cartoons, and traditional-style painting (guohua 國畫). It critically investigates the “red classics” in three key areas: their sociopolitical and ideological import, their aesthetic significance, and their function as a mass cultural phenomenon. The book is organized in two parts in chronological order, covering the Maoist years to the end of the Cultural Revolution, and the reform era, respectively. While most of the chapters focus primarily on one of these two periods, many also follow the fate of their subject through both periods under consideration, creating overall a highly coherent overview of the changing phenomenon of the “red classics” over the seventy-five years since the Yan’an Forum, and in the process simultaneously tracing the changing dynamic between the CCP and its self-sanctioned narrative of the communist revolution. Our first chapter introduces a question that is critical to the study of the “red classics” and illuminates the research in the remainder of the book: What determined what could become a “red classic” and what could not? Lianfen Yang’s study on the fate of Wang Lin’s 王林 novel of the Sino-Japanese War, Hinterland (Fudi 腹地), provides critical insight into the complexities around this issue through her exploration of the conundrum that Hinterland embodies: How could an experienced writer and staunch party member who had fought the Japanese from a CCP-controlled village behind enemy lines in accordance with Mao’s battle strategy of the time and then faithfully recorded his experience in a novel that achieved “brisk sales” on first publication fail to produce a “red classic” not once but twice? From Yang’s fascinating case study we can extrapolate that for a work to become a “red classic” it had simultaneously to satisfy four major criteria: 1.  The writing (or art work) had to be an “authentic” representation of the lives of workers, soldiers, or peasants taking part in the struggle for Communist victory or for socialist transformation of the state. For this reason writers and artists were exhorted to go deeply into the lives of their subjects (shenru shenghuo 深入生活) before commencing their creative work. Richard King notes that this was a key to promotion 4. Geremie Barmé, In the Red (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Dai Jinhua, “Rewriting the Red Classics,” in Rethinking Chinese Popular Culture: Cannibalizations of the Canon, ed. Carlos Rojas and Eileen Cheng-yin Chow (London and New York: Routledge, 2009).

xii Introduction

of the “red classic” novels in the 1950s and early 1960s, and his chapter records that both Zhou Libo and Ding Ling spent many months embedded in rural villages before completing their novels of land reform and rural collectivization, while Kuiyi Shen’s chapter shows that long, state-sponsored trips to the countryside to sketch from real life were a powerful factor in the socialist transformation of traditional art in the 1950s. In the post-Mao era, adaptations of the “red classics” also took on the mission of affirming the authenticity of the “red classic” heroes themselves, as chapters by Rosemary Roberts and Qian Gong attest. 2.  While literature and art had to faithfully reflect life, this had to be moderated to accord with the “historical truth” and the CCP’s political agenda of the time. What was “typical,” “authentic,” “real,” or “true” had to be understood and represented through the Marxist teleological view of history as inevitable progress under the leadership of the proletariat toward a Communist society. From this ideological viewpoint the portrayal of workers, soldiers, or peasants in anything other than a heroic light was not “typical” or “true,” and portrayal of authentic details from writers’ lived experience left them open to the accusation of “naturalism.” The contrasting cases of Wang Lin failing to make his real and authentic wartime experience into a “red classic,” and the authors of Red Crag succeeding in transforming their traumatic experiences of wartime incarceration into a prototypical “red classic” only after intense instruction from ideologically “enlightened” cultural officials (see Li Li’s chapter), are instructive in this respect. At the same time, a “red classic” had also to reflect current CCP policy in its subject matter. The local democratic elections in the Communist base area described in Hinterland were off the agenda in the new socialist state and not acceptable subject matter for the early 1950s. Yang also points out that while Wang Lin faithfully recorded Mao’s eminently wise strategy of not directly confronting a far more powerful enemy, after the Communist takeover this did not accord with the heroic mythology of the Communist state that the CCP then sought to establish. Our authors (Yang, King) demonstrate that geographical isolation and poor communication in the 1940s and 1950s sometimes meant that writers were unaware that the political ground had already shifted and thereby produced works that were already politically out of date when they reached their publishers. In the art world, similar vicissitudes of political life required artists to replace sections of works or produce new versions to reflect new power configurations. Most famously, Dong  Xiwen’s (1953) oil painting The Founding of the Nation, portraying the CCP leadership and Mao proclaiming the foundation of the PRC from atop Tiananmen Gate in 1949, underwent modifications on multiple occasions (1955, 1972, 1980) to remove or restore political leaders (most notably Gao Gang and Liu Shaoqi) as they fell from or regained political favour.5 Political change also led to the suppression of 5. Gao Gang was removed from the painting after he fell from power in 1953, while Liu Shaoqi was removed from the painting after being disgraced during the Cultural Revolution. After Liu was rehabilitated post–Cultural

Introduction xiii

literature and art of the Seventeen Years during the Cultural Revolution and to the suppression of Cultural Revolution literary and art production and the reappearance of the works of the Seventeen Years in the early years of the reform era. 3.  The work had to adopt the literary and artistic techniques that were deemed at that time to be able to represent the “real” and the “authentic” historical truth discussed above. Mao’s Talks at the Yan’an Forum had demanded that literature and art should take a strong class stance and portray workers, soldiers, and peasants through “typical characters in typical circumstances.” The subsequent introduction of the policy of Socialist Realism and its later incarnation, the “Combination of Revolutionary Realism and Revolutionary Romanticism,” with their demands to portray society in its higher, more ideal form, required writers and artists to negotiate a narrow and perilous path between representing a recognizable reality with realistic characters and representing the idealized version of reality with class-based character types. In  this respect the Soviet Union provided important role models: King’s chapter notes the influence of M. A. Sholokhov on Zhou Libo as he pioneered the Chinese version of the Socialist Realist novel in Hurricane; while Shen’s chapter discusses the powerful impact of Soviet oil painting on new Chinese socialist art in the 1950s. Ironically, the influence of the classic Soviet Socialist Realist novel has outlasted the Soviet Union itself, as Frederick Green’s chapter shows through his study of the gradual Chinese indigenization of Ostrovskii’s How the Steel Was Tempered and its reappearance in new media forms in China in the new millennium. During the Cultural Revolution period the “Three Prominences” (Santuchu 三 突出)6 that dominated literature and art production of the time took this tension between “reality” and “ideals” within the concept of “realism” to such an extreme that only portrayal of class stereotypes that verged on self-parody was acceptable. As several of the chapters of this volume demonstrate (Yang, King, Li Li, Shen, and Xiaofei Tian), in response to these tensions individual authors navigated complex processes of contestation, self-censorship, negotiation, and appropriation with cultural officials, editors, publishers, and critics in the making and remaking of their works. State control of publication and circulation meant that only works with state approval had the opportunity to be promoted and circulated nationally through mainstream channels and were therefore the only works that had the possibility of becoming “red classics.”

Revolution, artists were instructed to reinsert him into the painting (Dong Xiwen was no longer alive to do it himself), but the painting had been so heavily modified to remove Liu that this was deemed impossible, and it was decided simply to create a copy of the original with Liu returned to his previous position. 6. The “Three Prominences” is one of core elements of Cultural Revolution literary theory, which requires that, among all characters, prominence is to be given to positive characters; among positive characters, prominence is to be given to heroic characters; and among heroic characters, prominence is to be given to a main heroic character.

xiv Introduction

4.  The final criterion for a work to achieve the status of “red classic” was that it had to achieve widespread popularity among the nation’s readership or viewers, something that ideological correctness and political timeliness could not guarantee. Mao had been aware of the need for socialist literature and art to be popular if it were to be an effective tool for education and propaganda. In his Yan’an Talks he had advocated that writers and artists should draw on popular forms such as local art, drama, and songs to broaden the appeal of their work. While Yang’s study argues that Wang Lin’s attempts at making a “red classic” failed partly on account of anachronistic aesthetics—the 1950 attempt failing because of Wang’s adherence to the elite aesthetics of May Fourth era writers and the 1985 attempt failing because of his adherence to outdated Maoist literary dogma, other chapters in the volume demonstrate how the “red classics” drew on popular performance and visual art forms (King, Li Yang, Li  Li, and Shen) and how their remakes have utilized new mass media forms such as the cartoon and TV series to achieve broad popularity and confirm their canonical status (Lara Vanderstaay, Gong, and Green). The second chapter in Part I, King’s study of Zhou Libo’s Great Changes in a Mountain Village, complements Yang’s chapter by tracing the development of the literary debates over authenticity, realism, and the portrayal of “middle characters” that guided literary criticism from the early 1960s to the end of the Maoist era. Though these debates are often neglected by scholarly studies of Maoist period literature and art, in fact understanding these theoretical debates is critical to a deep understanding of how the historical milieu shaped the process of creation and critical fate of many of the works of the time. King’s case study illustrates just how national literary debate impacted writers’ lived experience, as Zhou’s adherence to truthfully representing the experience of collectivization in his home village at first brought praise but then brought condemnation as the political and literary climate changed. The chapter highlights the differentiation and slippage between realism and authenticity, the real and the fictional, author and protagonist, actor and stage character that red classic authors were required to confront and manage, often leading to their downfall as the political environment shifted. The following three chapters illuminate issues of production management and aesthetic influences on the early period “red classics.” Li Li and Shen’s chapters show how production of the “red classics” was carefully managed by varied cultural organs of the party to create the new socialist literature and art respectively. Li Li’s chapter on Red Crag reveals the practical mechanics of the process by which the raw experience of life in a notorious Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party) concentration camp was continuously revised to produce a narrative that conformed to the teleological vision of the new Communist state, while Shen’s chapter throws similar light on the way established traditional painters and artists were managed and their art reshaped through the application of principles set down in the Yan’an Talks and a

Introduction xv

deliberate “modernization” of traditional Chinese painting. Both authors also illuminate the aesthetic origins of the “red classics”: Li Li through discussion of melodrama and Shen through his explication of the Western and Soviet influence on art of the Seventeen Years. Yang Li’s chapter on Tracks in the Snowy Forest takes up this issue of the aesthetic origins of the “red classics” in detail, convincingly demonstrating the indigenous folknarrative origins of the three main character types found in the novel. Importantly, Yang Li’s study shows that while the adoption of traditional aesthetics and narrative techniques ensured the popularity of these stories of revolutionary heroes, at the same time they burdened the new narratives with cultural residues that undercut the modern ways of thinking and seeing the world that the stories were intended to impart. This highlights a complex question that faced the Communists in their efforts to reshape Chinese literature and art: if old forms are borrowed to express new content, in the end does it produce “new wine in old bottles” or “old wine in new bottles”? Our authors show that there is no simple answer: while Yang Li’s chapter argues that the old forms placed a conservative brake on new content in the case of Tracks in the Snowy Forest, Shen, discussing the same conundrum in the art world concludes, that in the case of guohua the tension between modern ideologies and traditional forms was not just resolved but led to invigoration and innovation in the field and produced some of the greatest public artworks of the Maoist period. King’s chapter, as discussed above, includes a critical analysis of the increasingly restrictive literary policies of the 1960s. The results of these policies are further examined in Tian’s nuanced study of the fiction of the most celebrated writer of the Cultural Revolution period, Hao Ran. Tian argues, through comparisons of Hao Ran’s early short stories written in the late fifties and early sixties with revised versions published in 1973, that the revisions and particularly the deletions constitute a symbolic “selfcastration” as his work lost the raw sexuality, charm, simplicity, richness, and lyricism that had characterized his stories of peasant life in his early work. Tian’s chapter also echoes the findings of Yang on the fate of Hinterland, highlighting how self-censorship in response to real or perceived political demands (by the 1980s Wang Lin was no longer under any external pressure to revise Hinterland but continued to do so) functions to stifle both authenticity and creativity, leaving only formulaic and sterile political rhetoric. After disappearing briefly, the “red classics” started to reemerge early in the reform era, first in the form of reprints of the best-loved works of the Seventeen Years and later also in the form of reproductions or adaptations of “red classics” from all periods including the Cultural Revolution. While reprints of “red classic” novels and remastered digital versions of “red classic” films chiefly function to evoke a memory of the past, adaptations, remakes, and spin-offs tend to speak more to the present, and it is on these new renditions of the “red classics” that we focus in Part II of this

xvi Introduction

book in order to understand the changing relationship among politics, aesthetics, and mass culture reflected in these new works. In each of the case studies presented, the new “red classics” seek in some way to stabilize or consolidate the relationship between audience or readership and the current regime. This is sometimes effected by using surviving “red classic” heroes to validate the current regime as the genuine inheritor of a pure revolutionary tradition: in Roberts’s chapter these heroes are the elderly “real” Red Sister-in-Law and the elderly Korean war hero, Li Yu’an, who are represented in new style lianhuanhua picture storybooks now aimed at a middleclass readership, while in Green’s chapter the heroes are manifested in a speaking tour of China by Ostrovskii’s wife in which she was curiously understood as, and herself took on the role of, a hybrid of the real and fictional worlds of the author and his famous characters. In other cases, rather than using the heroes of original stories to endorse the current regime’s revolutionary credentials, the stories themselves are reworked to change the nature of the revolutionary credentials to which the current leadership lays claim, bringing them into line with current social and political trends. Gong’s chapter illustrates how, in the TV series Yimeng, based on the Red Sister-inLaw stories, reference to class and class conflict has been replaced with Confucian “humanity” and harmony within a “natural” hierarchy that places the CCP, then and now, at the top of a ladder requiring loyalty and obedience to one’s superiors, a finding also echoed in Vanderstaay’s chapter on the new children’s animated cartoon version of Tunnel Warfare. A broader adaptation of the “red classic” heroes to the changing socioeconomic climate is also evident in Green’s chapter’s tracing of the historical evolution of the figure of Communist hero Pavel Korchagin in China over a period of several decades, from war hero and popular icon in the Maoist era to role model for pursuing individual choices and personal fulfillment in a Chinese TV series produced at the turn of the millennium. Previous scholarship has tended to highlight the transformation of the “red classics” into cultural commodities that are caught, on one hand, between the commercial desire of publishers and producers to maximize market value by inserting titillating or sensational elements to attract readers and viewers and, on the other hand, restrictions imposed by the state to protect the sanctity of the red heroes. Our authors show that both production and reception of the “red classics” in the post-Mao era go beyond that model: Yimeng was a project of the local party committee designed both to preserve the local revolutionary heritage and to promote the commercial success of the Yimeng brand based on that historical reputation, while the TV industry was not solely seeking profit but sought also to create a quality product that would highlight the spirit of the local people. In the case of both Yimeng and Chen Li’s new fine art renderings of the stories of Red Sister-in-Law and Li Yu’an, producer and artist were initially charged with a political mission but found a new empathy and respect for their subjects that is tangibly expressed in the resulting cultural products—products

Introduction xvii

that then in turn did also become commercial successes, with Yimeng becoming one of the highest-rated TV shows at the time and Chen’s evocative drawings for the new lianhuanhua attracting high prices for reproductions of individual plates marketed on the Internet. Clearly the adaptation of the “red classics” is a highly complex and fluid process not adequately characterized by any single formulation. As stories already deeply embedded in the cultural psyche, they will no doubt continue to evolve and adapt to socioeconomic and political change and continue to be a significant cultural phenomenon for many decades to come: on one hand, articulating Chinese nostalgic connections to their recent past and lived experience; and, on the other, demonstrating diversified attempts at departing from, transcending, and even rewriting that past.

Bibliography Barmé, Geremie. In the Red. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Button, Peter. Configurations of the Real in Chinese Literary and Aesthetic Modernity. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2009. Cai Xiang 蔡翔. Geming/xushu: Zhongguo shehui zhuyiwenxue—wenhua xiangxiang (1949– 1966) 革命/敘述:中國社會主義文學——文化想像 (1949–1966) [Revolution and its narratives: China’s socialist literary and cultural imaginaries 1949–1966]. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010. ———. Revolution and Its Narratives: China’s Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginations, 1949–1966, edited and translated by Rebecca Karl and Xueping Zhong. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2016. Chen Weijun 陳偉軍. Chuanmei shiyu zhong de wenxue: Jianguo shiqinian xiaoshuo de shengchan jizhi yu chuanbo fangshi 傳媒視域中的文學:建國十七年小說的生產機制 與傳播方式 [Literature in the media: The production and circulation of novels of the Seventeen Years]. Guilin: Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe, 2009. Chen, Xiaomei. Acting the Right Part: Political Theater and Popular Drama in Contemporary China. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2002. Chen Yung-fa. “Suspect History and the Mass Line: Another Yan’an Way.” In TwentiethCentury China: New Approaches, edited by Jeffery N. Wasserstrom, 169–90. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. Cheng Guangwei 程光煒. Wenxue xiangxiang yu wenxueguojia—Zhongguo dangdai wenxue yanjiu (1949–1976) 文學想像與文學國家——中國當代文學研究 1949–1976 [Literary imaginaries and a nation of literature—a study on contemporary literature 1949–1976]. Zhengzhou: Henan daxue chubanshe, 2005. Clark, Paul. The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. ———. ed. Listening to China’s Cultural Revolution: Music, Politics, and Cultural Continuities. New York: Palgrave and Macmillan, 2015. Dai Jinhua. “Rewriting the Red Classics.” In Rethinking Chinese Popular Culture: Cannibalizations of the Canon, edited by Carlos Rojas and Eileen Cheng-yin Chow, 151–78. London and New York: Routledge, 2009.

xviii Introduction Dong Zhilin 董之林. “Lun qingchun ti xiaoshuo—50 niandai xiaoshuo yishu leixing zhi yi” 論青春體小說——50 年代小說藝術類型之一 [On the “youth novel”—a narrative model of 1950s fiction]. Wenxue pinglun 文學評論 2 (1998), available at http://www.aisixiang. com/data/34178-3.html. ———. Zhuiyi ranqing suiyue—wushi niandai xiaoshuo yishu leixing lun 追憶燃情歲月—— 50 年代小說藝術類型論 [Recollecting an era of passion—on the typology of novels of the 1950s]. Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe, 2001. Dirlik, Arif. “Revolutionary Hegemony and the Language of Revolution: Chinese Socialism between Present and Future.” In Marxism and the Chinese Experience, edited by Arif Dirlik and Maurice Meisner, 27–42. New York: M. E. Sharp, 1989. Esherick Joseph W. “Ten Theses on the Chinese Revolution.” In Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches, edited by Jeffery N. Wasserstrom, 37–65. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. Evans, Harriet. “The Language of Liberation: Gender and Jiefang in the Early Chinese Communist Party Discourse.” In Twentieth-Century China: New Approaches, edited by Jeffery N. Wasserstrom, 193–220. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. Evans, Harriet, and Stephanie Donald, eds. Picturing Power in the People’s Republic of China: Posters of the Cultural Revolution. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. Fan Xing 樊星, ed. Yongyuan de hongse jingdian: Hongse jingdian chuangzuo yingxiang shihua 永遠的紅色經典:紅色經典創作影響史話 [Eternal red classics: A history of the influence of the “red classics”]. Hubei: Changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 2008. Fang Weibao 方維保. Hongse yiyi de shengcheng: 20 shiji zuoyi wenxue yanjiu 紅色意義的 生成:20 世紀左翼文學研究 [The making of meaning in the red classics: On literature of the left wing in the 1920s]. Hefei: Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe, 2004. Guo Jianmin 郭建敏. Zhongguo dangdai hongse xushi de shengcheng jizhi yanjiu: Jiyu 1949– 1966 nian geming lishi xiaoshuo de wenben kaocha 中國當代紅色敘事的生成機制研 究:基於 1949–1966 年革命歷史小說的文本考察 [The mechanics of the production of Chinese red narratives: With reference to the revolutionary historical novels of 1949– 1966]. Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 2010. Hang, Krista Van Fleit. Literature the People Love: Reading Chinese Texts from the Early Maoist Period. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Hong Zicheng 洪子誠. Zhongguo dangdai wenxue shi 中國當代文學史 [A history of contemporary Chinese literature]. Beijing: Peking University Press, 1999. Huang, Joe. Heroes and Villains in Communist China: The Contemporary Chinese Novel as Reflection of Life. London: C. Hurst & Company, 1973. Huang Kean 黃科安. Yanan wenxue yanjiu: Jiangou xin de yishi xingtai yu huayu tixi 延安文 學研究:建構新的意識形態與話語體系 [On Yan’an literature: The construction of a new ideology and discourse]. Beijing: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 2009. Huang Ziping 黃子平. Geming, lishi yu xiaoshuo 革命、歷史與小說 [Revolution, history, and novel]. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1996. ———. “Huilan” zhong de xushi “灰闌"中的敘事 [Narratives inside “gray railings”]. Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2001. Jin Hongyu 金宏宇. Zhongguo xiandai changpian xiaoshuo mingzhu banben jiaoping 中國現 代長篇小說名著版本校評 [Collation of and commentary on editions of classic modern Chinese novels]. Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2004. King, Richard. Art in Turmoil: The Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1966–76. Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia, 2010.

Introduction xix ———. Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism, 1945–80. Vancouver and Toronto: University of British Columbia, 2013. Li Yang 李楊. 50–70 niandai Zhongguo wenxue jingdian zai jiedu 50–70 年代中國文學經典再 解讀 [A reinterpretation of Chinese literary classics of the 1950s–1970s]. Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe, 2003. ———. Kangzheng suming zhilu: “Shehuizhuyi xianshizhuyi” (1942–1976) 抗爭宿命之路: “社會主義現實主義" (1942–1976) 研究 [Resisting the path of destiny: A study of “Socialist Realism,” 1942–1976]. Changchun: Shidai wenyi chubanshe, 1993. McDougall, Bonnie S. trans. Mao Zedong’s “Talks at the Yan’an Conference on Literature and Art”: A Translation of the 1943 Text with Commentary. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, the University of Michigan, 1980. ———. ed. Popular Chinese Literature and Performing Arts in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1979. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. Mittler, Barbara. A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012. Nan Aiguo 南愛國. Jiegou shiqi nian 解構十七年 [Deconstructing the Seventeen Years]. Shanghai: Huadong shifan daxue chubanshe, 2003. Roberts, Rosemary. Maoist Model Theatre: The Semiotics of Gender and Sexuality in the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010. Sun Xianke 孫先科. Shuohuaren jiqi huayu 說話人及其話語 [The narrator and narration]. Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2009. Tang Xiaobing. Visual Culture in Contemporary China: Paradigms and Shifts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Tang Xiaobing 唐小兵, ed. Zai Jiedu: Dazhong wenyi yu yishi xingtai 再解讀:大眾文藝與意 識形態 [Reinterpretation: Mass literature and ideology]. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1993. ———. Visual Culture in Contemporary China: Paradigms and Shifts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Tao Dongfeng, Yang Xiaobin, Rosemary Roberts, and Yang Ling, eds. Chinese Revolution and Chinese Literature. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009. Wang Jiangang 王建剛. Zhengzhi xingtai wenyi xue: 50 niandai Zhongguo wenyi sixiang yanjiu 政治形態文藝學:50 年代中國文藝思想研究 [Political literary theory: On Chinese literary theories of the 1950s]. Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 2004. Wang Zongfeng 王宗峰. Fan sheng zhi wei: Zhongguo dangdai “hongse jingdian” de kua meijie yanjie 凡聖之維:中國當代“紅色經典"的跨媒界研究 [Places for the commoners and the saints: A cross-media study on the “red classics” in contemporary China]. Hefei: Anhui shifan daxue chubanshe, 2013. Yan Haogang 嚴浩崗. “Hongse jingdian” de wenxue jiazhi“紅色經典"的文學價值 [The literary value of the “red classics”]. Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2009. Yu Daizong 余岱宗. Bei guixun de jiqing: Lun 1950 and 1960 niandai de hongse xiaoshuo 被規 訓的激情:論 1950、1960 年代的紅色小說 [Disciplined passion: On red fiction of the 1950s and 1960s]. Shanghai: Sanlian chubanshe, 2004.

PART I Creating the Canon: The “Red Classics” in the Maoist Era

1 The “Red Classic” That Never Was Wang Lin’s Hinterland 1 Lianfen Yang (Translated from Chinese by Ping Qiu and Richard King)

A Painful Labor for a Banned Book Hinterland (Fudi 腹地) by Wang Lin 王林 (1911–1984) was the first novel to depict the resistance of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against the Japanese invasion in the CCP-led Central Hebei Base Areas (Ji zhong genjudi 冀中根據地). Coming out earlier than popularly recognized pioneering “red classics” such as Lüliang yingxiong zhuan 呂梁英雄傳 (The heroes of Lüliang) and Xin ernü yingxiong zhuan 新兒女英 雄傳 (A new tale of heroic sons and daughters), Hinterland should undoubtedly be regarded as one of the true “red classics,” considering both the origin of its story and the material it uses.2 It was, however, “ousted” at a very early stage of the canonization of Chinese revolutionary literature, and few books on Chinese literary history made mention of either Wang Lin or his novel prior to 2007, the year Hinterland was republished after more than half a century of oblivion. Wang Lin, who was originally named Wang Tao 王弢 and used the pen name Jun Wen 儁聞, studied in the foreign language department of Qingdao University in 1930, where he audited classes taught by Shen Congwen 沈從文, and later published some stories with Shen’s encouragement. In 1931, Wang joined the CCP and served as party secretary for the university branch. He was expelled from the university a year later because of his participation in student protests. In 1935 he participated 1. This article was written at the invitation of Rosemary Roberts and Li Li for this volume. The draft was first presented at the conference entitled “The Making and Remaking of China’s ‘Red Classics’” at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, in July 2014. A significantly revised version of 30,000 Chinese words was published in the Journal of Modern Chinese (Xiandai Zhongwen xuekan 現代中文學刊), issue 2, Shanghai, 2015. With the journal’s consent, this article is an abridged version, translated by Ping Qiu from the original, with Richard King’s assistance in revision. 2. The novels that depict the war of resistance in the base areas include Ma Feng 馬烽 and Xirong’s 西戎, Lüliang yingxiong zhuan 呂梁英雄傳, and Yuan Jing 袁靜 and Kong Jue’s 孔厥, Xin ernü yingxiong zhuan 新兒女英 雄傳, both of which were written later than Hinterland but published earlier. Lüliang yingxiong zhuan was published in Suijin ribao 綏晉日報 in 1945 and Xin ernü yingxiong zhuan was serialized in the People’s Daily 人民日報 in May 1949.


Lianfen Yang

in the December 9 Movement (yi er jiu yundong 一二•九運動)3 and, in 1936, took part, as an underground party member of the Northeastern Army, in the Xi’an Incident (Xi’an shibian 西安事變).4 Two plays he wrote, Dahui laojia qu 打回老家去 (Fighting our way back home) and Huoshankou shang 火山口上 (On the rim of the volcano), based on the Xi’an Incident, garnered a great deal of attention at the time. After the Xi’an Incident, he followed the Northeastern Army, returning to his home in Hebei while serving as director of the Frontline Theatrical Troupe (Huoxian jushe 火線劇社) and as deputy director of the Central Hebei Cultural Committee (Jizhong wenjianwei 冀中文建委) in the People’s Self-Defense Army (Renmin ziwei dui 人民 自衛隊), which later became the Third Division of the Eighth Route Army (Balujun disan zongdui 八路軍第三縱隊), also known as Jizhong Military Region (Jizhong junqu 冀中軍區), under the leadership of General Lü Zhengcao 呂正操. Hinterland is largely based on Wang’s experience as a guerrilla fighter affiliated with the Jizhong military region. Taking upon himself the most serious responsibility of a witness of history, in his own words “as if preparing a will,” Wang started to write Hinterland in 1942 and completed this novel of 300,000 words a year later. In the novel Wang faithfully records his life experience and historical events in Central Hebei during the Japanese offensive between the spring of 1942 and the following summer.5 The main plot of the novel is developed through the homecoming experiences, prior to and after the offensive, of protagonist Xin Dagang 辛大剛, a retired soldier. Xin was the hero who formed the very first local guerrilla force to fight Japanese invaders as soon as the Sino-Japanese War broke out and then later joined the Eighth Route Army and the Communist Party. Now wounded, he returns home. Fan Shirong 范世榮, a village Communist Party secretary from an impoverished landlord family, is fearful of the legendary Xin. Fan intentionally excludes Xin from the village power structure under the pretense that Xin’s proof of party 3. The December 9 Movement was a mass protest led by university students in Beiping (present-day Beijing) on December 9, 1935, to demand that the Nationalist government resist Japanese aggression. 4. On December 12, 1935, Zhang Xueliang 張學良, commander of the forces in northeast China, and Yang Hucheng 楊虎城, commander of the forces stationed around Xi’an, arrested the Nationalist generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who was visiting Xi’an. Zhang and Yang demanded than Chiang fight the Japanese, who had invaded northern China rather than Chinese Communists. The Xi’an Incident ended with Chiang’s release on December 25 and the formation of the second Communist-Nationalist United Front against the Japanese. 5. This attack was mentioned by Lü Zhengcao. At the dawn of a major Japanese offensive on May 1, the Jizhong Party administration retreated after suffering the loss of two-thirds of its personnel. It directed that “the personnel left will be dispersed among civilians and will continue the fight.” See Lü Zhengcao, Lü Zhengcao huiyilu 呂正操回憶錄 (Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 2007), 297–99. Wang insisted on staying, saying, “I cannot retreat in the middle of the war, just like the play cannot be cut short before reaching its climax. As a writer, I have the responsibility to describe the history of this war. I can’t wait elsewhere for its end and then write about it based on interviews and imagination. I want to be a witness of history and a fighter writing about this marvelous Chinese revolutionary history.” See Wang Duanyang 王端陽, “Wang Lin he tade Fudi” 王林和他的《腹地》, Xinwenxue shiliao 新文學史料 2 (2008): 51.

The “Red Classic” That Never Was 5

affiliation has not been mailed in. Dispirited, Xin turns himself into a huqin 胡琴 (two-string fiddle) performer in the village theatrical troupe and soon falls in love with Bai Yu’e 白玉萼, a beautiful young woman who is a member of the troupe. Fan is secretly in love with Bai and fantasizes about her. Jealous of Xin’s relationship with Bai, Fan uses an “anti–sexual promiscuity” directive from his superiors to contrive a dramatic scene of “catching adulterers in the act” and then calls a struggle meeting against Xin. Through those manipulations, he isolates Xin, and Bai leaves him. Xin’s good name is restored when the verification of party affiliation arrives. Unfortunately, by the time Xin reports to the county militia regiment, the Japanese military offensive has begun, and the county-level CCP committee has fled. Xin has to seek refuge with his fellow villagers and try to “avoid any conflicts and confrontations” with the enemy. On the way, he runs into Bai, and the couple reconciles. They go back together to Xin Village and continue to engage in guerrilla fighting. Despite Wang’s literary fame and his painstaking effort to produce a realistic portrayal of the life he experienced at the time, the publication of Hinterland was a long struggle. After the end of Sino-Japanese War in 1945, all Liberated Areas were strongly encouraged to promote literary and artistic creation for the purpose of political persuasion and mobilization.6 Seeing this as an opportune time to send out Hinterland for publication, Wang was surprised to find that his Yan’an colleagues had only harsh criticism for his novel. Their objections included the protagonist Xin Dagang’s failure to meet the requirement for “positive characters,”7 because, among many other reasons, “Xin’s isolation upon his return to the village at the beginning of the novel” is not “typical [dianxing 典型] or representative of typical circumstances [dianxing huanjing 典型環境]”; Xin’s sentimentality and loneliness have “a strong intellectual bent,” and there was “too much petty bourgeois and intellectual stuff,”8 plus “some liberalism.”9 Publication was set aside. It was not until September 1949 that the revised Hinterland was eventually published at the urging of Zhou Yang 周楊 and Huang Jing 黃敬.Though it initially sold briskly, an article by Chen Qixia 陳企霞, then executive editor of the Literary Journal (Wenyi bao 文藝報), condemned the novel, claiming that “everything in the novel, the theme, the characters, the materials, the structure, even the language, exhibits

6. See more on “Guanyu wenyi gongzuo de san ge jueding” 關於文藝工作的三個決定 issued by Jin-Cha-Ji 晉察冀 CCP bureau, Jin-Cha-Ji ribao·fukan, 晉察冀日報•副刊, 7, May 10, 1947. On May 22, 1946, in Wang Lin riji (Wang Lin riji: Wenyijie de naxie shi 王林日記:文藝界的那些事 (1946–1948). N.p., named and selected by Wang Duanyang 王端陽, available at html), Wang wrote, “Zhang Geng 張庚, He Jingzhi 賀敬之, and Li Bing 李冰 came to gather materials about Central Hebei.  .  .  . They said that recently the CCP bureau has allocated huge funds for publications on literature and arts.” 7. See “Zhang Geng tongzhi dui Fudi de yijian” 張庚同志對《腹地》的意見, Wang Lin riji, May 31, 1946. 8. See “Chen Qixia tongzhi dui Fudi de yijian” 陳企霞同志對《腹地》的意見, Wang Lin riji, January 5, 1947. 9. See Wang Lin riji, May 31, 1946.


Lianfen Yang

significant flaws.”10 Hinterland was quickly taken off the shelves and sealed off from history.11 At this time literary criticism had yet to form a critical convention allying it strictly with political ideology. Wenyi bao published only two reviews on Hinterland, one by Chen Qixia in the early 1950s and the other by Hou Jinjing 侯金鏡 in 1956.12 That is to say, the “ban” on Hinterland happened before literary criticism became part of the political campaigns after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Because Hinterland had neither been a popular literary work nor had it been publicly condemned, it consequently did not become a candidate for rehabilitation like other “red classics” during the movement to “restore order out of chaos” (boluan fanzheng 撥亂反正) in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. What was it, after all, that made this painstakingly composed, realistic novel unacceptable to critics and cultural officials? One of the key things that Wang reflected in the novel was the CCP’s “fundamental principle” of the war at the time—namely to “preserve oneself and then exterminate the enemy.” Thus, the use of defense as the main military strategy is repeatedly highlighted in the novel.13 Wang’s regiment follows the strategy that “the main military forces break through the encirclement of the enemy’s attack and move the inner line towards the outer line, then move towards mountainous areas and attack the enemy from the rear.” At the same time, “the minor regional forces attempt to disperse and hide, and avoid being seen or attacked by the enemy while seeking the opportunity to fight back.”14 As a result of the implementation of this strategy, there were neither large-scale battles nor regular skirmishes in the area depicted in the novel. Like many other soldiers, Wang was but a straggler, a disbanded soldier left behind to wage guerrilla warfare. His experience reflects the CCP’s strategy of prioritizing self-preservation over fighting, in other words “avoiding all conflict and confrontation” with the enemy. While this tactic is beyond reproach when the enemy has a clear advantage, writing faithfully of this historical fact seems to tell the reader that the Eighth Route Army “does not fight but merely moves around,” as one critic complained.15 This kind of faithful depiction in 10. Chen Qixia 陳企霞, “Ping Wang Lin de changpian xiaoshuo Fudi” 評王林的長篇小說《腹地》, Wenyi bao 文藝報 3, (1950), collected in Chen Qixia, Guangrong de renwu 光榮的任務 [Glorious mission] (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1951), 82. 11. The early years of the People’s Republic of China saw the trend of “review equals verdict,” meaning that once a writer’s name had been under attack, his/her works were dead. See Zhang Jun 張均, “1950–70 niandai wenxue zhong de piping yu ziwo piping” 1950 至 70 年代文學中的批評與自我批評, Yangzijiang pinglun 揚子江 評論 3 (2010): 19–24. 12. Hou Jinjing 侯金鏡, “Shitan Fudi de zhuyao quedian yiji Chen Qixia dui ta de piping” 試談《腹地》的主 要缺點以及陳企霞對它的批評, Wenyibao, 18 (1956).This article was supposed to criticize Chen Qixia and give a positive review of Hinterland. However, Wang considered that Hou had totally missed the point of his work. 13. Mao Zedong 毛澤東, Mao Zedong xuanji 毛澤東選集 Vol. 1 (Baoying: Suzhong chubanshe, 1945), 96. 14. See more in Lü Zhengcao, Lü Zhengcao huiyilu, 299. 15. One of the criticisms of Hinterland received from Yan’an writers at the conference of Yan’an Writers and Central Hebei Writers in 1947 stated that Hinterland “may raise the suspicion of our army ‘moving around

The “Red Classic” That Never Was 7

Hinterland is no doubt detrimental to the heroic myth of the Eighth Route Army that other “red classics” iterate. The most important political event described in Hinterland was the local launching of the constitution and democratic elections. In the early 1940s, the CCP advocated a democratic constitution and initiated democratic elections in its base areas. It also formed a United Front with people from different social classes who were previously excluded from, or even targets of, the CCP-led revolution. In terms of economics, it adopted policies different from the previous Land Reform era, reducing taxes and cutting interest rates, protecting private property, and encouraging private entrepreneurship. These policies and tactics not only made political and economic life in the base areas prosperous and lively but also provided a material foundation for the development of the CCP, thus legitimatizing its governance and winning praise from the outside world.16 On January 9, 1940, at the first conference of representatives from the cultural committees of the Shan-Gan-Ning Base Areas (Shan-Gan-Ning bianqu wenhua xiehui 陝甘寧邊區文化協會), Mao Zedong gave a speech entitled “New Democratic Politics and New Democratic Culture” (“Xin minzhuzhuyi de zhengzhi yu xin minzhuzhuyi de wenhua” 新民主主義的政治與新 民主主義的文化), now known as “On New Democracy” (“Xin mingzhuzhuyi lun” 新民主主義論). This speech explained that the CCP would divide its revolution into two stages in accordance with the conduct of the war: at the present stage it would adopt a new democratic revolution, reinforcing the strategy of a United Front and promoting democratic politics as its goal. On February 20, at a conference to advocate the Yan’an Constitution, Mao Zedong gave another speech entitled “The New Democratic Constitution.” It named “democracy,” “human rights,” and “constitution” as common goals for various social classes. On May 1, the CCP issued “Constitutional Guidelines for the Shan-Gan-Ning Base Areas” (“Shan-Gan-Ning bianqu shizheng gangling” 陝甘寧邊區施政綱領) and promoted the “Three-Three administrative structure” (“San-san zhi” 三三制). “Three-Three” refers to the three political entities: the CCP representing the proletarian class, non-party-affiliated leftists representing the petty bourgeoisie, and the liberal gentry class representing landlords and capitalists, each taking one-third of the seats in the government. In August, the CCP Northern Branch issued Current Constitutional Guidelines for the Jin-Cha-Ji Border Areas (Jin-Cha-Ji bianqu shizheng gangling 晉察冀邊區施政綱領), also known as but not fighting’ when we do propaganda work in the areas under Chiang Kai-Shek’s control.” See Wang Lin’s diary on March 19, 1947, in Wang Lin riji: Wenyijie de naxie shi, 王林日記:文藝界那些事, n.p., named and selected by Wang Duanyang. 16. From 1937 to 1946, Shan-Gan-Ning Base Areas had three bottom-up elections. The election of 1940–1941 tried the Three-Three Policy. In 1944, both the Northwestern Delegations, one consisting of foreign and domestic journalists, and the other an American military delegation made a visit to Yan’an. The CCP’s practice of democratic politics won popular praise nationally and internationally. It was considered as representative of the future political power for democracy.


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the Double Ten Constitution (Shuang shi gangling 雙十綱領). It promoted “a close coalition between Communists and Nationalists,” “the complete reinforcement of democratic construction,” “freedom of speech, assembly, association, publication, religious activities and residence,” “protection of human rights,” “protection of the property of all who are part of the Anti-Japanese War efforts,” “a halt to land tax collection,” “encouraging of cooperatives and private business,” “a 25 percent rent reduction on farm land,” “adoption to an eight-hour workday policy,” “women’s right of inheritance,” “marital autonomy,” and the like.17 When the Japanese launched their military assault in Central Hebei in May, the area had already adopted the constitution almost two years previously. Political, economic, and cultural life bloomed in the area, winning it a reputation as “the model Base Areas of the Sino-Japanese War.” In Hinterland, as Xin returns to his home village, the first “village election” is in full swing, and the registration of voters and election campaigns are an important part of village daily life. In this village of northern China, youth, adults and women are mobilized by various organizations under CCP leadership and its Anti-Japanese War efforts. They are divided into various groups, such as the Save China Women’s Association, the Anti-Japanese Youth Pioneer League, and the Children Corps. Seniors and housewives are placed into “eradication of illiteracy” classes. To successfully hold “a county election,” the democratic political campaign introduces new terms such as “citizen,” “inheritance rights for women,” and “marital autonomy,” all of which became an integral part of everyday village life. The government initiates tax breaks and interest rate cuts, encourages private entrepreneurship, and protects private property. This village in the once-prosperous Central Hebei again enjoys a robust economy: shops are open and small businesses grow. Many business-savvy individuals make a fortune. Life is considerably better than it was prior to the July 7 Incident.18 Even in the shadow of the Japanese military offensive, people’s passion for life has not lessened. The village sees the passage of carts loaded with vegetables and goods; the streets echo with the shouts of snack vendors till midnight; the need to “avoid direct conflicts and confrontations” with the enemy gives rise to moveable markets . . . all this liveliness comprises a special regional landscape of Central Hebei during the Sino-Japanese War. This is the most significant “landscape” evoked in Wang’s novel. The first edition of Hinterland, from Chapter 8 through Chapter 13, vividly records the short-lived but significant “village and county elections” during the New Democratic Revolution. However, this segment of history was downplayed in later years during the process of constructing the myth of revolutionary history. The

17. Hebei shehui kexueyuan lishi yanjiusuo 河北社會科學院歷史研究所, ed., Jin-Cha-Ji kangri genjudi shiliao xuanbian 晉察冀抗日根據地史料選編, Vol. 1 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1983), 361–64. 18. July 7, 1937, is the date on which the Sino-Japanese War broke out after provocation from the Japanese army.

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details of the forced “democratic” elections in villages recorded in Hinterland became a political taboo that was denounced as a “farce” by critic Chen Qixia.19 In addition to the description of the village election, what Yan’an critics criticized most severely was the main character Xin Dagang, especially his romance with Bai Yu’e. Two-thirds of the way through the novel Xin is not at the center of political life in the village. Instead, he is a melancholy loner with a wounded body, a “desolate” family (his mother died of sickness, and his father is old and depressed), and an isolated soul. Beneath the uplifting and bright depiction of political activity lurks the melancholy of the protagonist—a style echoing the European realistic novels of the nineteenth century. Xin’s romantic involvement with Bai is highly problematic for Chen Qixia. The formula of “revolution plus romance” was a well-known “model” for revolutionary literature, despite the fact that it had been regarded unfavorably in the revolutionary literature camp in the early 1930s. The “secret sauce” of spicing up revolutionary historical novels with romance accounts for almost all the successes of the novels of the Seventeen Years, including works such as Liang Bin’s 梁斌 Genealogy of the Red Flag (Hongqi pu 紅旗譜), Qu Bo’s 曲波 Tracks in the Snowy Forest (Linhai xueyuan 林海雪原) and, especially, Yang Mo’s 楊沫 Song of Youth (Qingchun zhi ge 青春之歌). In Hinterland, it was not the romance per se that was attacked but rather romance “with whom,” and “how” that romance happened. Bai, born in a landed family, demonstrates neither political consciousness nor revolutionary will, and thus, according to some critics, should not “deserve Xin’s love.”20 The critics also questioned whether the romance between Xin and Bai is “inevitable” at all.21 In addition to the strong intellectualism embodied by Xin, the novel’s failure to adopt popular aesthetics also contributed to the harsh criticism it was to receive in the years to come. The narrative in Hinterland is loosely constructed and lacks dramatic tension. In terms of the genealogy of modern Chinese fiction, this narrative style is akin to that of The Long River (Changhe 長河), by Shen Congwen 沈從文, Wang’s mentor when he was a college student at Qingdao University. It belongs to the category of “lyrical” fiction, with minimal dramatic tension. This style can be found in Xiao Hong’s 蕭紅 The Field of Life and Death (Shengsi chang 生死場) and Tales of Hulan River (Hulanhe zhuan 呼蘭河傳) and Shi Tuo’s 師陀 The Orchard Town (Guoyuancheng ji 果園城記) as well as Sun Li’s 孫梨 Stormy Years (Fengyun chu ji 風雲初記). The plots of these novels are fluid, and, oftentimes, the momentum of the novel is driven by descriptions of the “landscape” of either natural beauty or barbarian folk customs. Although Wang’s original creative concern for Hinterland was to “record history,” rather than describing the “local landscape,” the prose style

19. See Chen, “Ping Wang Lin de changpian xiaoshou Fudi,” 1950. 20. See Chen Qixia, in Wang Duanyang, ed., Wang Lin riji, on January 5, 1946. 21. See Wang Duanyang, “Wang Lin he tade Fudi,” on May 31, 1946.


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of his narrative is imbued with features of “landscape” writing.22 Yet, the “landscape” that Hinterland describes no longer bespeaks pastoral beauty and folk customs of a village ruled by traditional tribes, as is often the case with the “native soil fiction” of Shen Congwen, Xiao Hong, and Shi Tuo. What Wang describes in Hinterland is a brand-new political and cultural “landscape” of a modern village impregnated with “national consciousness” and a “democratic” climate. Probably for these reasons, Hinterland, the earliest novel to describe the SinoJapanese War, never became a candidate for canonization as a “red classic.” Not until recently, with the “rediscovery” of Wang’s 1949 original Hinterland, along with other historical documents such as Wang’s diary and documents about Wang from the Cultural Revolution, has this forgotten novel and the story of its revision over three decades gradually come to light and begun to attract attention from literary scholars.23 As one of the earliest narratives of revolutionary history, the exclusion of Hinterland from the “red classics” bespeaks the artistic flaws in the work itself; its “disappearance” from literary history, however, reflects the overall condition of “political priority” in the literature of the Seventeen Years. It also carries historical and cultural significance, reflecting contemporary Chinese literary criticism as the discourse of “historical materialism” empowered by “politics” under the so-called dialectical logic.

A Long Process of Revision Many of the “red classics” of the Seventeen Years period underwent numerous revisions. The difficulty in revising Hinterland lay not only in such “technical” problems as its atypical characters and loosely structured plot but also in the question of its “authenticity” as opposed to “being even more typical” (geng dianxing 更典型) than actual reality. Wang’s authentic depiction of the life he lived through was criticized as “naturalism.” As Hong Zicheng pointed out, many revolutionary historical novels of the 1950s, despite being mainly drawn from their writers’ real-life experiences,

22. In Wang Lin’s own words, “I want to be a witness and a fighter. I want to demonstrate this marvelous revolutionary history.” See Wang Duanyang, “Wang Lin he tade Fudi.” 23. For instance, Hong Zicheng 洪子誠 lists Hinterland as the first title in the chapter on revolutionary historical novels in his revised edition of Zhongguo dangdai wenxueshi 中國當代文學史 (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010). The related research also includes Xing Xiaoqun 邢小群, “Fudi shijian yinqi de sikao”《腹 地》事件引起的思考, Nanfang wentan 南方文壇, 6 (2009); Dong Zhilin 董之林, “‘Pangsheng zhijie’ dui xieshi xiaoshuo guannian de buzheng—yi Fudi zaiban wei guanzhudian”“旁生枝節”對寫實小說觀念的 補正——以《腹地》再版為關注點, Wenxue pinglun 文學評論, 1 (2012); Liu Weidong 劉衛東, “Wang Lin: Jiefangqu zuojia de linglei xiezuo” 王林:解放區作家的另類寫作, Zhongguo xiandai wenxue yanjiu congkan 中國現代文學研究叢刊, 5 (2013); Yan Lifei 閆立飛, “Fudi: Lishi de ‘yuanshengtai’ xiangxiang yu zaixian” 《腹地》:歷史的“原生態”想像與再現; Cao Xia 曹霞, “Lun ‘shiqinian’ wenxue piping de zhuti yu yishixingtai de guiyue—cong Wang Lin de Fudi yiji qi piping shuoqi” 論“十七年”文學批評的主題與意識形態 的規約——從王林的《腹地》及其批評說起, Jiamusi daxue shehui kexue xuebao 佳木斯大學社會科學 學報, 4 (2012).

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were often questioned by the critics as to whether they really reflected the “essence” of history, because those critics’ overwhelming task was to “canonize” their version of the “revolutionary narrative”; thus, whether a literary work is “authentic” should be judged to go beyond the author’s individual life experience.24 To those critics, the task of the revolutionary historical novel is to reconstruct the “historical truth” that the current political discourse demands and to match that “historical truth” with revolutionary ideals.25 The rationale for a revolutionary historical novel lies in the reconstruction of stories that meet current political needs and match with the “historical truth” of revolutionary ideology. Naturally, this kind of reconstruction is not easy, as Li Li’s study of the process of the creation of the “red classic” Red Crag in Chapter 4 of this current volume testifies. Similarly, Huang Ziping 黃子平 noted that Du Pengcheng’s 杜鵬程 Baowei Yan’an 保衛延安 “went through nine drafts, with hundreds of additions and deletions, over a period of four years.” Using this example, he argued that it was difficult to transform the “historical facts” in a revolutionary historical novel from the 1950s into “a quintessential revolutionary narrative.” Among the many difficulties were the nature of the political criteria and variations in those criteria, as well as the relationship between historical facts and real-life politics, none of which were clearly defined but were left to the writers to contemplate and attempt to interpret. This kind of so-called determination of the subject matter in real-life practice was no small task. Just as Huang concluded, “The norm of ‘subject matter’ was fundamentally negative and exclusive. Instead of defining ‘what should be written,’ it implied ‘what one could not write.’ Naturally, this kind of reconstruction [of history] was difficult because the boundaries between ‘what should be written,’ ‘what one can write,’ and ‘what one cannot write’ were murky and changeable.”26 Exactly for this reason, Wang’s attempts to revise Hinterland consumed most of his life, as if he were on a road of no return.27 Wang, who had always resented the criticism of his novel, continued his revision of Hinterland for decades, including through the Cultural Revolution, because he believed that Hinterland was the most important cultural and spiritual pursuit of his life. 28 He submitted the revised version of Hinterland to the press not long before he

24. Hong Zicheng, Zhongguo dangdai wenxueshi, 117. 25. Huang Ziping 黃子平, “Huilan” zhong de xushu“灰闌”中的敘述 (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2001), 6. 26. Ibid. 27. After the ban on Hinterland, Wang started his long process of revision. His diary in the 1950s discloses that he often encouraged himself to get the revision done quickly and published within the year. However, as the project dragged on, he lost direction as to how to revise so as to meet the requirements. 28. This may have had something to do with political privileges Wang enjoyed. Though there was much criticism of Hinterland, Wang’s political life remained untouched, and he continued to work as the deputy chief of the Cultural Bureau of Hebei, now Tianjin Municipality.


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died in 1984, and the novel was eventually published in 1985.29 Over decades of revision, Wang always attempted to figure out the “politically correct way” of rewriting his novel in accordance with the essence of Mao’s Yan’an Talks. With more than half of the original content deleted in the 1985 revised edition, it was changed beyond recognition. For instance, the six chapters that described the village election were almost completely taken out, shortened into a single chapter. The scenes with details of the election, including a performance by the village theatrical troupe, the election campaigns, comical voting scenes, and the “carnivalesque” ending of the election, were all deleted. Despite this enormous, lifelong effort, however, the revised version of Hinterland received scant attention and had an unenthusiastic reception.30 The tragedy of Hinterland lies in that its first edition fell out of step with Mao’s Yan’an Talks, and its second edition followed the Yan’an Talks too closely at a time when China was already under Deng’s policy of Reform and Opening Up (Gaige kaifang 改革開放). On both occasions, its publication was out of step with the political trends of its time. Wang Lin’s changes from the original to the revised edition can be considered in three categories: (1) deletion, (2) revision, and (3) addition. First, deletion: most of the deletions occur in the descriptions of the elections from Chapter 7 through Chapter  13. In the 1985 edition, the elections are simply glossed over, and their processes and details are gone. In addition, the coalition between the CCP and the Nationalist Party (KMT) has completely disappeared. The heroes who lack a genuinely revolutionary background and the non-“positive” characters without the correct political stance have all been deleted. For instance, in the first edition, Huang Renqiu, the village deputy party secretary, is a reticent character with great shooting skills as result of “living some thirty years” in a local militia army. Because of his shady background, he was removed from the later edition. In Chapter 7, characters were deleted including Uncle Lao Ming, who is poor yet addicted to gambling, as well as Xin’s quiet and stoic father, who, while belonging to the proletarian class, is passive about the revolution. Their behaviors and demeanors resemble the “middle characters” that were later to be severely criticized. The “naturalistic” descriptions that were detrimental to the glorious image of revolutionaries were also deleted. For example, in Chapter 1 of the original version, we see a boatman telling stories about how a (Communist) county mayor and his colleagues fled when under attack. In the later edition, this becomes a description of boatmen spouting empty words expressing their determination to fight the Japanese. Xin, who 29. On June 6, 1966, Wang wrote an entry of 2,000 words on the Cultural Revolution in his dairy, reflecting on the revision of Hinterland. The revised Hinterland was eventually published in 1985 by Jiefangjun wenyi chubanshe 解放軍文藝出版社. 30. The print run was approximately 110,000. According to the author’s research into the dates and frequencies of the lending history of Fudi in various libraries in the Beijing area, most libraries show a record of the novel being borrowed less than twice. Apparently, the revised edition has not attracted readers’ interest.

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has a melancholic temperament upon his first return to the village, is also transformed into a person full of political passion at the beginning of the story. Furthermore, historical details in the novel not recognized as part of the “official” history of the revolution have been deleted. Take, for instance, “double-dealing revolutionaries.” Initially implemented in 1941 by the CCP, the strategy of the deployment of “double-dealing revolutionaries” allowed CCP personnel to take roles as undercover village heads or undercover liaisons. In the first edition, “the double-dealing revolutionaries” appeared a couple of times, demonstrating the smart “fighting tactics” the CCP adopted when “the enemy has a clear advantage.” 31 However, this part of history became a closely guarded secret after the establishment of the PRC. Many CCP cadres who did “double dealing” were “defamed, expelled from party membership, even tortured, mutilated, or killed.”32 From this perspective, even if Hinterland had survived when it was first published, the numerous forbidden topics it presented would only have been taken as evidence of its discrediting the party during the Cultural Revolution, when the “black-line in the arts” of the Seventeen Years was swept away. Finally, Xin’s strategy of “avoiding direct conflict and confrontation” with the enemy after the Japanese offensive has been deleted. Instead, the Eighth Route Army is always in direct combat with the Japanese army, and the fighting is intense and frequent. Also gone are details of the “settled and happy” life of the villagers. For example, in the original version, the village theatrical troupe’s activities are especially prominent in scenes in the base areas, particularly in the villagers’ political and cultural lives in the Central Hebei Base Areas. Chapter 8 in Hinterland, which describes the growth of the theatrical troupe of Xin Village and daily life there is the most entertaining chapter of the novel. The founding of the troupe is humorous, and the details about its performances are hilarious: the scriptwriter often “adds new lyrics onto the old drama form, and replaces singing parts that are unclear to the audience with everyday dialogues.” Martial arts sections are interspersed with literary sections. The materials correlate with reality, and often the performers “conveniently use real life incidents to make fun of stubborn seniors, as well as men and women who neither participate in the election themselves, nor allow their daughters and daughters-in-law to do so. The village cadres come out trying to explain [the policy] and to persuade [the villagers to participate].” During the performance, “some wear old traditional dress, others put on everyday wear.” “Those who can sing will be accompanied by huqin,” while “those who don’t know how will just speak.” “The dialogue is unscripted. The performers sometimes crack jokes to entertain the audience, and the dialogues run on and on.” Occasionally, “concerned that the audience might consider the play too short, the performers will keep the show going on from after lunch till dusk, when mothers call their families back home for dinner. Then 31. See Fudi (1949), chapter 36. 32. See Lü, Lü Zhengcao huiyilu, 293, 295, and 296, respectively.


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performers will use democratic means to pass resolutions at the end of the performances. When a performance is effective in connecting with the audience, people on stage and off stage mingle as one group . . . and, particularly, when daughters-in-law in the audience swear loudly at someone, those on-stage get even more excited, and the audience applauds even harder.”33 To support the village election, the programs of theatrical troupes incorporated propaganda in a comic way, such as using dances to “bring out the big characters poster ‘Uphold the Three-Three Policy,’” or making their own stilt-walking version of “Eight Immortals cross the sea” (baxian guohai 八仙過 海), with the “Eight Immortals” consisting of one worker, one soldier, one peasant, one student, one peddler, one Japanese militiaman, one Chinese traitor, and one who surrendered.” It also borrowed and changed “A Child Cowherd” (Xiao fangniu 小放 牛), a children’s question-and-answer rhyme, into questions such as “What is New Democracy?” and “Why can’t the one-party system work?”34 These authentic scenes and details about local cultural life were clearly drawn from Wang’s life experience when he served as the head of the cultural program in the Central Hebei Base Areas and as the director of the Frontline Theatrical Troupe. The second method of alteration is revision. The biggest revision Wang made was probably altering the image of the protagonist Xin and his romance with Bai. In the 1985 edition, Xin is changed from a marginal and sentimental intellectual to a popular political leader. Correspondingly, Bai no longer has a weak and capricious bourgeois air but instead becomes a true comrade with whom Xin can share revolutionary goals. In the first edition of 1949, Xin courts Bai, sending her love letters and falling ecstatically in love with her. Because of this, Wang was criticized for “showing no consideration for whether these actions match the image of a hero.”35 The 1985 edition changes the plot into one in which Bai pursues Xin. Xin “has been trying to avoid Bai’s affection” but “cannot resist it” and succumbs to her love in the end.36 To avoid disparaging the hero, it also reverses the original description of the “‘anti– sexual promiscuity’ struggle meeting.” Now it is Bai who is humiliated instead of Xin. In this version, Wang also has Bai arrested by the Japanese, though she would rather die than surrender. Consequently, Bai, a petty bourgeois lacking in political awareness in the first edition, is elevated to the position of “worthy” revolutionary companion for Xin. The change in her characterization is to provide background for the “typical circumstances” from which a revolutionary hero emerges. In the first edition, the reason for which Fan, the village party secretary, joins the CCP revolution is to take personal revenge, but he ironically “becomes a political star

33. See Fudi (1949), chapter 8. 34. See Fudi (1949), chapter 11. 35. See Chen, “Ping Wang Lin de,” 3. 36. See chapter 12 in Fudi (1983).

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in the revolution.”37 Although this depiction reflects the reality in the United Front, it  was criticized as a “denial of the Party’s leadership.”38 Even worse, this character with only a personal motivation refuses to become a traitor while facing the most horrifying offensive launched by the Japanese military. In addition to this not-sogenuine revolutionary character, we also see a lot of other types of flawed “workers, peasants, and soldiers” in the novel. In the revised edition, the author conforms to the conventions of stark contrast between the “positive characters” and the “negative characters,” which is largely dictated by their class background: He makes Fan a traitor at the end of the novel, while the father of the primary heroic character Xin is changed into an enlightened and optimistic figure, a martyr, who gives a passionate speech before being executed by the Japanese. The third method of alteration is addition. To respond to the accusation that the party leadership was absent from the first edition, Wang added Dong Wenshan, a county party secretary of the CCP, who coordinates the war effort among all villages in the county, symbolizing party leadership in the Sino-Japanese War. As a leader, he appears in almost every scene where the war resistance becomes a main story line. Meanwhile, Zhang Zhao, the district leader, who makes few appearances in the first edition, appears significantly more in the later edition. On the one hand, as the district leader, Zhang directs the fighting in Xin Village; yet, on the other hand, he is molded into a stereotype of the “subjectivist leader.” In so doing, the author has Zhang represent “an internal struggle between two lines” in the party in addition to the main plotline of “fighting the Japanese.” This is a narrative structure that occurs frequently in the novels of the Cultural Revolution. The story ends with Bai’s rescue, the bombing of the enemy’s watchtower by a guerrilla squad, and the happy ending of a CCP-led “miraculous” victory in the Sino-Japanese War. With such an extensive revision, the 1985 edition of Hinterland has a dramatic yet more artificial plot line. The main characters appear stiff and stereotypically “big, wide, and handsome” (gao, da, quan 高大全), turning the novel into a standardized project that conforms to the “three prominences” literary theory of the Cultural Revolution.

Historical Truth and Political Taboos A diligent student of foreign language, Wang Lin’s artistic vision of “separating the self into a person in real life and an artist” hardly bears any trace of the “class determinism” and “recording history authentically” that were popular among leftist writers in

37. See chapter 16 in Fudi (1949). 38. See Chen, “Ping Wang Lin de,” 4.


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the 1930s.39 Huang Jing 黃敬, Wang’s best friend, believes that Wang’s artistic views fell under the unfortunate influence of Liang Shiqiu 梁實秋 and Zhu Guangqian 朱光潛.40 Wang’s participation in student protests led to his expulsion from the university. He then became a professional revolutionary after taking part in both the December 9 Movement (一二•九事件) and the Xi’an Incident 西安事變. During the Sino-Japanese War, he saw revolution as his social responsibility and literature as his personal aspiration. His consciousness and behavior were those of a “fellow traveler” (tonglu ren 同路人) of the revolution but not those of an actual revolutionary.41 Wang’s diary from 1937 to 1945 during the Sino-Japanese War records the details of his daily life, but the larger part of its content consists of thoughts on literary creation. Oftentimes, he feels “frustrated” by his creative impulses, fantasizing about the possibility of “writing for a prolonged period of time” while “living in the countryside as M. A. Sholokhov did after the War.” Yet, sometimes, he reflects that this kind of thought is “too selfish.”42 After the establishment of the PRC, he expressed on multiple occasions the wish to be released from his administrative responsibilities to work in a factory so he could focus on writing. In his diary from the Sino-Japanese War to the early PRC years, revolutionary responsibilities and his personal aspiration for writing are often at odds, and their entanglement frequently troubles him. Eventually, his dream failed to materialize, as he had to submit himself to the commands of the party by prioritizing his social responsibilities. As a lower-level cultural officer, he eventually lost the understanding of his fellow writers and disappeared entirely from readers’ view.43 As a revolutionary writer, Wang did not oppose the idea that literature and the arts should serve a political purpose. The dramas he wrote always served the propaganda purposes of the Sino-Japanese War. However, his way of dealing with “politics” was primarily within the scope of ethics and subject matter. He disagreed with the slogan 39. For more on criticism put forth by Wang’s colleagues, see Wang Lin, Kangzhang riji 抗戰日記 (Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 2009), 274. 40. Wang Lin, Kangzhang riji, 286. 41. Huang Jing 黃敬 often criticized Wang for having “an outsider attitude, taking art for art’s sake”; see Wang  Lin, Wang Lin riji, February 15, 1954. Wang accused Sun Li 孫犁 during the Cultural Revolution, calling Sun “a ‘fellow traveler’ who wants to transcend class,” in Wang Duanyang, ed., “Wang Lin de jiaodai: Guanyu Liang Bin, Sun Li” 王林的交代:關於梁斌、孫犁, Xinwenxue shiliao 新文學史料 2 (2009): 132. 42. See Wang Lin, Kangzhan riji, 72 and 275. 43. In addition to revision, after 1949, Wang still wrote and occasionally published some news articles, reports, and essays in accordance with the “mainstream theme” in newspapers. Sun Li’s story “Luohansong” 羅漢松 (see Sun Li wenji xubian 孫犁文集續編, Vol. 1. Tianjin: Baihua wenyi chubanshe, 1992, 124–27) features a colleague, Lao Zhang, who “plays with life and plays with politics”; who is “a writer, a long-time revolutionary, who has a complicated history and often speaks without thinking”; who is also “studious about literature, so you can say he devotes all his life to working on literature”; who, however, “is a veteran of various political moments, passing safely without a scratch each time.” Old Zhang is said to be a character satirizing Wang. See also Yuan Yingke 苑英科, Jueran duli: Sun Li fenzheng 崛然獨立:孫犁紛爭 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei daxue chubanshe, 2014), 227.

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that “theme was the main priority” and that the theme of a literary work should “closely follow the current political task.”44 He was cautious about the treatment of literature and arts as microphones for abstract thoughts”45 and was even more cautious about being constrained in his own works by literary formulas.46 Because of this, his colleagues regarded him as “passive” and having a “lack of political enthusiasm.”47 He admitted that “the supremacy of art and artistic freedom has more power over me.”48 The literary influence Wang received was mainly from the European classics. He wrote in his diary, “I often feel that as a petty bourgeois, it may be possible to study Shakespeare, Molière, and Tolstoy; it is absolutely impossible to study Maksim Gorky, whose class background gave him a powerful and engulfing strength, and I don’t think I can emulate his style, which is full of power and grandeur. That kind of temperament comes from his early childhood, and accumulated from many years of repression. Since I come from a petty bourgeois class background, I should study Chekov, Nikolai Gogol, and Aleksandr Pushkin, and learn from their wise, objective, bright, and relaxing literary style. Henryk Sienkiewicz and Korolenko in particular are my ideal writers for emulation.”49 In Hinterland, Wang placed great hope in recording the historical moment and waiting for the opportune moment for its appreciation in literary history. Researchers point out that the realistic “portrait of the primary state” of village life in the original version of Hinterland is a “transgression” of “formulaic” revolutionary historical narrative of the 1950s. It breaks through the theoretical convention of “typology” and the narrative models of the leftist literature of the time. 50 These “transgressions”—or from another viewpoint, “breakthroughs”—however, derive not from his intention to challenge the theory but from his ideas about literature and aesthetics. Wang’s short story “A Cow with Four Legs” (“Yitou niu sitiao tui” 一頭牛四條腿) is just as “transgressive” as Hinterland. The story tells about how a landlord protects his rights issued by the CCP in the time of the United Front. It satirizes how peasants break their contract and how the village party cadres solve legal conflicts in a way determined by class background. It also reflects the contradiction between the constitution and class struggle, and exposes objectively the contradictions between United Front policies and the orthodoxy of class struggle. Though the story has a 44. Wang Lin, Kangzhan riji, 297. 45. This is from a dialogue between Wang and Liang Bin in 1939. See Wang Lin’s Kangzhan riji, 97. 46. Wang wrote in the diary on September 21, 1939, “Cangying and Baofahu [蒼蠅和暴發戶 Wang’s plays] both have been written in such a rush that they are formulistic, simple and monotonous.” See more in Wang Lin’s Kangzhan riji, 93. 47. Ibid., 274. 48. Ibid., 301. 49. Ibid., 94. 50. See, respectively, Dong, “Pangsheng zhijie”; and Liu, “Wang Lin.”


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realistic significance, when the Sino-Japanese War approached its end with victory in sight and class struggle once again becomes the main theme,51 it was ruled unsuitable for publication, and so was “brushed aside” by the magazine editor.52 “A Cow with Four Legs” and Hinterland were written at the same time and suffered similar fates. We can see from Li Li’s chapter on Red Crag in this collection that the revolu­ tionary historical novel shouldered the tasks of legitimizing and canonizing revolutionary history; thus, they were required to “narrate particular historical materials within the bounds of particular ideology.” Therefore, “the fictional narrative on the ‘history of revolution’ becomes a foundational ‘discourse,’ which makes any transgressions or alternative narratives illegitimate or impossible.”53 In the practices of Chinese revolutionary literature, Revolutionary Realism is the orthodox way of canonizing the history of the revolution led by the CCP. To be politically correct, Revolutionary Realism (and later Socialist Realism) demanded that “the authors write what they should rather than what they experienced”; otherwise, their works would become “naturalism.”54 Naturalism is the derogatory term contrasted to Socialist Realism in this context. Almost all of Wang’s writings come from his real-life experiences. His war journal provides many “prototype” materials used in Hinterland, such as the hijacking of Peasants Associations by villains, corrupt and autocratic party cadres, peasants who always seek petty advantages, the snobbishness of the villagers, and so on.55 The truthful narrative of Hinterland results in not only a transgression but also an “alternative”—that, to a lesser extent, “does not exert a good political influence” and, to a major degree, demonstrates “an erroneous depiction of the CCP.”56 Among the accusations against Wang’s works were his “naturalism,” alongside his 51. Public speeches delivered by CCP officials and the constitution issued between 1938 and early 1940 expound on “the United Front of the Anti-Japanese War” and specify “people” will include landlords and capitalists— everyone is “people, except traitors.” But internal talks and speeches, such as the internal speeches of the 1942 Yan’an Rectification Movement (Mao’s Yan’an Talks included), still use the theory of class struggle, indicating “landlords” and “capitalists” are counterrevolutionaries and against the people. On the eve of victory in the Sino-Japanese War, Mao Zedong separated “big landlords” and “big capitalists” from “landlords” and “capitalists,” as political enemies. In 1945, from April to July, when the Seventh National Congress of the CCP was held, although still proclaiming the “new democratic revolution,” as victory drew close, the CCP obviously changed its policy. The boundaries between the enemy and the people were redrawn, thus the United Front needed to be reconstructed, and the storm of class struggle was unleashed as the land reform restarted and landlords and capitalists were cleared out from the political category of “the people.” After the victory in the war, landlords and capitalists were again determined to be enemies. 52. In July 1946, Sha Kefu 沙可夫 wrote to Wang, “Northern Culture wanted to publish your A Cow with Four Legs, but after further reading, we think the theme of the story doesn’t match well with the mass mobilization movement today. The poor peasants will get discouraged rather than encouraged. And the rich peasants are described as the true followers of the Double Ten Constitution. Therefore, we have decided not to publish it right now.” See Wang Lin, Wang Lin riji, July 8, 1946. 53. See Huang, “Huilan” zhong de shushu; and Hong, Zhongguo dangdai wenxueshi, Chapter 8. 54. Wang Lin, Wang Lin riji, January 5, 1946. 55. Chen, “Ping Wang Lin de,” 4. 56. See Chen Qixia’s review on Fudi in Wang Lin, Wang Lin riji, January 5, 1947.

The “Red Classic” That Never Was 19

“individualism.” After Mao Zedong’s Yan’an Talks, “individualism” became the “original sin” of intellectuals and the petty bourgeoisie. As a matter of fact, “individualism” and “naturalism” were often seen as two sides of the same coin after the Yan’an Talks, especially during the critical discourse of the 1950s. To overcome this “original sin,” Wang’s daily routine after the 1950s was to study the Yan’an Talks diligently and constantly reflect on his “naturalist” and “individualist” tendencies.57 Longterm reflection and constant self-reform eventually led him to break away from his real-life experiences and commonsense logic, and start to imagine historical events compatible with “politically correct” ideologies. Wang’s diary preserves decades of his mental journey in revising Hinterland as the result of his assiduous studies of the Yan’an Talks. Those diary accounts reflect how he remolds his own identity over time. Thus, the more he revised his work, the closer it became to the Three Prominences and the further removed from the truthful depiction of the actual reality recorded in the first edition. In this case study of Wang Lin, the conflict between “red” and “classics” is evident, because it reflects the internal contradictions of Revolutionary Literature: in its pursuit of “an idealized and ‘holistic’ world, an emphasis has been ceaselessly put on ‘purity’ and ‘the absolute’”; thus Revolutionary Literature constantly strips away “the impure.” As a result, Revolutionary Literature “loses its flesh and blood, and turns into an empty shell.” However, “if this process of resistance and stripping stops, Revolutionary Literature is doomed to be eroded, assimilated, swallowed, and eventually to lose its ‘essence’ at the hands of even stronger traditional powers.”58 The semireligiosity and utopianism in revolutionary ideology causes the gradual blurring of subject and object positions as Revolution Literature incessantly eradicates its “alien elements.” In the process, dominant ideologies are gradually internalized by writers, until they finally surrender and willingly reform themselves.59 As we see in some chapters in this volume, similar phenomena appear again and again. When those who have been disciplined eventually “have their name rectified,” most of them express no regrets over the past injustice. It seems that for revolutionary writers their subjugation to the revolutionary ideology is consistent with their pursuit of literary “convention.” Because of their revolutionary ideals, the two parts are consolidated: as literature presents their revolutionary life, their faith in the revolution and their 57. Wang wrote in his diary many entries such as “I read Chairman Mao’s Yan’an Talks this morning, and I reflect deeply upon myself again” and “reflections written on the tenth anniversary of Chairman Mao’s Yan’an Talks,” see Wang Lin, Wang Lin riji, March 15, 1952. 58. See Hong Zicheng, Dangdai wenxue de gainian 當代文學的概念 (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010), 9. 59. Xiao Jun 蕭軍 proposed to Mao Zedong on multiple occasions before the Yan’an Rectification Movement and Yan’an Talks that the party formulate “policies on literature and arts.” See Xiao Jun’s Yan’an riji 延安日記, vol. 1 (Hong Kong: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 438, 442, and 463. Wang’s Hinterland was criticized twice in 1945–1947 and 1949, respectively. The criticism came not from political figures but from his colleagues in literature and arts. The extreme leftist literary criticism in the 1950s in Wenyi bao and People’s Daily also came from “colleagues” and literary workers alike.


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pursuit of the conventions of Revolutionary Literature merge. Over thirty years, Wang never gave up but exhausted his whole life revising Hinterland. This is unimaginable without such religious devotion toward either revolution or literature. In the latter half of his life, he also revised another novel, Stories of the Xi’an Incident (Xi’an shibian yanyi 西安事變演義), published in 1981 as Riding the Whirlwind (Chicha fengyun 叱咤風雲). The language resembles the young adult version of legends of red heroes that were very popular at that time. However, no matter how hard he tried to conform to official ideologies, Wang failed, over time, to find his place in history. His destiny, like that of many of his contemporaries, demonstrates the vicissitudes in the life of the revolutionary literati.

Bibliography Cao Xia 曹霞. “Lun ‘shiqinian’ wenxue piping de zhuti yu yishixingtai de guiyue—cong Wang  Lin de Fudi yiji qi piping shuoqi 論“十七年”文學批評的主題與意識形態的 規約——從王林的《腹地》及其批評說起. Jiamusi daxue shehui kexue xuebao 佳木斯 大學社會科學學報 4 (2012): 63–68. Chen Qixia 陳企霞. “Ping Wang Lin de changpian xiaoshuo Fudi” 評王林的長篇小說 《腹地》. Wenyi bao 文藝報 3 (1950). Collected in Guangrong de renwu 光榮的任務 [Glorious mission], by Chen Qixia, 82. Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1951. Dong Zhilin 董之林. “‘Pangsheng zhijie’ dui xieshi xiaoshuo guannian de buzheng—yi Fudi zaiban wei guanzhudian”“旁生枝節”對寫實小說觀念的補正——以《腹地》再版 為關注點. Wenxue pinglun 文學評論 1 (2012): 192–203. Hebei shehui kexueyuan lishi yanjiusuo 河北社會科學院歷史研究所, ed. Jin-Cha-Ji kangri genjudi shiliao xuanbian 晉察冀抗日根據地史料選編. Vol. 1. Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1983. Hong Zicheng 洪子誠. Dangdai wenxue de gainian 當代文學的概念. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010. ———. Zhongguo dangdai wenxueshi 中國當代文學史. Revised edition. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010. Hou Jinjing 侯金鏡. “Shitan Fudi de zhuyao quedian yiji Chen Qixia dui ta de piping” 試 談《腹地》的主要缺點以及陳企霞對它的批評. Wenyibao 18 (1956). Collected in Zhongguo xin wenxue daxi 1949–1976 中國新文學大系 1949–1976 [Chinese new literature, 1949–1976]. Vol 2, Wenxue lilun 文學理論, Book 2, 669–80. Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 1997. Huang Ziping 黃子平. “Huilan” zhong de xushu“灰闌”中的敘述. Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2001. Liu Weidong 劉衛東. “Wang Lin: Jiefangqu zuojia de linglei xiezuo” 王林:解放區作家的 另類寫作. Zhongguo xiandai wenxue yanjiu congkan 中國現代文學研究叢刊 5 (2013): 112–19. Lü Zhengcao 呂正操. Lü Zhengcao huiyilu 呂正操回憶錄. Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 2007. Mao Zedong 毛澤東. Mao Zedong xuanji 毛澤東選集. Vol. 1. Baoying: Suzhong chubanshe, 1945.

The “Red Classic” That Never Was 21 Sun Li 孫犁 “Luohansong” 羅漢松. In Sun Li wenji xubian 孫犁文集續編, Vol. 1, 124–27. Tianjin: Baihua wenyi chubanshe, 1992. Wang Duanyang, ed. “Wang Lin de jiaodai: Guanyu Liang Bin and Sun Li” 王林的交代:關於 梁斌、孫犁. Xinwenxue shiliao 新文學史料 2 (2009): 132–35. ———. “Wang Lin he tade Fudi” 王林和他的《腹地》. Xinwenxue shiliao 新文學史料 2 (2008): 51–56. Wang Lin 王林. Fudi 腹地. Beijing: Xinhua shudian, 1949. ———. Fudi 腹地. Beijing: Jiefangjun wenyi chubanshe, 1985. ———. Kangzhan riji 抗戰日記. Beijing: Jiefangju chubanshe, 2009. ———. Wang Lin riji: Wenyijie de naxie shi 王林日記:文藝界那些事 (1946–1948). N.p., named and selected by Wang Duanyang 王端陽. ———. Wang Lin riji: Wenyi shiqinian 王林日記:文藝十七年 (1949–1966). N.p., named and selected by Wang Duanyang. ———. Wenge riji 文革日記. N.p. Xiao Jun 蕭軍. Yan’an riji 延安日記. Vol. 1. Hong Kong: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Xing Xiaoqun 邢小群. “Fudi shijian yingqi de sikao”《腹地》事件引起的思考. Nanfang wentan 南方文壇 6 (2009): 69–73. Yan Lifei 閆立飛. “Fudi: Lishi de ‘yuanshengtai’ xiangxiang yu zaixian”《腹地》:歷史的 “原生態”想像與再現. Lanzhou xuekan 蘭州學刊 7 (2012): 73–78. Yuan Yingke 苑英科. Jueran duli: Sun Li fenzheng 崛然獨立:孫犁紛爭. Shijiazhuang: Hebei daxue chubanshe, 2014. Zhang Jun 張均. “1950 zhi 70 niandai wenxue zhong de piping yu ziwo piping” 1950 至 70 年 代文學中的批評與自我批評. Yangzijiang pinglun 揚子江評論 3 (2010): 19–24.

2 Great Changes in Critical Reception “Red Classic” Authenticity and the “Eight Black Theories” Richard King

The Chinese novels of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s later included in the “red classic” canon combine to form a narrative of glorious revolution and enlightened nation building.1 Mythic tales of sacrifice and brilliant leadership in popular resistance and military success present an inspiring composite picture of the progress to power of the Red Army and the Communist Party prior to 1949; these are complemented by the chronicle of the less spectacular but equally arduous process of reinventing the Chinese state, its people, and the ownership of land and property post-1949. Each of the “red classic” novels presents a normative picture of one moment in the Chinese revolution, told in accordance with the prevailing Communist Party interpretation of that history. Details of the history of the Chinese revolution have always been subject to modification in the interests of the moment, but the overall grand narrative remains one that, like the Stalinist canon that preceded it, moves with teleological assurance from darkness to light, proceeding from a cruel and inequitable past, through a hopeful present of shared endeavor, toward the beguiling prospect of the Communist society to come.2 A common feature of the “red classics” is that the authors were participants in, or witnesses ­­­to, the real-life events dramatized in their novels. In the case of novels dealing with the peasantry, a population lacking the education to tell its own epic story, the authors were those assigned to promote and execute party policies—land reform in the late 1940s and collectivization of agriculture in the 1950s.

1. In writing this chapter, I have referred most frequently to the following studies of “red classic” fiction: Li Yang 李楊, 50–70 niandai Zhongguo wenxue jingdian zai jiedu 50–70 年代中國文學經典再解讀 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe, 2002); Li Yang 李楊, Kangzheng suming zhi lu: “Shehuizhuyi xianshizhuyi” (1942–1976) yanjiu 抗爭宿命之路:“社會主義現實主義”(1949–1976) 研究 (Changchun: Shidai wenyi chubanshe, 1993); Fan Xing 樊星, ed., Yongyuan de hongse jingdian: Hongse jingdian chuangzuo yingxiang shi hua 永遠的 紅色經典:紅色經典創作影響史話 (Wuhan: Hubei changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 2008); and Joe C. Huang, Heroes and Villains in Communist China: The Novel as a Reflection of Life (New York: Pica Press, 1973). 2. See Katerina Clark, The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985).

Great Changes in Critical Reception


What the “red classic” novels shared, to a greater or lesser degree, was a claim to authenticity: the authors had been present in historic moments of victory and reconstruction; they had witnessed sacrifice and triumph; they had observed heroism and participated as intractable problems were solved. Readers were permitted and encouraged to accept the novels as representations of historical reality, told by the people who knew that reality best. Essays by and about authors recounting their experiences and identifying the models for selected characters in their novels further assisted in the suspension of disbelief: this was the truth; these were real people and real events. Claims to authenticity, a key to the promotion of the “red classic” novels in the 1950s and early 1960s, ceased to be an asset thereafter. Advocacy of a realism less tied to Communist Party doctrine had come under attack in the anti-rightist campaign of the late 1950s; this was followed in the early 1960s by criticism of historical fiction by participants and witnesses seen to lionize military leaders who had now fallen from grace; and later, by animated and combative debate over sympathetic characters in village fiction purporting to present realistic portraits of salt-of-the-earth peasants questioning and resisting agricultural collectivization. At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, almost all the cultural products of the Seventeen Years preceding 1966 were removed from circulation, as well as works from the Chinese tradition, most of those from the Republican era, and foreign literary works in translation.3 Some authors and their works were explicitly condemned, and most of their sponsors in publishing and cultural officialdom removed from their positions of authority. A report written by Jiang Qing and published in June 1967 as a summary of the proceedings of a forum held in February of the previous year, declared the existence of a “black anti-Party and anti-socialist line” in contemporary Chinese culture.4 The document was a manifesto for Cultural Revolution cultural policy and aesthetics; in addition to its condemnation of the cultural establishment of the Seventeen Years (still in place when the forum was held, ousted by the time the “Summary” was published) and the works produced and disseminated under its aegis, it laid out the program for the loyalist and heroic culture to come. The “black line in the arts” (wenyi heixian 文藝黑線) identified in Jiang Qing’s “Summary” was associated with a series of propositions raised since 1949 and grouped together as what would later be called the “Eight Black Theories” (Heibalun 黑八論). The first three of these propositions argue for the portrayal of truth and 3. There were exceptions: the works of Lu Xun 魯迅 were survivors from the 1920s and 1930s, and Hao Ran’s 浩然 Yanyangtian 艷陽天 and the stories in his Chungeji collection 春歌集 from the Seventeen Years 1949–1976. 4. “Lin Biao tongzhi weituo Jiang Qing tongzhi zhaokai de budui wenyi gongzuo zuotanhui baogao” 林彪同志 委託江青同志召開的部隊文藝工作座談會報告, in Jiang Qing tongzhi jianghua xuanbian 江青同志講話 選編 (n.p. [Shijiazhuang]: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1969), 1–17, qt. 4; translated as “Summary of the Forum on the Work in Literature and Art in the Armed Forces with which Comrade Lin Piao [Lin Biao] Entrusted Comrade Chiang Ching [Jiang Qing],” Peking Review 23 (June 2, 1967): 10–16, qt. 11.


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reality as observed and experienced rather than as prescribed, and another advocates the portrayal of characters less than wholeheartedly committed to socialism. Though no works of the “red classic” canon are held up for explicit condemnation in the document, many can be seen to embody these newly tabooed proposals. By the early 1970s, in a spate of articles by groups of theorists and polemicists defending Cultural Revolution innovations and promoting recent works, “real people and real events” (zhenren zhenshi 真人真事) were identified as a constraint upon creativity that must be transcended if the arts were to fulfill their newly assigned task of creating “heroic archetypes” for audiences to emulate. Critical writings about literature dating from the Cultural Revolution and the years that immediately followed it invariably conflate issues of aesthetics, policy, factionalism, and personal animosity. Treachery and personal ambition, rather than differences of opinion, are seen as reasons for creation of, and support for, texts later viewed as heterodox. The subordination of the arts to politics demanded by Mao at Yan’an developed in the Cultural Revolution decade into an increasingly factional (or, as later described, “conspiratorial”) culture, in which works of fiction, cinema, and the visual and performing arts were deployed in support of initiatives launched by those in control of the media, and any disapproval of these new works was seen as an attack on the Communist Party and its leader.5 Critiques of the literature of the Seventeen Years followed Yao Wenyuan’s 1967 denunciation of Zhou Yang 周揚, the leading official in culture and propaganda over that period, as “two-faced,” pretending to pursue Mao’s “correct” line in cultural policy while actually protecting those who betrayed it.6 The language was similarly vitriolic, and more nastily personal, in the period following the arrest of the Gang of Four, when almost everything seen to have gone amiss with the arts (and much of the rest of Chinese society) was attributed to the ambition, jealousy, vindictiveness, and malice of Jiang Qing. This chapter explores both “red classic” claims to authenticity and Cultural Revolution critiques of propositions advocating truthfulness and reality. It also details specific criticisms made of one “red classic” novel and its author.

“Red Classic” Reality: The Case of Great Changes in a Mountain Village The novel selected as a case study for this chapter is Zhou Libo’s Great Changes in a Mountain Village (hereafter Great Changes), a chronicle of the promotion of collective farming written after a stay of two years in the author’s native Yiyang 益陽, in Hunan 5. I have described “conspiratorial literature” (yinmou wenyi 陰謀文藝) and analyzed one of its products, in Richard King, “A Fiction Revealing Collusion: Allegory and Evasion in the Mid-1970s,” Modern Chinese Literature 10 (1997): 71–90. 6. Yao Wenyuan 姚文元, “Ping fangeming de liangmian pai Zhou Yang” 評反革命的兩面派周揚, Hongqi 1 (January 1967): 14–36.

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Province. Considerable information exists on the creative process of the novel and on the treatment of the author during the Cultural Revolution, and characters appearing in it can be identified with real people known to the author and named in secondary sources. Zhou Libo is the only author with two novels in the red canon: his 1948 land reform novel Hurricane and the collectivization novel Great Changes, published a decade later.7 With Hurricane, as I have proposed elsewhere, the translator of Sholokhov’s Virgin Soil Upturned (Chinese title: Bei kaiken de chunüdi 被開墾的處女地) pioneered a Chinese version of Socialist Realism, one that followed Soviet traditions. Hurricane had grown out of Zhou Libo’s experience as a member of a land-reform work team in a Manchurian village recently liberated by the Communist Red Army; the work team’s mission in the novel is to inspire the farm workers and tenants to rise against the local landlord, dispossess him, and redistribute his property. The action is a literary realization of Mao’s 1927 prediction (in his “Report on an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan”) of peasant uprisings to come,8 and the events follow the task-completion format of the Stalinist canon. For all his adherence to the Communist Party’s version of history and the conventions of an imported literary form, however, the author, like other “red classic” novelists, could still point to the authenticity of his account: he had been there, land reform had taken place in that village, and characters in the novel were based on real individuals.9 For Great Changes, Zhou Libo returned to the socialist transformation of the countryside, though in a much messier and more protracted phase than in Hurricane: the collectivization of land and property recently distributed to the peasantry. To observe this process, Zhou Libo moved his young family to Yiyang in 1954, settling in Qingxi Village in Dengshiqiao County 鄧石橋清溪村 the following year, and staying for two years;10 during this time he wrote in the mornings, worked in the fields in the afternoons, and served on the village committee. Even in his homecoming, he must have seemed something of an alien creature despite his familiarity with the landscape and the dialect: photographs of the period show the bespectacled author at work in the fields and chatting with the locals, looking very much the party official sent down to inspect conditions in the countryside.11 This is not to disparage Zhou Libo’s 7. Zhou Libo 周立波, Zhou Libo xuanji 周立波選集 (7 volumes) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983). Hurricane occupies vol. 2, and Great Changes, vol. 3. 8. Mao Zedong 毛澤東, “Hunan nongmin yundong kaocha baogao” 湖南農民運動考查報告, in Mao Zedong xuanji 毛澤東選集 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1968), 1, 12–44; the novel’s title is taken from a passage on p. 13 that is included as an epigram in most editions. 9. Later reports indicated that the real people were transformed in the novel to accord with the qualities observed in Mao’s essays; see Richard King, Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism 1945–1980 (Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2013), 57, and 223nn53 and 60. 10. Zhou Libo was first married in 1928; he married his second wife, Lin Lan, in 1942. 11. Yang Xi 楊希, “Huiwang shanxiang fengyu wushinian: Shanxiang jubian chuangzuo, yingxiang shi hua” 回望山鄉風雨五十年:“山鄉巨變”創作,影響史話, in Yongyuan de hongse jingdian, ed. Fan Xing,


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commitment to the undertaking—he and his wife Lin Lan 林藍 endured considerable hardship in Yiyang and lost their infant daughter there, as he prepared to write what he considered his finest work, a novel that would bring him measured praise after its publication and savage criticism in the decade that followed. In Great Changes, as in Hurricane, the reader follows an outsider sent by the Communist Party to implement policy into the village where the action of the novel is set; here the cadre is the young woman Deng Xiumei 鄧秀梅. And as in Hurricane, the first local encountered is the novel’s most garrulous and only comic character, whose evasive answers to questions provide a foretaste of the challenges to come.12 Sheng Youting 盛佑亭, whose nickname Ting Mianhu 亭麵糊 (Flour-Paste Ting) identifies him as less than a clear thinker, is selling bamboo from his newly acquired property to make some cash before collectivization takes it away from him. Other villagers are similarly cashing in on assets and slaughtering livestock in passive resistance to the impending loss of private ownership. Deng Xiumei and local officials have to deal with this resistance, and with rumors from the plausible (the collectivization of assets) to the fanciful (the collectivization of women) and the fantastic (reports of a talking ox who pleads with his owners to stay out of the collective), and they have to persuade their charges of the merits of collective farming; their careful addressing of the villagers’ concerns is generously interspersed with stories of sabotage, interference, and gossip, and also matchmaking and romance, charmingly and tenderly presented. With landlords dispossessed, there are no real villains but a modest cast of “negative characters”—idlers, schemers, and opportunists. Negative characters are identified by unflattering nicknames: Wang Jusheng 王菊生 is “Biter Ju” (Ju yao 菊咬 or Ju yaojin 菊咬筋, glossed as referring to his self-interestedness), and Fu Jiangeng 符賤庚 is “Scabby Fu” (Fu laizi 符癩子). Though Deng Xiaomei is at the center of the novel, mentors young activists, and works to persuade the older and more conservative peasants, there are no outstandingly heroic figures either. The local party secretary Li Yuehui 李月輝, well meaning but slow moving, and team leader Liu Yusheng 劉雨生, more activist but distracted by marital strife (his wife leaves him for Scabby Fu), are, as Chen Sihe 陳思和 observes in his reading of the novel, “muddy-legged cadres” who must act as a bridge between the life of the people and the ambitions of the central leadership;13 it is a task that neither finds easy. The hesitation over collectivization that many of the novel’s characters feel is devalued in that

286–324, photograph 289; Chen Sihe 陳思和, Zhongguo dangdai wenxue shi jiaocheng 中國當代文學史教程 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 1999), 37. 12. In Hurricane, the outsider is the work-team leader Xiao 蕭隊長, who is taken to Yuanmao Village 元茂屯 by the carter Old Sun (Lao Suntou 老孫頭). 13. Chen Sihe, Jiaocheng, 39.

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it is encouraged by the novel’s undesirables; but it is pervasive, and the efforts of the young activists marshaled by Deng Xiumei are unable fully to counteract it. Two families bound by romantic ties serve as microcosms for the conflict between the conservative old and the activist young. These are the families of Sheng Youting and Chen Xianjin 陳先晉, older peasant characters modeled on Zhou Libo’s neighbors in Yiyang. Both men are presented as industrious and capable peasants with the traditional desire to provide for their families rather than share their property and efforts with their neighbors. Both have activist children: Sheng Youting’s daughter Shujun 淑君 is Deng Xiumei’s closest ally, and Chen Xianjin (whose given name is ironically homophonous with “advanced”) is the father of Dachun 大春, the head of the village’s youth league. While Sheng Youting was the more discussed in subsequent criticism, the case of Chen Xianjin, whose family is the focus of four consecutive chapters of the novel, may be the one whose reluctance to collectivize is most persuasive. Chen is shown to “love the soil” (lian tu 戀土), weeping at the prospect of relinquishing his land, either the poor plot his family previously rented or the paddy field assigned to him at land reform; and even his fantasies of getting rich through a windfall are sympathetically portrayed. The leniency with which he is treated by the local officials makes it possible for him to prevaricate at length over a decision about joining the new cooperatives. At the end of the novel, with little indication of how the villagers are persuaded of the wisdom of the new state policy, five cooperatives are formed for New Year’s Day 1956, to general celebration and merriment. It is a triumphant completion of a task that sits uneasily on the meandering narrative of evasion and persuasion that precedes it.

Great Changes Reviewed In a generally positive review of the novel in 1961, the author, critic, and translator Huang Qiuyun 黃秋耘 observed that Great Changes differed from the more epic and heroic stream of novels set in wartime, describing it as a more intimate work, presenting personal stories of individual peasants confronting the collectivization process. He noted that the author had been studying traditional fiction in recent years and that his studies were evident in the novel.14 As Huang Qiuyun perceptively observed, for all its admirable sympathy for peasant concerns, Great Changes lacks what he calls qi 氣, and glosses as Zeitgeist, the integration of observed reality and ideology.15 Writing the year after Huang Qiuyun, for a Western audience and from a 14. Huang Qiuyun 黃秋耘, “Shanxiang jubian suotan” 山鄉巨變 瑣談, in Ershi shiji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao 二十世紀中國小說理論資料, ed. Hong Zicheng 洪子誠 (Beijing: Peking University Press, 1997), 5: 414–20. 15. Huang Qiuyun, “Shanxiang jubian suotan,” 392.


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very different ideological perspective, T. A. Hsia similarly praised Zhou Libo’s “close observation and imaginative sympathy” for his peasant subjects, finding that Zhou’s description of “the oppressed and bemused masses” fails as propaganda and stands instead as a “denial of the communist system.”16 In his 1973 study of what would later be known as “red classic” novels, Joe C. Huang, while similarly acknowledging Great Changes’ detailed characterizations, is more dismissive of it than of any of the other novels he reviews: The loyalty of Chou Li-po [Zhou Libo] is unquestioned. He describes in great detail the different forms of peasant opposition to collectivization, such as felling trees and slaughtering livestock. As a creative work, however, the novel is a complete failure.17

Huang clearly finds the lack of dramatic incident and heroic deeds unsatisfying, for example, in comparison with Red Crag, the novel he praises most highly.18 With the benefit of longer hindsight, Chen Sihe points to bad timing as a cause for the Great Changes’ agitational shortcomings: while Zhou Libo was embedded in Yiyang, Mao was driving a “socialist high tide” in the countryside, pushing for an accelerated pace of collectivization, and attacking as rural rightists those who “opposed rash advance” ( fan maojin 反冒進).19 Great Changes’ leisurely Li Yuehui, the leading local official, could hardly have been less inclined to the dynamic rashness Mao demanded. None of the critics cited above, whether sympathetic or hostile to the propaganda purpose of the novel, questions the authenticity of Zhou Libo’s narrative or the realism of his portrayal of the peasants of southwest China on the eve of collectivization. Many of the characters in the novel are identified in secondary sources with residents of the village where Zhou Libo and Lin Lan stayed, and those residents were reportedly fully acquiescent in their portrayal. When some of them were required to condemn Zhou Libo during the Cultural Revolution, they did so with reference to the characters based on them. Later, in less stressful times, the survivors reassembled at Zhou Libo’s former residence (now a museum) to reminisce warmly about their times with the author and their place in his novel, their Cultural Revolution outrage forgotten. While not the major figure in the novel, Sheng Youting was the most closely identified with one of Zhou Libo’s village neighbors and was the cause initially of celebrity and shortly after of obloquy in the reception of the novel. Sheng Youting 16. T. A. Hsia, “Heroes and Hero-Worship in Fiction,” in Chinese Communist Literature, ed. Cyril Birch (New York: Praeger, 1963), 113–38, qt. 118, 119. 17. Joe C. Huang, Heroes and Villains, 280. 18. Joe C. Huang, Heroes and Villains, 87, calls Red Crag a “genuine gemstone” in contrast to the “glass imitation” valuation he places on other works, including The Song of Youth. 19. Chen Sihe, Jiaocheng, 39.

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is endearing and unreliable, prone to issuing ferocious and entirely empty threats to family and livestock, disagreeing with his progressive and thus collectivist daughter, easily deceived by rumor and sidetracked by a cup of wine, but a competent farmer looking out for the interests of his family. The character Sheng Youting was based on a single individual, the peasant Deng Yiting 鄧益亭 (the final character of both names being the same); Zhou Libo lodged with his family in Zhushanwan 竹山灣 Village when he first arrived in Yiyang to take part in collectivization and prepare to write his novel, and the two men became close. As the author later described his friend: Grandpa Deng was a solid [laoshi 老實] peasant who had worked the land for more than forty years, honest, sincere, plain, and rather set in his ways; he also liked a drink and got things wrong when he’d had a few cups. He was a typical peasant.20

If the case for collective farming was to be persuasive, it should convince salt-of-theearth peasants like Sheng Youting, and thus it is really he, rather than the sent-down official Deng Xiumei, who is the model for socialist transformation. Sheng Youting, like other villagers, is seen joining the collective in the novel’s final chapter, bringing firewood to warm the proceedings, but his protracted resistance lingers in the memory more than his sudden conversion. In this respect, Sheng Youting differs from the character with whom he is most commonly compared, the similarly conservative Grandfather Liang the Third 梁三老漢 of Liu Qing’s 1960 collectivization novel The Builders: in that novel, after resisting the efforts of his adopted son Liang Shengbao 梁生寶 to farm collectively, the older Liang is movingly persuaded, in part by the high esteem in which his son is held by their neighbors, and resolves to support him fully.21

Heading for a Fall: A “Red Classic” in Changing Times For Great Changes in a Mountain Village, the road to perdition began, ironically, with commendation three years after the novel’s publication. To the extent it can be gleaned from secondary sources, initial reaction to the novel was largely positive, both nationally (Huang Qiuyun’s prescient reservations notwithstanding) and at home in Yiyang.22 Deng Xiumei, the visiting official through whom much of the action of the novel is seen, was the focus of attention, praised for her skillful execution of party policy, and the novel was recognized for its lifelike evocation of peasant life in 20. Hu Jian 胡堅, “Zhou Libo jiao wo xie gao” 周立波教我寫稿, qt. in Yang, “Huiwang shanxiang fengyu wushinian,” 311. 21. Liu Qing, Chuangye shi 創業史 (Beijing: Zhongguo qingnian chubanshe, 1960); see Joe C. Huang, Heroes and Villains, 274–48. 22. Chen Shunxin 陳順馨, Shehuizhuyi xianshizhuyi lilun zai Zhongguo de jieshou yu zhuanhua 社會主義現實主 義在中國的接受與轉化 (Hefei: Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe, 2001), 453, suggests that Great Changes was more popular on first appearance than either Liu Qing’s Chuangye shi or Zhao Shuli’s Sanliwan; Chen Shunxing also evaluates Great Changes as superior to the other two.


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South China.23 In the early 1960s, however, Shao Quanlin 邵荃麟, then vice president of the Chinese Writers’ Association, moved away from previously orthodox positions on literary policy to propose that more attention be paid to “middle characters” (zhongjian renwu 中間人物) in fiction about the countryside.24 Shao had already noted the importance of characters like Grandfather Liang the Third of The Builders, rather than simply praising Liang Shengbao, claiming that the older man “sums up the burdens of individual peasants.”25 In 1962, he articulated his position more fully at a conference in Dalian, in an atmosphere of unprecedented tolerance in cultural circles in the period of recovery from the Great Leap Forward. The “middle characters” he advocated were those “neither good nor bad, good as well as bad, mediocre, average people” (bu hao bu huai, yi hao yi huai, zhong bu liur de yunyun zhongsheng 不好不壞,亦好亦壞,中不溜兒的芸芸眾生), influenced by tradition but with the potential for change.26 For Shao Quanlin, these “middle characters” formed the majority of the rural population, and should be defined as “typical” (dianxing 典型); Shao here places his definition of “typical” squarely at the “representative” end of the continuum with “exemplary” at its other pole.27 As Joe C. Huang observes, Shao’s position was counter to Mao’s belief in peasant enthusiasm for cooperation; thus, what was ostensibly a proposal about literary characterization impinged on policy debates concerning collectivization, and even on the authority of Mao in the aftermath of the Great Leap.28 With Mao’s forceful return to the forefront in 1962, and his reemphasis of the primacy of class struggle, criticism of the “middle characters” proposition was inevitable; in September 1964, with the “Four Cleans” (siqing 四清) campaign underway, Shao’s theory, and the concomitant call for the “intensification of realism” were attacked in Wenyibao as “literary propositions of the bourgeoisie,” though, for the time being, the authors Shao had cited as having created “middle characters” were spared condemnation. The bursting of Shao Quanlin’s trial balloon made it clear that a defense of realism or authenticity was inadequate in the face of charges of failure correctly to represent the progressive spirit of the age. By the time

23. In his 1960 address to the Third Assembly of Writers and Artists (Wendaihui), Zhou Yang cited Great Changes’ Deng Xiumei and The Builders’ Liang Shengbao as examples of characters whose appearance indicated the success of the socialist arts to that point. Chou [Zhou] Yang, The Path of Socialist Literature and Art in China: Report Delivered to the Third Congress of Chinese Literary and Art Workers on July 22, 1960 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1960), 14. 24. Joe C. Huang, Heroes and Villains, 266–91; see also Merle Goldman, China’s Intellectuals: Advise and Dissent (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 101–7. 25. Joe C. Huang, Heroes and Villains, 269, 270. 26. Wenyibao bianjibu 文藝報編輯部, “Guanyu ‘xie zhongjian renwu’ de ticai” 關於“寫中間人物”的題材, in Hong Zicheng, Ershi nianji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao, 5:513–22, qt. 521. 27. For the range of meanings of “typical” (dianxing 典型), see Richard King, “Typical People in Typical Circumstances,” in Words and Their Stories: Essays on the Language of the Chinese Revolution, ed. Ban Wang (Leyden: Brill, 2011), 185–204. 28. Joe C. Huang, Heroes and Villains, 283.

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of Jiang Qing’s “Summary,” advocacy of realism had become tantamount to an attack on the leadership of the Communist Party.

The “Eight Black Theories,” the “Basic Task,” and the Dangers of Realism The Eight Black Theories were packaged together in the “Summary,” published in 1967, of the February 1966 “Forum on the Work in Literature and Art in the Armed Forces with which Comrade Lin Biao Entrusted Comrade Jiang Qing.” That meeting, held in Shanghai, marked Jiang Qing’s formal involvement in the arts in the People’s Liberation Army, which Lin Biao was grooming as a “school for Mao Zedong thought” and his own power base.29 Lin Biao had perceptively introduced Jiang Qing to the forum’s delegates as “very sharp politically on questions of literature and art” and “an insider [neihang 內行] in the arts,” and the “Summary” bears this out.30 In the first section, detailing ideas agreed upon at the Forum, it is stated that “since the founding of our People’s Republic . . . we have been under the influence of a black anti-Party and anti-socialist line which is diametrically opposed to Chairman Mao’s thought, combining the ideas of the bourgeoisie, the [Soviet] revisionists and the literature and art of the 1930s.” The “Summary” continues: Typical expressions of this line are such theories as those of [1] “truthful writing,” [2] “the broad path of realism,” [3] “the deepening of realism,” [4] opposition to “subject matter as the decisive factor,” [5] “middle characters,” [6] opposition to the “smell of gunpowder,” and [7] “the spirit of the age as the melding of various trends.” Many of these were refuted long ago by Chairman Mao in his “Talks at the Yenan [Yan’an] Forum on Literature and Art.” In film circles, there are those who advocate [8] “discarding the classics and rebelling against orthodoxy.”31

While the Eight Black Theories appeared together for the first time in this passage of the “Summary,” none was new. Rather, the eight propositions had all been raised and criticized over the course of the past Seventeen Years.32 All date from periods of relatively relaxed control over the arts in the early years of the People’s Republic: the early 1950s, prior to the campaign against Hu Feng, the Hundred Flowers of 29. Jiang Qing had addressed a Beijing assembly dedicated to operas on contemporary themes in 1964, though her contributions were little noted at the time. Her speech on that occasion was released in 1967 as “Tan Jingju geming 談京劇革命,” Hongqi 6 (June 1967), 25–27, translated as “On the Revolution in Peking Opera,” Peking Review 20 (May 12, 1967), and was presented in the mid-1970s as the beginning of opera reform. 30. “Lin Biao tongzhi weituo Jiang Qing tongzhi zhaokai de budui wenyi gongzuo zuotanhui jiyao,” 1; “Summary of the Forum on the Work in Literature and Art in the Armed Forces with which Comrade Lin Piao [Lin Biao] Entrusted Comrade Chiang Ching [Jiang Qing],” 10, where the final clause quoted is translated “and she really knows art.” 31. “Jiyao,” 4; “Summary,” 5. I have added the numbers. 32. For a recent fuller reading of the theories and their origins, see chapter 3, “Heibailun piping he fansi” 黑八 論批評與反思, in Dangdai Zhongguo wenyi lilun yanjiu (1949–2008) 當代中國文藝理論研究 (1949–2008), ed. Gao Jianping 高建平 (Beijing: Shehui kexueyuan chubanshe, 2011), 52–75.


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the mid-1950s, and the “blooming and contending” of the early 1960s. All had subsequently been rebutted by party authorities; but Jiang Qing clearly believed they were still prevalent at the time of the forum and, like Yao Wenyuan in his attack on Zhou  Yang, blamed those who had permitted such theories to be raised and then protected the offending theorists.33 The first three of the Eight Black Theories deal with the representation of reality in the arts, and are key to the thesis of the “Summary” concerning what had gone wrong with the arts in the Seventeen Years 1949–1966.34 These were: “truthful writing” (xie zhenshi 寫真實) associated with Hu Feng 胡風 and addressed in the campaign against him; “the broad path of realism” (xianshizhuyi—guangkuo de daolu 現實主義——廣 闊的道路), the title of Qin Zhaoyang 秦兆陽’s essay written in the Hundred Flowers movement, and “the deepening of realism” (xianshizhuyi de shenhua 現實主義的 深化), raised by Shao Quanlin at the 1962 Dalian conference as a companion to his advocacy of “middle characters,” itself fifth in the list of black theories. At issue in this group was the question of whether an author should present a view of reality based primarily on his or her own observation and experience, or adhere to the party’s assessment of the moment in the grand trajectory of revolutionary history. Hu Feng had defended a personal or subjective view;35 Qin Zhaoyang had challenged the Soviet doctrine of Socialist Realism with the more ambiguous (in terms of both commitment and control) “realism of the socialist age”;36 and Shao Quanlin’s contention that a thoroughgoing realism was the correct basis for romanticism implicitly challenged the political idealism inherent in the Chinese successor to Socialist Realism, the Combination of Revolutionary Realism and Revolutionary Romanticism.37 Of the remaining “black theories,” two were associated with Xia Yan 夏衍, a longtime colleague of Zhou Yang and an influential figure in the film world. Xia’s “opposition to the smell of gunpowder” in cinema reflected his disenchantment with military films and was seen as an attack on revolutionary heroism, and his proposal to “discard classics and challenge orthodoxy” was seen as “discarding the classics of MarxismLeninism and the orthodoxy of people’s war” when making films. Zhang Guangnian

33. Yao, “Ping fangeming liangmianpai Zhou Yang,” 14–36. Available in English translation titled “On the Counter-revolutionary Double-Dealer Chou Yang [Zhou Yang],” Chinese Literature 3 (March 1967): 24–71. 34. I was privileged to be guided through the heibalun by one of the principal offenders, the author, critic, and editor Qin Zhaoyang, in an interview in his Beijing courtyard house in May 1981. For an introduction to the author and a partial transcript of our conversation, dealing with his years of ostracism, see Richard King, “After the Hundred Flowers: A 1981 Interview with Qin Zhaoyang,” Renditions 65 (Spring 2006): 38–53. 35. For the campaign against Hu Feng, see Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China (New York: Atheneum, 1971), 128–57; D. W. Fokkema, Literary Doctrine in China and Soviet Influence 1956–1960 (The Hague: Mouton, 1965), 19–27. 36. See Goldman, Literary Dissent, 158–202; Fokkema, Literary Doctrine, 132–46. 37. King, Milestones, 73–76.

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張光年’s “opposition to ‘subject matter as the decisive factor’” was seen as an attack on the party leadership’s imposition of themes on artists.38 No novels later designated “red classics” are singled out for criticism in the “Summary,” which is concerned with a wholesale demolition of existing works, but there is some reason to believe that both of Zhou Libo’s contributions to the canon may have been considered as the document was being prepared. In a section on appropriate subject matter for the arts, the “Summary” criticizes as “bourgeois and revisionist trash” “some works” that “created heroes only to have them die in a contrived tragic ending”; the compilers of research materials on Zhou Libo believe this to refer to the death of the peasant martyr Zhao Yulin 趙玉林 in Hurricane.39 Also criticized in the same passage are “other works [that] do not present heroic characters but only ‘middle characters’ who are actually backward people,” a group famously represented by Great Changes’ Sheng Youting. Further, Sholokhov, the Nobel laureate of the previous year and the Soviet novelist most scorned in Cultural Revolution criticism, is condemned in the “Summary” as the “father of revisionist literature” and an influence (presumably baleful) on Chinese authors. Zhou Libo had both translated the Russian author’s Virgin Soil Upturned (one of three works by Sholokhov cited in the “Summary”) and emulated it in Hurricane, and was thus uniquely vulnerable to the call for criticism of Sholokhov’s works and “similar works by Chinese writers.”40 The case for the destruction of the culture of the first Seventeen Years of the People’s Republic is complemented in the “Summary” by an agenda for the new socialist culture to replace it and specific examples of pioneering works in progress. The “Summary” declares, “The basic task of socialist literature is to work hard and create heroic characters of workers, peasants, and soldiers.”41 Later in the text, the key “six even mores” (liu geng 六更) passage from Mao’s “Talks” is quoted to support the ruling that “we should not confine ourselves to real people and real events.”42 These two statements of cultural policy were crucial in the creation of the Cultural 38. Gao, Dangdai Zhongguo wenyi lilun yanjiu, 65–75; see also Luo Xiaozhou 羅曉舟, “‘Ticai jueding lun’ yu yinmou wenyi”“題材決定論”與陰謀文藝, Renmin wenxue 2 (February 1982): 18–22. Zhang Guangnian emerged to defend himself in 1977, at a time when many of the Eight Black Theories (including “truthful writing,” “middle characters,” and “the broad road”) were not rehabilitated; thus, his article on choice of subject matter is also a convoluted mess of self-justification and condemnation of those shortly to return themselves, including Qin Zhaoyang and, perhaps more embarrassingly still, repetition of the still standard abuse of Liu Shaoqi. Such contortions were common enough in the months following the end of the Cultural Revolution but make unedifying reading now. See Zhang Guangnian 張光年, “Bo ‘heixian zhuanzheng’ lun— cong suowei ‘wenyi heixian’ de ‘heibalun’ tanqi” 駁“黑線專政”論——從所謂“文藝黑線”的“黑八論” 談起, Renmin ribao (December 7, 1977). 39. “Jiyao,” 16; “Summary,” 16. Li Huasheng 李華盛 and Hu Guangfan 胡光凡, eds., Zhou Libo yanjiu ziliao 周立波研究資料 (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983), 42. The authenticity defense would be that the model for the peasant martyr did indeed die. 40. “Jiyao,” 14; “Summary,” 15. 41. “Jiyao,” 8; “Summary,” 12. 42. “Jiyao,” 15; “Summary,” 15, where zhen ren zhen shi 真人真事 is rendered “actual people and actual events.”


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Revolution Model Theatrical Works (yangbanxi 樣板戲), in progress as the forum was convened: the creative groups were then engaged in refining the single most important heroic figures in each of the early operas among the models. The formula for character portrayal would be known from 1968 as the “Three Prominences” (Santuchu 三突出), with the preeminence of the central hero chief among them.43 The admonition against “real people and real events” was to prevent artists from reproducing characters and events so specific that they could not be endowed with the universal characteristics seen at the time to apply to members of their class. In 1974, a decade after Jiang Qing began her process of refining the Model Theatrical Works, both the “basic task” and “real people and real events” injunctions were revived, to defend the achievements of the arts in the Cultural Revolution and to assist in current factional campaigning. The “basic task” principle, its wording slightly revised—“heroic archetypes” (yingxiong dianxing 英雄典型) replacing “heroic characters” (yingxiong renwu 英雄人物 )—provided the title for an influential 1974 article by the leading writing group Chu Lan 初瀾.44 That article reiterates the importance of class struggle and insists that the Model Theatrical Works have made possible the occupation of the stage (and the other arts) by the revolutionary classes, and that any criticism of those works indicates a desire to return to the dictatorship of the former ruling classes over the arts, and thus opposition to Mao and the Cultural Revolution. An article the following month by the writing group Fang Jin 方進 renewed the attack on “real people and real events,” representing the quest for authenticity as an avoidance of the typification demanded by Mao at Yan’an (and by Chu Lan’s article the previous month). Both writing collectives held up heroic characters from the Model Theatrical Works as evidence of the policies they endorsed; Fang  Jin further cited Hao Ran’s novels Bright Sunny Skies and The Golden Road (Jinguang dadao 金光大道) as having typical (in the sense of exemplary) peasant characters. 45 In neither 1974 case, however, was the “Summary” or Jiang Qing cited as a source; that document and its principal author adopted a much lower profile after the initial flourish of the Cultural Revolution.

43. I have discussed the “Three Prominences” and shown them at work in a painting and a model work; see Richard King, “Fantasies of Battle: Making the Militant Hero Prominent,” in Art in Turmoil: The Chinese Cultural Revolution 1966–76, ed. Richard King (Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2010), 203–15. 44. Chu Lan 初瀾, “Suzao wuchanjieji yingxiong dianxing shi shehuizhuyi wenyi de genben renwu” 塑造無產階 級英雄典型是社會主義文藝的根本任務, Renmin ribao (June 15, 1974); reprinted in Hong Zicheng, Ershi shiji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao, 5: 601–7. The passage from the “Summary” reads, “Yao nuli suzao gongnong-bing de yingxiong renwu, zhe shi shehuizhuiyi wenyi de genben renwu 要努力塑造工農兵的英雄人 物,這是社會主義文藝的根本任務.” 45. Fang Jin 方進, “Yao suzao dianxing, bu yao shou zhenren zhenshi de juxian” 要塑造典型,不要受真人真事 的局限, Renmin ribao (July 18, 1974); reprinted in Hong Zicheng, Ershi shiji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao, 5: 607–10.

Great Changes in Critical Reception


“Red classic” novels, Great Changes chief among them, fall short of the criteria outlined in the “Summary.” Zhou Libo’s novel has no real heroes, or at least none of the required kind; it shows peasants trying to hold back the tide of history rather than be swept forward by it, and it presents one of the age’s most notorious “middle characters.” However, the principal criticisms of the novel in the Cultural Revolution stress political heterodoxy rather than failure to meet aesthetic criteria; and, when the novels were republished in the late 1970s, their suppression was attributed to the malice of Jiang Qing and her followers, much as the “black line” had been blamed on “Zhou Yang and company.”

Zhou Libo and His Novel in the Cultural Revolution Quite apart from his literary heterodoxies and his longstanding relationship with Zhou Yang (a considerable burden after the latter’s fall from power), Zhou Libo is said to have offended Jiang Qing personally—with a memoir published in April 1966 recording Mao’s 1959 visit to his family home in Hunan after an absence of thirty-two years. “Festival Day in Shaoshan” (“Shaoshan de jieri” 韶山的節日) presents a modest and contemplative Mao, bowing filially at his parents’ graves and mixing easily with the locals.46 The essay lists six members of Mao’s family who died for the Chinese revolution, beginning with his first wife, Yang Kaihui 楊開慧, a figure who was to be largely excised from the mythology surrounding Mao in the Cultural Revolution. Later accounts suggest that Jiang Qing’s resentment of Yang Kaihui, and Zhou Libo’s reference to her in his reminiscence may have been a factor in the harsh treatment of the author.47 Zhou Libo was subjected to a series of criticism meetings organized by “revolutionary rebel” Red Guard organizations in Hunan in 1967, one at a sports stadium in Yiyang, others featuring a performance denouncing Great Changes staged by the young rebels; Zhou Libo was required to watch the stage denunciation and reportedly complimented the performers after the show. Some meetings were embellished with speeches by the models for characters in Great Changes temporarily outraged at the way they appeared in the novel.48 Attacks on Zhou Libo and Great Changes appeared first in journals of revolutionary student organizations.49 This first salvo was followed by a number of critical articles, almost all from Hunan. Five pieces attacking the novel appeared in the first issue 46. Zhou Libo 周立波, “Shaoshan de jieri” 韶山的節日, first published April 23, 1966, in Huadi 花地, a supplement to Yangcheng ribao 羊城日報, reprinted Renmin ribao (March 23, 1978). 47. Ye Meng 葉夢, “Zhou Libo shi ge hao ren” 周立波是個好人, Zhonghua sanwen 中華散文 6 (1996). 48. Ye, “Zhou Libo shi ge hao ren.” The author did not attend the meetings but watched Zhou Libo being displayed on the back of a truck and heard reports of the condemnations. 49. Titles of critical articles are listed in an online version of Li and Hu, Zhou Libo yanjiu ziliao, accessed for me by the University of Victoria’s Asian librarian Liu Ying on January 16, 2014.


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of Revolutionary Great Criticism (Geming da pipan 革命大批判), published by the Revolutionary Committee of Hunan Normal College, accusing Zhou Libo (among other things) of believing with Liu Shaoqi that class struggle had been extinguished and of upholding individual rather than collective farming.50 Between September 22 and November 20, 1970, some twenty articles of varying lengths appeared in eight issues of the Hunan provincial daily Hunan ribao.51 The author and his “reactionary” novel are the target of writing groups from the army, local officials, brigade members, and educated youth, for his perceived hostility to the Communist Party (portrayed as indecisive), to local officials (dragging their feet), to the peasantry (clueless), and to women (backward). Two authors from the militia propose to “sweep Great Changes in a Mountain Village into the garbage heap of history.”52 In these articles Zhou Libo is attacked principally as an agent of Liu Shaoqi, though Zhou Yang and colleagues also warrant mention. Zhou Libo is seen as an advocate of proposals attributed to Liu, that “class struggle has been extinguished” and that a more leisurely approach can be adopted to reach the goal of socialism.53 In  this respect, the character in the novel most vilified is the slow-moving local official Li Yuehui, seen as an insult to socialism, and reference to him as a “boundfooted granny” (xiaojiaopo 小腳婆) as an insult to women.54 In a refutation of any claim the novel might have to authenticity, two articles deal specifically with the case of one of the novel’s reluctant collectivists, Chen Xianjin 陳先晉; the second has the real Chen Xianjin 陳先進 (whose given name really does mean “advanced”) on the author’s byline. The first article directly confronts the novel’s Chen Xianjin’s “love of the soil” (lian tu, the title of Great Changes’ Chapter 15) and his weeping at the prospect of losing his land. The authors quote passages from the novel, and argue:

50. Hunan Shifan Xueyuan Geming Weiyuanhui 湖南師範學院革命委員會, Geming da pipan 革命大批判 1 (July 1970). A further anthology of critical articles, which I have not been able to consult is Zhuajin geming da pipan 3: Pipan Zhou Libo de fandong xiaoshuo “Shanxiang jubian” 抓緊革命大批判 3:批判周立波的反 動小說《山鄉巨變》(Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1971). For a general summary of the content of the criticisms of the novel, see Yang, “Huiwang shanxiang fengyu wushinian, 305. 51. For access to this microform material, I gratefully acknowledge the diligence of Liu Ying and the University of Victoria’s Inter-Library Loan Office, and the generosity of Yale University Library. 52. Xiangtan shi renmin wuzhuangbu Luo Shuanglong, [illegible] Rong 湘潭市人民武裝部羅雙龍, X 榮, “Ba Shanxiang jubian saojin lishi de lajidui” 把山鄉巨變掃進歷史的垃圾隊, Hunan ribao (September 23, 1970). 53. See Hunan sheng geming weiyuanhui xiezuo xiaozu 湖南省革命委員會寫作小組, “Ba Zhongguo nongcun ‘bian’ xiang he fang” 把中國農村“變”向何方? Hunan ribao (September 22, 1970). 54. Shaoshanqu geming weiyuanhui da pipan xiezuo xiaozu 韶山區革命委員會大批判寫作小組, “Nongcun dang zhibu shi nongcun shehuizhuyi de zhandou baolei—nuchi Shanxiang jubian dui nongcun dang zhibu de gongji chouhua” 農村黨是農村社會主義的戰鬥堡壘——怒斥山鄉巨變對農村黨支部的攻擊醜化,” Hunan ribao (November 12, 1970).

Great Changes in Critical Reception


This Chen Xianjin from the pen of Zhou Libo is absolutely no kind of “fourth generation poor peasant,” but a parasite and a blood-sucker, inundated from head to foot with oppressor-class venom.55

Proclaiming the triumph of the collectivization and the joy of the poor peasant classes in the age of the People’s Communes, the authors claim: “If you peel off the mask of ‘loving the soil,’ this is actually a manifesto for counterrevolutionary restorationist propaganda from head to tail.”56 In his own article, the then sixty-nine-yearold Chen outlines a past full of suffering and oppression. He then expresses fury that Zhou Libo, who had been a frequent visitor to his village and even came to his home, should have proceeded to create a character with a name barely different from his own who “longed with all his heart to become wealthy,” who wept over his land, and who said that “this world is really changing in a bad way” (zhe shijie shizai biande bu xiang yangzi 這世界實在變的不像樣子).57 He accuses the author of hating socialism and wanting to make the peasants look muddle headed.58 A full page of the October 10, 1970, issue of Hunan ribao is dedicated to the summary of a forum held at Dengshiqiao in Yiyang to condemn the novel. Peasants, many of them holding positions of responsibility in the new structure of commune, brigade, and production team, quote Mao at length and denounce Zhou Libo for the now-familiar crimes of supporting individual farming, slandering the Communist Party and its local representatives, and ignoring the persistence of class struggle.59 The significance of this summary lies in its source: here were the villagers Zhou Libo had portrayed in his novel denouncing him for misrepresenting them, and doing so on the basis of higher truth than mere observed reality. The attacks on Zhou Libo in Hunan ribao and elsewhere are about opposing strategies for rural development rather than cultural policy. Zhou’s novel is criticized for promoting a gradual approach favored by Liu Shaoqi over the rapid collectivization carried out, and for portraying peasant characters unenthusiastic about the pace

55. Jiefangjun moubu geming da pipan xiezuo xiaozu 解放軍某部革命大批判寫作小組, “‘Lian tu’ jiushi wangtu fubi”“戀土”就是妄圖復辟, Hunan ribao (September 23, 1970).(周立波筆下的陳先晉根本不是一個什 麼“四代貧農”,而是一個從頭到腳都漫透著剝削階級毒液的寄生蟲,吸血鬼。) 56. Ibid.(撕開“戀土”的畫皮,原來是一篇徹頭徹尾的反革命復辟的宣言書。) 57. Yiyang shi Jiaoqu gongshe Dahaitang dadui Yuanzui shengchan dadui pinxiezuzhang Chen Xianjin 益陽市郊 區公社大海塘大隊園嘴生產大隊貧協組長陳先進, “Pin-xiazhong nong shi nongcun shehuizhuyi geming de qingtianzhu—chedi pichou fandong xiaoshuo Shanxiang jubian 貧下中農是農村社會主義革命的擎天 柱——徹底批臭反動小說 山鄉巨變.” Hunan ribao (September 25, 1970). 58. Chen’s diatribe occupies the first part of the article; the remainder, which is much longer and may not be entirely Chen’s own work, contains praise for collectivization and more general denunciations of Zhou Libo, supported by extensive quotations from Mao. 59. “Jin gen weida lingxiu Mao zhuxi yong zou xhehuizhuyi xingfu dao—Yiyang xian Dengshiqiao dadui pin-xiazhong nong pipan fandong xiaoshuo Shanxiang jubian zuotanhui jiyao” 緊跟偉大領袖毛主席永 走社會主義幸福道——益陽縣鄧石橋大隊貧下中農批判反動小說山鄉巨變座談會記要, Hunan ribao (October 10, 1970).


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of change and local officials willing to take the time to persuade them. There is no mention of the need for outstanding heroic characters or criticism of the “middle characters” that appear in the novel, though the novel’s failings in this regard can be inferred by a reader familiar with Jiang Qing’s “Summary.”

Conclusion and Epitaph: A “Red Classic” Novel in the Middle Perhaps believing that the world, and the role of the arts, had changed since the military and class conflicts of the Civil War era, Zhou Libo created Great Changes very differently from his earlier novel Hurricane. A longer period of preparation, with the author immersed this time in the agricultural, social, linguistic, romantic, and political life of his childhood home, resulted in a novel with greater focus on the hardships and aspirations of the peasants of South China and a consequently lesser emphasis on the teleological big picture. There is, as there was in Hurricane, a task to be completed, and at the end of the novel collectivization has been moved to the next stage; but the process had been one of prevarication and persuasion rather than conflict and struggle. No heroes have emerged to force the pace toward the goal of Communism; the chief party organizer is an outsider, and the local leader is a conciliator, if ultimately an effective one. Zhou Libo was still in the business of “transforming the boundaries of human souls” that he had articulated in his lectures at the Lu Xun Academy in Yan’an,60 but he was willing to let that transformation take its time. In the rural southwest and away from the center of power and political activity, engaged with agricultural and literary production and the care of a young family, Zhou Libo may have been poorly attuned to tensions within the national leadership over the speed of rural development. The world of Great Changes is more complex, more nuanced, and with shorter distances between good and evil, than that of his previous work; “middle characters” like Sheng Youting, Chen Xianjin, and their families assume greater importance in explaining peasant psychology and exploring ways to transform it. This is a novel in the middle, written after the intense conflicts of civil war land reform and before the cataclysm of the Cultural Revolution, and caught between the traditions of earlier Chinese narrative and the Socialist Realist novel. Great Changes was as unsuited as any of the “red classic” novels to meeting the criteria outlined for the arts by Jiang Qing in her 1966 “Summary.” In its painstaking realism, its insistence on authenticity, and its portrayal of “middle characters,” the novel embodied the most vilified of the “black theories” of the Seventeen Years 1949– 1966, and the author both failed to fulfil the “basic task” of hero making and allowed himself to be limited by “real people and real events.” These were not the reasons

60. See Lin Lan, ed., Zhou Libo Lu-yi jianggao 周立波魯藝講稿 (Shanghai: Xinhua shudian, 1984), 160. The relevant paragraph is translated in King, Milestones, 52.

Great Changes in Critical Reception


given, in Hunan ribao at least, for condemning the novel; such aesthetic criteria may have been considered too arcane for the authors commissioned to write the critiques or their desired audience, or simply not sufficiently hard and blunt instruments to beat down so heinous an offender. Instead, the author was denounced as spokesman for the condemned state president Liu Shaoqi and his strategies for development, condemned in the Cultural Revolution but essentially adopted thereafter as the precursor to the reforms of the 1980s. A decade after Zhou Libo’s rehabilitation and death, a simple but eloquent epitaph was provided by the original “Flour-Paste” when an academic conference on Zhou Libo’s writing was brought to Zhushanwan Village in 1987. The normally garrulous eighty-year-old Deng Yiting offered them a single sentence on the author who had been his friend: “Zhou Libo was a good man, and an old hand at the field-work.”61 The author’s immersion in village life had produced not a stirring saga of rural strife but, as Chen Shunxin charmingly describes Great Changes, a “living scroll” of the complex changes and contradictions in the Hunanese countryside in a pivotal period, a blossom in the nation’s garden of a hundred flowers in its blending of the refined and popular, a novel rich in the breath of the countryside and redolent of soil.62

Bibliography Chen Shunxin 陳順馨. Shehuizhuyi xianshizhuyi lilun zai Zhongguo de jieshou yu zhuanhua 社會主義現實主義理論在中國的接受與轉化. Hefei: Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe, 2001. Chen Sihe 陳思和. Zhongguo dangdai wenxue shi jiaocheng 中國當代文學史教程. Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 1999. Chou [Zhou] Yang. The Path of Socialist Literature and Art in China: Report Delivered to the Third Congress of Chinese Literary and Art Workers on July 22, 1960. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1960, Chu Lan 初瀾. “Suzao wuchanjieji yingxiong dianxing shi shehuizhuyi wenyi de genben renwu” 塑造無產階級英雄典型是社會主義文藝的根本任務. Renmin ribao (June 15, 1974). Clark, Katerina. The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. Fan Xing 樊星, ed. Yongyuan de hongse jingdian: Hongse jingdian chuangzuo yingxiang shi hua 永遠的紅色經典:紅色經典創作影響史話. Wuhan: Hubei changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 2008. Fang Jin 方進. “Yao suzao dianxing, bu yao shou zhenren zhenshi de juxian” 要塑造典型,不 受真人真事的局限. Renmin ribao (July 18, 1974). Fokkema, D. W. Literary Doctrine in China and Soviet Influence 1956–1960. The Hague: Mouton, 1965. Gao Jianping 高建平ed. Dangdai Zhongguo wenyi lilun yanjiu (1949–2008) 當代中國文藝理 論研究 (1949–2008). Beijing: Shehui kexueyuan chubanshe, 2011

61. Ye, “Zhou Libo shi ge hao ren.” Deng’s words were,“周立波是個好人,做田很裡手。” 62. Chen Shunxin, Shehuizhuyi xianshizhuyi lilun zai Zhongguo de jieshou yu zhuanhua, 453.


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Goldman, Merle. China’s Intellectuals: Advise and Dissent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981. ———. Literary Dissent in Communist China. New York: Atheneum, 1971. Huang, Joe C. Heroes and Villains in Communist China: The Novel as a Reflection of Life. New York: Pica Press, 1973. Huang Qiuyun 黃秋耘. “Shanxiang jubian suotan” 山鄉巨變瑣談. In Ershi shiji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao 二十世紀中國小說理論資料, edited by Hong Zicheng 洪子誠, 5: 414–20. Beijing: Peking University Press, 1997. Hsia, T. A. “Heroes and Hero-Worship in Fiction.” In Chinese Communist Literature, edited by Cyril Birch, 113–38. New York: Praeger, 1963. Hunan ribao (September 22, 23, and 25, October 10, and November 12, 1970). Hunan Shifan Xueyuan Geming Weiyuanhui 湖南師範學院革命委員會. Geming da pipan 革命大批判 1 (July 1970). Jiang Qing. “Tan Jingju geming” 談京劇革命. Hongqi 6 (June 1967), 25–27. King, Richard. “After the Hundred Flowers: A 1981 Interview with Qin Zhaoyang.” Renditions 65 (Spring 2006): 38–53. ———. “Fantasies of Battle: Making the Militant Hero Prominent.” In Art in Turmoil: The Chinese Cultural Revolution 1966–76, edited by Richard King, 203–15. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2010. ———. “A Fiction Revealing Collusion: Allegory and Evasion in the Mid-1970s,” Modern Chinese Literature 10 (1997): 71–90. ———. Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism 1945–1980. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press, 2013. ———. “Typical People in Typical Circumstances.” In Words and Their Stories: Essays on the Language of the Chinese Revolution, edited by Ban Wang, 185–204. Leyden: Brill, 2011. Li Huasheng 李華盛 and Hu Guangfan 胡光凡, eds., Zhou Libo yanjiu ziliao 周立波研究 資料. Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983. Li Yang 李楊. 50–70 niandai Zhongguo wenxue jingdian zai jiedu 50–70 年代中國文學經典 再解讀. Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe, 2002. ———. Kangzheng suming zhi lu: “Shehuizhuyi xianshizhuyi” (1942–1976) yanjiu 抗爭宿命之 路——“社會主義現實主義”(1949–1976) 研究. Changchun: Shidai wenyi chubanshe, 1993. “Lin Biao tongzhi weituo Jiang Qing tongzhi zhaokai de budui wenyi gongzuo zuotanhui jiyao” 林彪同志委託江青同志召開的部隊文藝工作座談會紀要. In Jiang Qing tongzhi jianghua xuanbian 江青同志講話選編. N.p. [Shijiazhuang]: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1969, 1–17. Lin Lan, ed. Zhou Libo Lu-yi jianggao 周立波魯藝講稿. Shanghai: Xinhua shudian, 1984. Liu Qing 柳青. Chuangye shi 創業史. Beijing: Zhongguo qingnian chubanshe, 1960. Luo Xiaozhou 羅曉舟. “‘Ticai jueding lun’ yu yinmou wenyi“題材決定論”與陰謀文藝. Renmin wenxue 2 (February 1982): 18–22. Mao Zedong 毛澤東. “Hunan nongmin yundong kaocha baogao” 湖南農民運動考查報告. In Mao Zedong xuanji 毛澤東選集, 1, 12–44. Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1968. “Summary of the Forum on the Work in Literature and Art in the Armed Forces with which Comrade Lin Piao [Lin Biao] Entrusted Comrade Chiang Ching [Jiang Qing].” Peking Review 23 (June 2, 1967): 10–16.

Great Changes in Critical Reception


Wenyibao bianjibu 文藝報編輯部. “Guanyu ‘xie zhongjian renwu’ de ticai” 關於“寫中間人 物”的題材. In Ershi nianji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao 二十世紀中國小說理論資 料, edited by Hong Zicheng 洪子誠, 5: 513–22. Beijing: Peking University Press, 1997. Yang Xi 楊希. “Huiwang shanxiang fengyu wushinian: Shanxiang jubian chuangzuo, ying­ xiang shi hua” 回望山鄉風雨五十年——“山鄉巨變”創作、影響史話. In Yongyuan de hongse jingdian: Hongse jingdian chuangzuo yingxiang shi hua 永遠的紅色經典:紅 色經典創作影響史話, edited by Fan Xing 樊星, 286–324. Wuhan: Hubei changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 2008. Yao Wenyuan 姚文元. “Ping fangeming de liangmian pai Zhou Yang” 評反革命的兩面派 周揚, Hongqi 1 (January 1967): 14–36. ———. “On the Counter-revolutionary Double-Dealer Chou Yang [Zhou Yang],” Chinese Literature 3 (March 1967): 24–71. Ye Meng 葉夢. “Zhou Libo shi ge hao ren” 周立波是個好人. Zhonghua sanwen 中華散文 6 (1996)., accessed January 2, 2014. Zhang Guangnian 張光年. “Bo ‘heixian zhuanzheng’ lun—cong suowei ‘wenyi heixian’ de ‘heibalun’ tanqi” 駁“黑線專政”論——從所謂“文藝黑線”的“黑八論”談起, Renmin ribao (December 7, 1977). Zhou Libo 周立波. “Shaoshan de jieri” 韶山的節日. Renmin ribao (March 23, 1978). ———. Zhou Libo xuanji 周立波選集 (7 volumes). Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983. Zhuajin geming da pipan 3: Pipan Zhou Libo de fandong xiaoshuo “Shanxiang jubian” 抓緊革 命大批判 3:批判周立波的反動小說《山鄉巨變》. Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1971.

3 How to Tell a Story of Imprisonment Ideology, Truth, and Melodramatic Body in the Making of Red Crag Li Li

Historians have argued that, in the secular age, history has replaced religion as a primary means of making myth and of setting of moral standards for modern nationstates, often through “vindicating us and judging us, and damning those who oppose us.”1 The large number of revolutionary historical novels produced, circulated, and consumed in China during the Seventeen Years (1949–1966) can be understood as precisely this kind of myth making by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through the evocation and articulation of key questions for its people—questions such as: What is the “truth” of the historical conditions surrounding the CCP-led revolution? What makes the CCP’s rule after 1949 justifiable? What moral standards do the revolutionaries set for their contemporaries and for later generations? As eminent revolutionary literary critic Shao Quanlin 邵荃麟 (1906–1971), reflected, in 1960, on the needs and mission of Chinese literature from 1949 to 1959, “During the period of reactionary rule in Nationalist-controlled areas, it was almost impossible [for themes of revolution] to be reflected in literary works. So, now we must fill this blank in literary history to allow our people to understand historically the connections between the course of the revolution and current reality, and [to allow them] to acquire even greater confidence and enthusiasm for the construction of socialism by being inspired by these heartrending, praiseworthy struggles.”2 Indeed, though Chinese revolutionary historical novels to some extent derive from past events, they are, most significantly, narrative configurations of revolutionary history that aim at both the legitimization of the rule of the CCP revolutionaries and the transmission of the revolutionary ideologies they embody for emulation by the people. This leads to the question of how the authors of revolutionary historical novels, many of whom were participants in the real-life events described in their novels, 1. Margaret MacMillan, Dangerous Games: The Use and Abuses of History (New York: Modern Library, 2009), 20. 2. Shao Quanlin, “The Course of Ten Years of Literature,” in Ten Years of Literature (Beijing: Writer Publishing House, 1960), 37. The quotation is cited in Hong Zicheng, A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature, trans. Michael Day (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 121.

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translated “knowing” into “telling.” To be more specific, how did they translate what they personally experienced in specific events into texts with “conceptual contents” for readers who had had no similar life experience? History and narrative have long been considered completely separate. Whereas the former is generally viewed as what “really happened” in the past, the latter is considered fictional, based on imagination. Few people, however, question how an event that happened in the past becomes a historical account. Historian Hayden White, among others, has argued that any event that “really happened” in history does not offer itself in a narrative form in order to become history; it must be, and can only be, narrated into a historical account. Moreover, “the events are made into a story by the suppression or subordination of certain of them and the highlighting of others, by characterization, motific repetition, variation of tone and point of view, alternative descriptive strategies, and the like—in short, all of the techniques that we would normally expect to find in the employment of a novel or a play.”3 In this process, “the historian performs an essentially poetic act, in which he prefigures the historical field and constitutes it as a domain upon which to bring to bear the specific theories he will use to explain ‘what was really happening’ in it.”4 In light of the above theorization of historical narrative, this chapter studies the representations of the historical events surrounding the incarceration of a few hun­ dred inmates at the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (中美合作所; SACO) in Chongqing (Chongch’ing) 重慶, the Kuomintang’s (KMT) temporary wartime capital.5 SACO operated two concentration camps, one at Zhazidong (Chatzetung) 渣滓洞, the other at Bai Gongguan (Pai House) 白公館,6 both located in the northwestern part of Chongqing. On the evening of November 27, 1949, a few hours before the People’s Liberation Army took over the city, the KMT’s Bureau of Investigation and Statistics of the Military Affairs Commission, commonly known as Juntong 3. Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 84. 4. Hayden White. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), x. Emphasis original. 5. The full name of this organization was Sino-American Special Technical Cooperative Organization (ZhongMei tezhong jishu hezuosuo 中美特種技術合作所). For more information, see Frederic Wakeman’s discussion in Spymaster: Dai Li and the Chinese Secret Service (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). The initial establishment of SACO during the Sino-Japanese War was to help the then “unified front” of the CCP and the KMT to resist Japanese aggression. 6. The translation of Red Crag was collectively produced and published, in 1978, by Foreign Languages Press, a primary state-run institute of translation and publication; yet the Chinese names of authors, characters, places, etc. were transcribed in Wade-Giles, instead of pinyin, though those names are normally in pinyin in most other historical and literary publications about the incident. In this chapter pinyin will be used for names of authors, characters, institutions, and places. For those names which are well-known in pinyin but also were transcribed in Wade-Giles in the English version of Red Crag, they will be marked in both pinyin and Wade-Giles when first appearing in this chapter. Wade-Giles, however, will be used in analysis when quotations from the English translation of Red Crag are under examination in this chapter.


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軍統,7 ordered the massacre of all prisoners in both camps. Most were killed, with only a few dozen escaping. This chapter investigates how, and in whose terms, the meanings of incarceration and massacre were reconfigured and eventually transformed into a formidable narrative in the revolutionary historical novel Red Crag 紅岩? What made Red Crag the most popular contemporary Chinese novel in the Seventeen Years and beyond?

From The World of Imprisonment to Red Crag: Data Selection, Truth, and Meaning Within a couple of weeks of the massacres of November 27, 1949, a number of survivors and witnesses had begun individually to write recollections of the events and publish them in the local newspapers, recounting some of the horrifying murders and the life stories of victims. Luo Guangbin (Lo Kuang-pin) 羅廣斌, Yang Yiyan (Yang  Yi-yen) 楊益言, and Liu Debin 劉德彬 soon achieved prominence among them and became responsible for numerous subsequent oral and written narratives about the incidents. One of the most important earliest narratives is written by Luo, entitled “Guanyu Chongqing zuzhi bei pohuai de jingguo he yuzhong qingxing baogao” 關於重慶組織被破壞的經過與獄中情形報告 (A report on the sabotage of Chongqing’s CCP underground organizations and the situation in the prison). This detailed report of more than 20,000 words meant to provide information about the CCP underground organizations and to call especially for the punishment of informants, some of whom were high-ranking local CCP officials.8 Another important early narrative is a pamphlet written by Luo, Liu, and others, consisting of short biographies of the dead CCP members who had been ratified for the title of “revolutionary martyrs,” prepared for the public memorial service held on January 15, 1950. In the following years, in cooperation with the political campaigns on educating people about the sacrifices CCP members had made for the establishment of the New China, Luo, Yang, and Liu made scores of oral reports to audiences of tens of thousands in multiple cities, while annotating and publishing numerous narratives, including newspaper articles, pamphlets, reportages, and memoirs. To celebrate the twentyninth anniversary of the CCP on July 1, 1950, they were invited to collaborate, for the first time, in writing a reportage entitled Shengjie de xuehua: Xian gei 97 ge yongsheng de Gongchandang yuan 聖潔的血花——獻給九十七個永生的共產黨員 (Sacred 7. The full Chinese name for Juntong is Junshi weiyuanhui diaocha tongji ju 軍事委員會調查統計局。 8. Luo Guangbin’s report is only about Bai Gongguan, in which he himself was kept. This report of more than 20,000 words had five sections: “The Course of the Sabotage of the Chongqing CCP Underground Organization,” “Portraits of Traitors,” “Situation in the Camp,” “Information about Survivors,” and “Suggestions [for the improvement of the Chongqing CCP underground organization] from the Imprisoned CCP Members.” His primary concerns were identifying and applying discipline on the CCP informants, but his initial request was largely sidestepped.

How to Tell a Story of Imprisonment 45

blood-flowers: Dedicated to ninety-seven immortal CCP members). It was published shortly after it was completed.9 This first collaboration about the incident is but a hasty collage of some unpolished short pieces previously written by the three authors. The reportage assumes a collective narrator “we,” but this “we” was frequently split into multiple voices that simultaneously appeared in different locations. The adaptation of the voice of this collective “we,” nonetheless, filters heterogeneous, though often discrepant, data on the incident that had been found in earlier oral narratives. At the same time, this report on the massacre is filled with trivial, bloody, and gratuitously graphic descriptions, while stylistically it is riddled with irrelevant anecdotes, fragmented events, and inconsistent comments on characters and events described. Some of the central revolutionary characters later depicted in Red Crag, such as Chen Ran 陳然 (character Cheng Kang 成崗) and Jiang Zhuyun 江竹筠 (character Sister Chiang 江姐) are introduced, but the stories about them are concentrated on the occasions when they were tortured. Many well-known details, for instance, Sister Chiang’s suffering from the driving of bamboo needles into her fingers—a core “fact” in later versions of the story, which has elicited a great deal of emotion from millions of readers—are, however, absent from this founding version. The publication of Sacred Blood Flowers brought nationwide acclaim to the three amateur authors. They were invited to deliver even more talks and also to revise data presented in Sacred Blood Flowers into two other forms of narrative. A memoir entitled Cong liehuo zhong dedao yongsheng 從烈火中得到永生 (Gaining immortality from roaring flames) was published in 1958 in Hongqi piaopiao 紅旗飄飄 (Red flag waving), then the most popular magazine for the publication of memoirs of revolutionaries, while an expanded version, Zai liehuo zhong yongsheng 在烈火中永生 (Immortality amid roaring flames), was published as a stand-alone book in 1959.10 During the retelling and rewriting of these narratives, the three authors were inspired to flesh out some previously obscure characters, making them fuller, more heroic and dramatic, and a better fit with the audience’s expectations. A listener who remembers Luo as a great story teller, recalled that when Luo told the story of Little Turnip (Xiao Luobotou 小蘿蔔頭), the nickname of a young boy who was imprisoned with his 9. The final title for this reportage is Shengjie de xuehua 聖潔的血花 [Sacred blood-flowers] (Guangzhou: Xinhua shudian huanan fendian, 1950). 10. Both memoirs were published by China Youth Press, at the request of its editor Zhang Yu 張羽. The 1965 feature film Liehuo zhong de yongsheng 烈火中的永生 [Immortality amid roaring flames], dir. Shuihua 水華, starring Zhao Dan 趙丹 and Yu Lan 于藍, though sharing a similar title, is primarily based on the novel Red Crag in terms of theme, plot, and characterization, not these two documentary narratives. Hongqi piaopiao was published in May, 1957 by China Youth Press, with Zhang Yu and Huang Yi 黃伊 as its editors. For more discussion of the importance of Hongqi piaopiao and the state-sanctioned cultural production of “recollections of revolution,” see Cai Xiang 蔡翔, Geming/xushu: Zhongguo shehui zhuyi wenxue–wenhua xiangxiang (1949–1966) 革命/敘述:中國社會主義文學—文化想像 [Revolution/narration: Chinese socialist literature and its cultural imagination] (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010), 206–8.


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parents, “Each time it got richer, more concrete, and the details more vivid. It seemed that when he told the story, he wasn’t just searching his memory, but was continuously thinking it through, imagining himself in the position of the audience.”11 It is apparent that direct audience feedback in the period when the authors were conceiving the novel was a unique factor in the eventual making of Red Crag. Taken as a whole, the early narratives about the Zhazidong and Bai Gongguan primarily attempt to chronicle the events and document the victims and survivors, with emphasis on achieving punishment for the treason of CCP informants and condemning the atrocities of the KMT. In terms of style, the narratives primarily consist of data that are detail driven, often redundant and inconsistent, yet relatively multidimensional. They represent a primal desire to record this historical atrocity. To make a full-fledged revolutionary classic out of this sanguinary incident, raw, heterogeneous data had to be appropriated and formulated into a consistent narrative with more coherent plot arrangements; characters had to be made more heroic and more clear-cut, and, most importantly, unified ideological messages and symbolic meanings needed to be inscribed into the story. With the three inexperienced authors struggling to cope with the psychological and physical trauma of their imprisonment, who was to guide the further evolution of this story, and how? In 1956, after years of delivering public lectures and writing “fact”-based reports, the three authors began to conceive a new version of the familiar story they had told a myriad times.12 While still deciding whether the new project would be another piece of reportage, a memoir, or a fictional work, the three settled on a new title, Gujin de shijie 錮禁的世界 (A world of imprisonment), but then struggled to work out how to push the project forward.13 As they were searching for direction, Ren Baige 任白戈, then mayor of Chongqing, suggested to Yang that the projected book be called “Hong yan” (Red crag). Red Crag refers to Red Crag Village (Hong yan cun 紅岩村) on the south bank of the Jialing River 嘉陵江, which was, from 1939 to 1946, the public headquarters of the Eighth Route Army and the secret office of the Southern Bureau of the CCP Central Committee, which led Communist insurgencies

11. Hong, History, 128. 12. Yang Yiyan’s older brother Yang Benquan 楊本泉 played an important role in encouraging Luo, Yang, and Liu continue to develop the project into a novel. Trained as a journalist, Yang Benquan had by then written a few literary pieces and had much more ambition toward literary creation. He urged Luo, Yang, and Liu to turn their material into a fictional work. 13. The authors initially considered using Gujin de shijie《錮禁的世界》, but eventually adopted Jingu de shijie 《禁錮的世界》, the title of a section Jingu de shijie 禁錮的世界 from revolutionary martyr Cai Weimeng’s 蔡慰夢 series of poems “Heilao shipian” 黑牢詩篇 [Poems from a dark prison]. For more discussion, see Qian Zhenwen 錢振文, Hong yan shi zengyang liancheng de? 紅岩是怎樣煉成的 [How Red Crag is made?] (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2011), 64–65. See also Guo Jianmin 郭建敏, Zhongguo dangdai hongse xushi de shengcheng jizhi yanjiu 中國當代紅色敘事的生成機制研究 [Research on the production mechanism of Chinese contemporary red narrative] (Beijing: Chinese Social Science Press, 2010), 106.

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in the then-KMT-controlled areas.14 “Red Crag” thus symbolizes CCP leadership, which was critical for the CCP’s ultimate goal of “liberating” the whole of China. For the three authors, the political implications of “Red Crag” were apparently beyond their grasp, because not only was Red Crag Village geographically far from the jails they knew about, but, more importantly, the theme of the story about imprisonment that they personally experienced bore no connection to narratives about Red Crag Village. As a result of authorial uncertainty and ambivalent approaches to the material, their first draft, which came out in mimeographed copies in 1957, had neither a title nor a distinct genre, clearly a result of their equivocation between the adaptation of Ren’s suggestion and staying with their original plan. Obviously, Ren’s suggestion of “Red Crag” as the title of the new project was intended to urge the authors to change their perspective on the sociohistorical reality of China of the time from a narrow view through the optic of the jails to which they were confined to the broader world that had been or would soon be “liberated.” The authors, however, had difficulties in transcending the boundaries of the “facts” of their lived painful experience so as to embrace the political vision of CCP officials. They were incapable of transcending “what really happened” to them and embracing the potential “historical truth” hidden in the data under which they were still overwhelmingly buried. Instead, the three authors, who continued to suffer from the ongoing psychological trauma of being betrayed and tortured, added to the 1959 second revision of the manuscript even more descriptions of horrifying treatment in the concentration camps. This version, after being circulated among a small number of editors and local cultural officials, was repudiated as “piles of data,” “blood-drenched,” “too heavy, too depressing, a tear-jerker which would not give any encouragement at all to our people” in the New China.15 Seasoned revolutionary writer Ma Shitu 馬識途, who happened to be Luo’s longtime political mentor, suggested that Luo elevate the theme of the manuscript by situating the story against “the general political environment of the time and the CCP’s plans for liberating [the entire country].” The struggles in the concentration camps in the KMT-controlled areas should be treated only as “the second battlefield, not the front line [of the liberated areas]. There should be connections between those two, but the political reality in the liberated areas should be employed as the background of the second battle field,” because the front line was led by the CCP Central Committee in the Liberated Areas.16 Sha Ting 沙汀 (1904–1992), another CCP revolutionary writer, then the chair of the Sichuan Writers’ Association, also remarked 14. Zhou Enlai 周恩來, Dong Biwu 董必武, and many other top CCP leaders worked in Red Crag Village and, in 1945, Mao Zedong 毛澤東 also stayed in the village for more than a month when he conducted negotiations with Chiang Kai-shek immediately after the end of the Sino-Japanese War. 15. Qian, Hong yan, 117. 16. Ibid., 111.


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that “the attention of the three authors is primarily on the world of imprisonment, losing sight of the promising political situation outside the walls of the prisons.”17 The enemies were, on many occasions, described as a dominant power that always had their way, but “those executioners and captors are on the contrary the prisoners de facto.” Apparently, the failure of the second revision of the three authors was primarily due to their psychological adherence to the “facts”—the painful experiences they had been through. It was beyond their ability to fully translate their personal stories into a grand narrative about “what really happened”—the “historical truth” of Communist revolution that other seasoned CCP cultural officials, such as Ren, Ma, and Sha, had prefigured and anticipated from the project. As the authors were struggling with how to elevate their story to meet higher expectations, the China Youth Press approached them, inviting them this time to make a fictional work out of the original material. At the suggestion of Sha, the China Youth Press arranged for Luo and Yang to travel to Beijing to visit the newly established Museum of the Chinese Military and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, and study Mao Zedong’s works to understand the broader picture of the political situation prior to Liberation of the Chinese Mainland.18 After this trip, Luo maintained that he had learned how to approach the material of his imprisonment from a new political perspective: “How to write? Chairman Mao told us: American Imperialism and all sorts of reactionaries are but paper tigers . . . [T]herefore, no matter how cruel and treacherous Xu Pengfei (Hsu Peng-fei) 徐鵬飛 was, he could not save himself from the fate of being eliminated, because this was determined by his class attribution.”19 With their understanding elevated to the vantage point of “class attribution,” Luo and Yang started the third revision in October 1960 and had it completed in January 1961. Despite the new perspectives the authors had gained in Beijing giving impetus to their reorganization of the material, the third revision they completed was still far from achieving the symbolic power the cultural officials had expected, notwithstanding the direct and indirect help they received from Sha and many other professional writers and editors. In March, 1961 Luo and Yang were invited once again to Beijing to make

17. Ibid., 119. 18. At this time, Liu Debin, having been accused of being a rightist in 1958, had been excluded from the group. There has been, however, an ongoing debate about whether Liu’s name should be listed as one of the authors. Supporters of Liu argue that he was an inseparable member of the group. See Yang Shiyuan 楊世元, “Dashu bushi cong yaobu wang shang zhang de” 大樹不是從腰部往上長的 [A big tree doesn’t grow from the middle] and Liu Debin’s Huan lishi zhen mianmu 還歷史真面目 [Returning to history its actual appearance], in Qian, Hong yan, Appendix III, 228–31, and IV, 232–45. 19. Hsu Peng-fei is a main character in Red Crag, whose image is based on Xu Yuanju 徐遠舉, the director of the Second Department (Er chu) of SACO, which was in charge of the operation of both Chazidong and Bai Gongguan.

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further revisions; this time, by working personally with Zhang Yu 張羽 (1921–2004), who was a senior editor at the Chinese Youth Press.20 Zhang Yu was selected to finalize this “key book” (zhongdian shu 重點書) for many reasons. First, he had served as editor for the two nonfictional versions of the story and was familiar with the earlier data. Second, he was also the editor in chief of Red Flag Waving, which played a critical part in laying the foundations of the nationwide construction of CCP revolutionary myth. Third, Zhang had participated in CCP underground work in Shanghai and was a seasoned CCP activist in his own right. Hence, it was not surprising that Zhang quickly found many connections between Luo and Yang’s material and his own experience, and was able to identify the significance of the key characters where Luo and Yang had failed. For instance, he identified likenesses between some of the characters in Red Crag and the heroes he knew, commenting, in one case, “Xu Yunfeng (Hsu Yun-feng) 許雲峰 is a character who resembles Wang Xiaohe 王孝和 .  .  . the image of a leader of workers”; “Two-pistol Granny 雙槍老太婆, bears a resemblance to a mixture of five grannies in the Liberated Areas.” In addition, some of the most memorable punch lines in Red Crag were actually Zhang’s inventions. In one of his best, Sister Chiang declares, “The revolution will go on even if only the orphans and widows are left” (剩下孤兒 寡婦,一樣鬧革命),21 to confirm her determination to carry on the revolution after she discovers her husband has been executed by the KMT. Zhang called this kind of technique ‘blood transfusion” and even wrote down the methods that made the blood transfusion successful: “[employment of one’s] life experience—comparing, making references, proving, supplementing, adding and deleting—[and thus achieving] blood transfusion.”22 Zhang’s editing was no doubt most critical to the finalization of the manuscript. As revealed in his notes, Luo, Yang, and Zhang stayed in the same hotel and worked together daily, going through section by section, chapter by chapter. Normally, Yang made the first revisions, then passed the revised parts to Luo for further revisions; Luo then passed these on to Zhang to finalize changes. As a result, in the fourth revision about 33,000 words were cut from the original manuscript 20. It is well known that China Youth Press was the first publishing house that approached the three authors, and later also assigned half a dozen of its editors, including Wang Weiling 王維玲, Zhang Yu, and Jiang Xiaotian 江曉天, to work with the three authors at different stages of their writing of the novel. However, not until Zhang Yu had kept the publication of editorial documents as appendixes in Qian’s recent book did we learn the specific role that Zhang Yu played in shaping the manuscript into a major work in revolutionary literature, in terms of characterization, language, and symbolism. For these documents, see Appendix I, “Hong yan chuban dashiji”《紅岩》出版大事記 [Important events in the publication of Red Crag]; Appendix V, “Tantan Hong yan—tanhua jilu” 談談《紅岩》[About Hong yan—a record of an interview with Zhang Yu]; and Appendix VI, “Wo dang Hong yan zeren bianji shi teding de beijing” 我當《紅岩》責任編輯時特定 的背景 [The social background of the time when I served as the editor of Red Crag], all in Qian, Hong yan, 214–19, 238–45, and 246–52, respectively. 21. Lo Kuang-pin and Yang Yi-yen, Red Crag (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1978), 86. 22. For Zhang’s notes, see Qian, Hong yan, 149.


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and some 11,000 added, while in the fifth revision 20,600 words were dropped and 40,000 words rewritten, with Zhang adding at least 2,000 words of his own.23 With multiple suggestions from cultural officials on how to express the lofty theme of the story, plus the help of more than a dozen editors and, in particular, Zhang’s hands-on participation in writing the final version, Red Crag was eventually published at the end of 1961.

In Search for Freedom: Making Sense of the CCP-Led Revolution Acclaimed as “the most engrossing textbook of communism,”24 Red Crag leads contemporary Chinese novels in popularity, with more than 10 million copies published in more than twenty reprints between the 1960s and early 1980.25 The astronomical sales of Red Crag reflect its overwhelming acceptance not only by officialdom and mainstream intellectuals but also by the general reading community in Maoist China. How should we understand this phenomenon of its enormous popularity? Was it simply due to the general reading public’s submission to the power of political propaganda, as conventionally argued? What thematic structure did the novelists and their editors set up based upon the selection of raw data discussed in the previous section, and how did the general reading public respond to this thematic structure? For critic Wang Hui, “Politics is first and foremost made of power relations of ‘order and service.’ . . . Though any form of political rule contains a certain level of voluntary obedience, this alone is not sufficient for ruling in a real sense. Ruling de facto must also require a ‘belief in the legitimacy’ of the ruling class or party.”26 It can be argued that, in modern times, belief in such legitimacy is often built upon the concept of freedom, so that the emancipation of the individual or nation from the fetters of despotism to become independent is the universal pursuit and lofty mission of modern people. As a collective social action fighting for the freedom of a 23. For Zhang’s note on the differences between the fourth and fifth versions, see Qian, Hong yan, 151–53. 24. This quote is the title of Luo Sun’s 羅蓀 book review of Red Crag, originally published in Wenyi bao, issue 3, 1962, and it is cited in Hong, History, 128. 25. Hong stated that it was reprinted many times before the Cultural Revolution and sold more than 4 million copies. By the 1980s, it had been reprinted more than twenty times and had sold more than 8 million copies. See History, 127. 26. See Wang Hui, “Zhengzhi yu daode jiqi zhihuan de mimi: Xie Jin dianying fenxi” 政治與道德及其置換的 秘密:謝晉電影分析 [On politics, moral codes, and the secrets of their switches in positions: An analysis on Xie Jin’s films], in Zhonguo dianyingjia xiehui (Association of Chinese Film Makers), ed., Lun Xie Jin dianying 論謝晉電影 [On Xie Jin’s films] (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 1990), 178. Meng Yue 孟悅 also demonstrates in her article, “Baimaonü yanbian de qishi: Jianlun Yan’an wenyi de lishi duozhi xing” 《白毛女》演變的啟示——兼論延安文藝的歷史多質性 [Revelations from the variations of the story of White-Haired Girl: A popular folk story], how folk moral values are utilized by, and coded into, the emerging official ideology. See Tang Xiaobing 唐小兵編, ed., Zai jiedu: Dazhong wenyi yu yishi xingtai 再解讀:大 眾文藝與意識形態 [Reinterpretation: Mass literature and ideology] (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1993), 68–89.

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nation, revolution occupies the foremost position in the popular imagination in the modern era. Friedrich von Gentz suggests in his comparative study of the French and American Revolutions that both can be evaluated from four principal points: “the lawfulness of the origin, character of conduct, quality of the object, and compass of resistance.”27 These principal points, especially the first two, can illuminate our understanding of how the CCP-led revolution was appropriated in Red Crag to establish the legitimacy of the CCP’s rule. “Like any action, revolutions must be judged by the circumstances preceding their beginning, by their origin.”28 The most conspicuous circumstance preceding the CCP-led revolution was the frequent foreign invasions that had destroyed China’s territory and promoted its political disintegration since the First Opium War (1839–1842). “A slave in chains” or a “fish to be cut into pieces” were among the popular metaphors in public discourse for the enslaved state of China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Although the story of Red Crag is set in the Civil War (1945–1949) between two domestic powers—the CCP and the KMT, the KMT was receiving backing from the United States and is depicted not only as perpetrating tyranny against its fellow countrymen but also as an imminent threat to China’s sovereignty.29 The CCP, on the contrary, is portrayed as the only political force capable of leading the Chinese people in the fight against the KMT-US collusion and capable of liberating China from its enslaved status. To make this theme easily identifiable by the reading public, the authors of Red Crag reduced the complex historical conditions of the time into a simplistic antithesis of evil and good, slavery and liberation. Through the strategic positioning of the CCP-led revolution in the metadiscourse of bondage versus liberation, Red Crag successfully stages “the emergence of the universal precisely through the revolutionary subject’s immediate identification with a modern concept of freedom.”30 Whereas the KMT “enslavers” were often portrayed in the novel as purely evil— sordid, cruel monsters, the portrayal of the US special agents as reactionaries against freedom proves to be more intriguing and nuanced. One striking factor that complicates the descriptions concerning the United States is its association with modern technologies. The US agents are described in the novel as being equipped with advanced technologies, but these are used in China only to repress progressive political activists, intellectuals, and students. Modern technologies thus are instruments 27. Friedrich Gentz, The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution, trans. John Quincy Adams (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010), xii. 28. Ibid., xiii. 29. The presence of the US was, in fact, left out of the earliest versions of the story. Only in the wake of the outbreak of the Korean War did the authors start to target the US as being the partner of SACO, and this aspect became prominent in their 1956 memoir Immortality amid Roaring Flames. This is a telling example of the production of histories of the revolution being closely linked to ongoing political development and being pressed to respond to political reality. 30. Peter Button, Configurations of the Real in Chinese Literary as Aesthetic Modernity (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2009), 238.


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against Chinese people’s demands for freedom. A scene in Chapter 19 was specially inserted to highlight the contradiction between technical modernity and the unethical reactionary behaviors it enabled. In this scene, Cheng Kang, one of the most beloved revolutionary characters, is brought to a US-run SACO hospital for treatment of the wounds he had suffered during torture. The doctor, however, uses the opportunity to test on him a new truth serum that the doctor proudly calls “the latest achievement of American science!” Having already weathered testing by multiple newly invented interrogation techniques, including hypnotism and the polygraph made by US technology giant General Electric, Cheng Kang, as usual, manages to reveal “not even one useful address.” This shows the superiority of a revolutionary’s power of self-control over the power of “the latest achievement of American science.” In the novel, American modern technology is highlighted throughout, but it is used only to assist “reactionary” behavior against humanity. In a similar vein, American agents are portrayed as hypocrites who merely pay lip service to humanity, while acting in utterly contradictory ways. In many ways, Red Crag provides a compendium of paradigmatic interpretations of the logic of the CCP-led revolution as a fight for the freedom of the nation. The second principal factor in evaluating a revolution is its “character of conduct,” including “the character and quality in which [it is] conducted and carried through” and “the conduct of the revolutionaries.”31 The historical lawfulness of a revolution and the ethical values of freedom a revolutionary exemplifies are inseparable. In this regard, Red Crag “documents” trials of revolutionary heroes—heroes not in the sense of ancient warriors with extraordinary physical power but in the sense of “modern men,” for whom “the very existence of the subject is being free.”32 The legends of modern heroes are often marked by their miraculous transcendence of their world experiences, their mental strength, and their unyielding determination to overcome adversity. Likewise, neither the confinement of a narrow cell, the harsh interrogation rooms, nor the pain of torture could force the CCP heroes in Red Crag to compromise their quest for freedom. In this light, Red Crag is a revelation of the inmates’ revolutionary saintliness, proclaiming their deeds and characters for later generations to emulate.

Melodrama of Revolution: Body, Symbolism, and the Aesthetics of Suffering When attempting to articulate a CCP creation myth that can be accepted by tens of millions of readers, revolutionary historical novels deploy not only historical data, 31. Gentz, Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, xiii. 32. See Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (New York: Humanities Press, 1954), 9.

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biographical accounts, preaching of faith in Communism, life doctrines of revolutionaries, and expositions of the principles of the CCP-led revolution, but various literary devices to attract and hold readers’ attention. Yang Li’s chapter in this volume demonstrates the use of elements of folk narrative in this regard.33 Though many “red classic” revolutionary historical novels shared elements of plot, characterization, and narrative with traditional folk stories, folk literary elements in Red Crag are largely restrained, if not completely excluded.34 Red Crag’s aesthetic appeal to popular readers is primarily built on elements drawn from modern melodrama. Melodrama has been identified as a “key new element in the aesthetics of the modern narrative,”35 which not only draws largely on bipolar tropes such as bondage and freedom but also derives its narrative primarily through hyperbole. Most strikingly, the meaning of freedom in melodrama is constructed prominently by bodies and bodily images. In his study of the representations of the French Revolution, Peter Brooks finds himself “again and again forcibly impressed by the ‘bodiliness’ of revolutionary language and representation.”36 To Red Crag’s tens of millions of readers, the meaning of the CCP-led revolution as an inevitable triumph of liberation is largely communicated through visual evocations of the prisoners’ bodily images, images of nature, and literary tropes suggesting liberation and bondage. The process in which body becomes an intelligible signifier is often dramatic, hyperbolic, and polarized. In the context of Red Crag, the bodies of revolutionary martyrs are always saturated with absolutely moral meanings that justify the violent revolution led by the CCP as an action of emancipation. The KMT special agents on the opposite side were deemed so absolutely evil that they could bear only the names of animals, such as xingxing 猩猩 (gorilla), gouxiong 狗熊 (black bear), or maotouying 貓頭鷹 (owl). Indeed, in this life-or-death struggle between two oppositional forces “anything in between virtue and terror is simply unthinkable. . . . [T]here is no place for 33. In his Tracks in the Snowy Forest (Linhai xueyuan, 林海雪原, 1957), Li convincingly demonstrates how the three character types in the novel, namely “the hero,” “the lover,” and “the evil spirit,” collaborate with the three  major schools of folk narratives—that of “knight-errant,” of “romance,” and of “ghost and goblins.” Given the inherent connections between many revolutionary historical novels and folk stories, Li even suggests that the “revolutionary historical novel” should be called the “revolutionary folk novel” instead. See Li Yang, 50–70 niandai Zhongguo wenxue jingdian zai jiedu 50–70 年代中國文學經典再解讀 [Reinterpretation of Chinese literary classics from 1950s to 1970s] (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe, 2006), 1–34. 34. Zhang Yu remarked at one point that Red Crag’s success lies in its carrying on the oral tradition of the vernacular novels such as The Romance of Three Kingdoms and The Water Margin but without giving any examples. In the meantime, Sha Ting and other cultural officials instructed that folk characters, such as “Two-pistol Granny” and her husband Madman Hua Ziliang should have their roles and stories restricted and reduced in order to give prominence to the canonic professional revolutionaries such as Hsu Yun-feng, Sister Chiang, and Cheng Kang. Any plots and characters inviting senses of the uncanny, fantasy, suspense, or thrill were also to be excluded. Qian, Hong yan, 240–41 and 114, respectively. 35. See Peter Brooks, Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 66. 36. Ibid., 55.


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moral indifference or nuance; there are only pure, unadulterated moral positions.”37 Furthermore, the performance of the two oppositional sides is predominantly dramatized and enacted by the suffering bodies of virtuous revolutionaries and the cruelty of their antirevolutionary captors. The bodies of these virtuous victims are subject to extreme and painful physical restraint in “living coffins,” surrounded by “electrified barbed wires,” kept behind “barred doors” in “scorching, sun-drenched narrow cells,” and ruthlessly chained by leg irons and handcuffs. The greater and more varied the tortures one suffers, the higher a level of virtue one demonstrates. Thus Hsu Yun-feng, the highest-ranking CCP leader in Red Crag, was kept literally in the bottom layer of Bai House, a “living hell”: “A gloomy darkness filled the chill, dark dungeon. Layer upon layer of rock and stone kept out sunshine and air, and all sight or sound of human activity. It was like a sealed coffin deep in the bowels of the earth.” Melodrama uses the body itself—its states of being, action, gestures, facial expressions—as sites of irritation, pain, or excitement so as to represent meanings that might otherwise be difficult to convey. Among the narrative devices melodrama employs, the tableau is particularly effective in using high emotion to communicate unspoken messages to its readers or audiences. Red Crag employs many tableaus to depict the brutality of the torture endured by the revolutionaries in the interrogation rooms, with one of the most startling scenes in the novel portraying the torture of Sister Chiang: Sister Chiang was no longer silhouetted against the blood-stained wall. She had been hung head down from a beam in the ceiling. “Will you talk now?” Grotesque shadows dance on the walls. “No.” Her voice was weak, but as calm as ever. “The nerves of the fingertips are linked with the heart, so think it over!” . . . The hammer was raised, throwing a heavy black shadow on the wall. “Drive it in!” The inmates visualized tightly bound hands, the bamboo splinter piercing a fingertip . . . blood spurting. . . . So you won’t talk? Pull it out! Drive it in again!” No sound came from Sister Chiang in spite of the excruciating pain. The inmates felt as if the bamboo splinter had been driven into their own hearts . . . Water splashed. “Revive her! Drive it in again!” From the frantic note of Hsu Peng-fei’s shouts, the prisoners knew that the enemy could get no more from Sister Chiang, a woman Communist . . .38

From this description we find that the tableau functions powerfully to make readers eye-witnesses to the torture Sister Chiang suffered, as if they were inmates in the 37. Ibid., 62. 38. Lo and Yang, Red Crag, 281.

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same prison. There was a plethora of renderings of similarly grotesque tableaus in the earlier versions of the story, but those in the final version of Red Crag were tactically deployed to display the body of Sister Chiang as a site of meaning of the “modern [wo]man.” Sister Chiang’s body shows that the red-hot irons and bamboo slivers merely tested the revolutionary’s flesh, without being able to shake her identity as a free revolutionary subject. It is through helping to make visible the persecution of her virtuous body that tableaus articulate the meaning Sister Chiang embodied, signaling moral victory and evoking public sympathy. This body thus was transformed into an element of melodramatic meaning. In addition to body, “nature” in melodrama is also under the command of hyperbolic rhetoric. Violent tempests, lightning, thunder, and fire are often used in symbolic and impressionistic fashion, rather than referentially. In Red Crag, the images of the confined body combine with violent natural images to highlight the heroism of a nameless inmate saying farewell to his wife before his execution at the end of Chapter 11: In the middle of the night the wind whistled through the eaves and cooled the cell a little. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled in the distance, gradually coming nearer and louder. . . . “Listen, they’re coming for someone!” a cell mate said tensely. Lightning crackled and was followed by another loud clap of thunder. Barking police dogs were coming. A lock rattled and there was a loud clank as the door of the next cell was flung open. “No. 5013! Out you come!” . . . . . . A flash of lightning lit up the figure of a tall, thin man stepping calmly out of the cell. A pair of handcuffs gleamed as they were snapped on his wrists. Another flash lit up the staircase as the man walked down the steps. He suddenly stopped before one of the women’s cells, waiting as if to take leave of someone. He stood like a statue in the wind and lightning. A moment later a long-haired woman heavy with child appeared at the cell door in a blood-stained gown, stretching both arms through the bars, she gripped the manacled hands of the tall man. . . . Their clasped hands separated for all time. . . . The manacled man suddenly swung up his arms and shouted above the thunder: “Farewell, comrades! When liberation comes, give my greetings to the Party and to the comrades! Long live communism!” . . . Huge rain drops drummed on the roof, and it seemed as if the furious elements were about to engulf the universe . . . The iron door quivered under Lung Kuang-hua’s onslaughts as he shouted in helpless rage: “Give me a gun! I’ll kill those bastards.”39

39. Ibid., 225–26.


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The frequent occurrence of thunder and lightning here indicate that the incident occurred on a scorching-hot summer night during a violent thunderstorm, but they are also impressionistic and symbolic, highlighting the dramatic tragedy of the scene. In the glare of the lightning, the readers seem no longer to read the word on the page, but have become “actors” in the unfolding drama, witnessing the event and, at the same time, beholding an awe-inspiring, saintlike disclosure of the “miracle” of a nameless CCP hero—his calm and courage even when facing imminent death. As the thunder symbolizes rage, revenge, and celestial punishment, so the lightning reveals a secret execution, shocking, illuminating, enlightening. On one hand, the evocation of the images seems to suggest the coming apocalypse, as predicted by Lung Kuang-hua’s raging curse, “I’ll kill all those bastards.” On the other hand, the use and reuse of the tropes of nature creates the idea of a moral continuity that will be carried on by the comrades who witnessed, therefore recorded, the atrocity and beheld the heroism and moral superiority that nameless inmate demonstrated; the child that his “longhaired woman” bore would inevitably assure his biological continuity. This presents the trope of rebirth, or the continuity of the circle of life, as indicated in a well-known poem in the novel: We are born rebels, We’ll set this topsy-turvy world aright! We’ll sweep away this unjust society! Today we lie in prison, But what of it? So that our children will suffer no more We are willing to stay here Till the prison walls fall down!40

The baby in this quotation, later born in incarceration and known as “the flower of the prison,” symbolizes the prophecy of the Chinese revolution and its final realization—the eventual birth of the New China. The ending of the final version of the novel further brings to a climax the advent of a new epoch through giving an all-encompassing picture of body and natural images, as well as the symbolism they convey: The searchlight suddenly went dead, but Chi Hsiao-hsuan still stood on the bloodstained red crag, gazing at the prison lying at his feet. In the distance, the fierce fires consuming Chatzetung illuminated the pines on the crest of the mountains. Nearby, a conflagration lit up the ruined walls around the shattered remains of Pai House. Explosions thundered far and near, as everything in SACO—that hell on earth—perished in flames and smoke.

40. Lo and Yang, Red Crag, 238.

How to Tell a Story of Imprisonment 57 Before Chi Hsiao-hsuan’s glazing eyes rose a vision of countless golden-starred red flags swirling and dancing in the breeze, and merging into a sea of crimson. His lips moved in a last smile.41

At last, the torture and violence inscribed upon the body transform and transcend into “a vision of countless golden starred red flags . . . merging into a sea of crimson”— the new nation born out of decades of pain and bloodshed.

Conclusion The shaping of the story of the incarceration of Communists in Chongqing’s brutal political prisons to become a “red classic” national foundation myth of the CCP involved a refocusing of the selection of data, a shifting of narrative point of view, and the invention of new plot elements in light of a prefigured “conceptual content.” Compared with the production of other “red classics” during the Seventeen Years, that of Red Crag was unique in a number of ways. First, unlike many revolutionary historical novels that were scrutinized to check whether they faithfully represented “historical facts,” the firsthand, real-life data that Luo, Yang, and Liu possessed turned out to be a major hurdle in configuring the putative “historical truth” of the Chinese revolution under the leadership of the CCP. Though the authors faithfully supplied “piles of data,” the ideological and symbolic interpretations of that data were controlled and appropriated by cultural officials in the field of literary production. Moreover, Red Crag can be described as the result of dual-track practices: repeated telling and retelling, writing and rewriting. The three authors were also three storytellers who had regular, direct feedback from their listeners, and this gave them the chance to revise the details and the themes of their stories, making them more vivid, engrossing, or elevated to fit into the varied expectations of the audience. As a written text, it went through many stages of rewriting by the authors as well as various editors. It is fair to say that Red Crag is not so much the utterance of accredited authors as an accumulation of multiple literary, communal, and political interests over more than a decade. Finally, whereas many “red classics” incorporated folk narrative elements to enhance storytelling, Red Crag, in contrast, draws primarily on the aesthetics of melodrama and bodily images to portray the historical event. In the novel, the real events are represented through the deployment of the melodramatic devices of antithesis and hyperbole, thereby granting chaotic historical records “illusionary coherence.”42 The novel charged these events with meanings that made the CCP-led revolution logical and, therefore, was able to turn tens of millions of readers into believers in the legitimacy of the CCP’s rule at the time, however figurative and imaginary. 41. Ibid., 606. 42. Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), ix.


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Bibliography Brooks, Peter. Body Work: Objects of Desire in Modern Narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. Button, Peter. Configurations of the Real in Chinese Literary as Aesthetic Modernity. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2009. Cai Xiang 蔡翔. Geming/xushu: Zhongguo shehui zhuyi wenxue–wenhua xiangxiang (1949– 1966) 革命/敘述:中國社會主義文學—文化想像 [Revolution/narration: Chinese socialist literature and its cultural imagination]. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010. Gentz, Friedrich. The Origin and Principles of the American Revolution, Compared with the Origin and Principles of the French Revolution. Translated by John Quincy Adams. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010. Guo Jianmin 郭建敏. Zhongguo dangdai hongse xushi de shengcheng jizhi yanjiu 中國當代 紅色敘事的生成機制研究 [Research on the production mechanism of Chinese contemporary red narrative]. Beijing: Chinese Social Science Press, 2010. Hong Zicheng. A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature. Translated by Michael Day. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Li Yang 李楊. 50–70 niandai Zhongguo wenxue jingdian zai jiedu 50–70 年代中國文學經典再 解讀 [Reinterpretation of Chinese literary classics from 1950s to 1970s]. Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe, 2006. Lo Kuang-pin, and Yang Yi-yen. Red Crag. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1978. Luo Guangbin 羅廣斌, and Yang Yiyan 楊益言. Hong Yan紅岩 [Red crag]. Beijing: Zhongguo qingnian chubanshe, 2000. Luo Guangbin 羅廣斌, Yang Yiyan 楊益言, and Liu Debin 劉德彬. Shengjie de xuehua 聖潔的 血花 [Sacred blood-flowers]. Guangzhou: Xinhua shudian huanan fendian, 1950. MacMillan, Margaret. Dangerous Games: The Use and Abuses of History. New York: Modern Library, 2009. Marcuse, Herbert. Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory. New York: Humanities Press, 1954. Qian Zhenwen 錢振文. Hong yan shi zengyang liancheng de? 紅岩是怎樣煉成的? [How Red Crag is made?]. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2011. Rigney, Ann. The Rhetoric of Historical Representation: Three Narrative Histories of the French Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Tang Xiaobing 唐小兵, ed. Zai jiedu: Dazhong wenyi yu yishi xingtai 再解讀:大眾文藝與意 識形態 [Reinterpretation: Mass literature and ideology]. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1993. Wakeman, Frederic. Spymaster: Dai Li and the Chinese Secret Service. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. White, Hayden. The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. ———. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973. ———. Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978. Zhonguo dianyingjia xiehui 中國電影家協會 [Association of Chinese Film Makers], ed. Lun Xie Jin dianying 論謝晉電影 [On Xie Jin’s films]. Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 1990.

4 How Is Revolution “Popularized”? Rereading Tracks in the Snowy Forest Yang Li (Translated from Chinese by Krista Van Fleit Hang)1

“Revolutionary popular novels” were first composed and became an important popular phenomenon in the 1950s Chinese literary field; examples include novels with broad readership such as Tracks in the Snowy Forest (Linhai xueyuan 林海 雪原), A New Tale of Heroic Sons and Daughters (Xin ernü yingxiong zhuan 新兒女 英雄傳), Railroad Guerillas (Tiedao youjidui 鐵道游擊隊), Steel Meets Fire (Liehuo jingang 烈火金鋼), and Behind Enemy Lines 敵後武工隊 (Dihou wugongdui). There has never been a concept more deeply penetrating and perfectly justified in the hearts and minds of modern Chinese people than the concept of revolution. “Revolutionary popular novels” represented revolution as a modern concept by borrowing the Chinese “vernacular novel,” a form replete with “folk characteristics,” to complete its process of ahistoricity. As main representative of the “revolutionary popular novels,” Tracks in the Snowy Forest has always been held up as a model of the “combination of political thought and traditional formal representation.”2 Upon publication of Tracks in the Snowy Forest and in writings from the early 1950s campaign to “rewrite literary history,” many critics referenced the “national style” in Tracks in the Snowy Forest; however, an approach that remains on the level of form prominent in traditional literary theory when discussing the “national characteristics” of Tracks in the Snowy Forest misses the more intrinsic connections with the traditional novel on the levels of subject matter, character type, and narrative structure. According to Fredric Jameson’s theory of the ideology of form, the flourishing of a particular form in a certain historical period is by no means arbitrary, it not only “reflects” a deep change in ideology; at the same time it serves as a crucial aspect of the production of that ideology. 1. This chapter was first published, in 2002, as Chapter 1 in Li Yang’s 李楊 50–70 niandai Zhongguo wenxue jingdian zai jiedu 50–70 年代中國文學經典再解讀 [A reinterpretation of literary classics from 1950s to 1970s] (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe, 2002). 2. See Wu Yan 吳岩, “Tan Linhai xueyuan” 談《林海雪原》[On Tracks in the snowy forest] (Shanghai: Xinwenyi chubanshe, 1958), 1.


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Tracks in the Snowy Forest narrates the story of a small detachment of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers who were ordered to go deep into the thick forests and snowy plains of the Northeast to root out remaining Nationalist (KMT) bandits in the late 1940s. To the small detachment of soldiers, “suppressing the bandits” was a political mission given to them by “the party.” This is the starting point we see in the story: In the vast, boundless forest, when the relatively small number of soldiers in the small detachment were on the trail of the bandits they ran into a problem. When they investigated among the common people they would only say, “We’re all Chinese people, why are we still at war?” Or they would say, “Three years ago there were Japanese soldiers around here, but since then we’ve never seen any army.” For eight days straight they couldn’t get a lead. It seemed as if this were the first time people saw the enthusiastic and lively Shao Jianbo without a smile on his face, without a song in his heart. (50)3

Obviously, “why suppress the bandits?” was not only a doubt held by the masses in the story, it was also possibly a doubt in the hearts of the soldiers that made up the small detachment, and more importantly it was perhaps a question held by the readers outside the story. This problem naturally became both goal and starting point of the narrative. The narrative became the only method by which to transform an external political mission into an internal demand of both the characters in the story and the readers of the novel, but how was this to be done? Tracks in the Snowy Forest provided a method to solve this problem, using the resources of the traditional Chinese vernacular novel to recast a political mission as a moralized Chinese story, and in the process established a model for the “revolutionary popular novel.” The unification of morality and politics was an inevitable product of the political cultural system of “family and state are as one” and “society takes the structure of a family” in ancient China;. In this relationship the ordering of the country signified by the word “politics” and the cultivation of the individual signified by the word “morality” were of a piece; not only was political authority moralized but morality was also bestowed with political authority. Morality was seen as the only foundation for political legitimacy, people who were moral had the mandate of heaven; the mandate of heaven was the same in nature as morality. Therefore, a person with morality would necessarily be able to evoke a shared trust and understanding with the masses, and this would form the foundation of political power. This characteristic 3. Translator’s note: I have included the page numbers from Yang Li’s Chinese source (Qu Bo, Linhai xueyuan 林海雪原 [Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1957]) in the main body of this chapter. Sidney Shapiro translated Tracks in the Snowy Forest and when appropriate I follow his translation for the passages quoted in the article, adding a footnote to mark my usage. I also defer to his choice in title for the novel (Tracks in the Snowy Forest instead of Thick Forests and Snowy Plains) and usually use the names he gives the characters in English, though I have changed his romanization system into pinyin. See Sidney Shapiro, trans., Tracks in the Snowy Forest by Chü P’o (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1962).

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of Chinese political culture made the moralization of politics the most important method by which traditional politics pursued legitimacy. When he discussed his creation of Tracks in the Snowy Forest, author Qu Bo, a soldier who had attended only six years of schooling before joining the revolution in his teens, frankly admitted that his own literary understanding was formed not by political novels such as How the Steel Was Tempered (Gangtie shi zenyang liancheng de 鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的) but rather by Chinese vernacular novels such as The Water Margin (Shuihu zhuan 水滸 傳), Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi 三國演義), and The Biography of Yue Fei (Shuo Yue quanzhuan 說岳全傳).4 These vernacular novels provided not only the “form” to write revolutionary subjects; more importantly they provided the rhetorical method of the moralization of revolutionary politics. The late Qing literary critic Guan Daru 管達如 explicated “heroes, youths, and gods,” as the “three main elements” of Chinese fiction, and these three elements became three main categories of the Chinese vernacular novel. “Supernatural novels,” “tales of heroes,” and “sentimental novels” can all be included in the scope of moral novels—they are all political stories narrated using a moral method, and it is exactly in this sense that Tracks in the Snowy Forest, containing all three of these main themes in Chinese traditional vernacular fiction, expressed the deep mutual influence between “revolution” and “vernacular fiction.” For this reason, the novel has a literary historical significance that is lacking in many of the widely acknowledged “classic texts.”

A Supernatural Novel As they read Tracks in the Snowy Forest, those familiar with Journey to the West will quickly feel a sense of familiarity as the exploits of the small detachment on its mission to root out the bandits in the mountains remind one of the exploits of the Tang Monk and his disciples as they battle demons on their pilgrimage for Buddhist scriptures. Journey to the West (Xi you ji 西遊記) is the classic “supernatural novel.” The true theme of Journey to the West has always been a point of contention among literati, but for the majority of readers of vernacular novels, Journey to the West is an engrossing tale that describes the strategies for battling demons. Although readers have seen it as an engrossing adventure tale, a totalizing moral framework that holds gods are 4. In “On Tracks in the Snowy Forest,” Qu Bo said, “I’ve read How the Steel Was Tempered and other famous works of literature, the lofty communist moral qualities and revolutionary heroic qualities deeply educated me, causing me to lose myself in their lofty spirit. But when I talk about them to others, I can only express a general meaning, discuss the spirit, or I can only sense it but not express it in words; but if you ask me to narrate The Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin, or The Biography of Yue Fei, then I can do it as if I’m a storyteller, and I can even recite from memory the best chapters. These works can also be transmitted orally among the illiterate masses. It seems from this that the workers, peasants, and soldiers are still more familiar with this national style.” See Beijing ribao, November 9, 1957. How the Steel Was Tempered is discussed in Chapter 8 of this book.


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upright, demons are evil, good and evil stand in binary opposition, and evil will not overcome good actually lies at the heart of the story. All ancient supernatural novels reflect social contradictions—the evil and darkness bestowed upon the demons and the righteousness and brightness embodied in the Tang Monk and his disciples stand in perfect contrast. To emphasize the theme of light and righteousness conquering darkness and evil, the author connected many clearly evil doings, such as murder, licentious behavior, scheming, treachery, plunder, and cheating with the evil forces that attempted to oppose, obstruct, and thwart the quest for the Buddhist scriptures; moreover, they were the embodiment of a nature that could never be changed. Tracks in the Snowy Forest wholly redeployed the narrative tactics from Journey to the West. For the author of Tracks in the Snowy Forest, the only way to discredit this group of political bandits was by using the narrative to cause them to lose their moral legitimacy. The concept of “rooting out the bandits” demonstrated a test of strength between two different political forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the KMT. The negative characters here are not the looting and pillaging bandits from tradition; instead, they are political bandits who have clear political demands. Although both sides have political demands, in Tracks in the Snowy Forest the struggle of two modern political forces is recounted as a pure conflict of morals, transforming it into a supernatural test of strength between “deified” PLA soldiers and “demonized” KMT bandits. Folk ethics such as punishing traitors and eradicating evil, protecting the people from harm, spreading wealth and helping the needy, fighting for justice, loving the people, and seeking ways to repay kindness, qualities held by the small detachment of soldiers as representatives of righteousness, had already spread deep into the hearts of the common people, becoming important components of folk societal values and behavioral norms. Consequently, the small detachment soldiers who contained this combination of moral virtues become the embodiment and upholders of folk ethics, and the bandits, who stand in opposition to the deified heroes, are then the destroyers of folk ethics. In their irrational activities of raping and pillaging, they are no longer unified by their political standpoint; rather, they share a brutishness that has surreal and abnormal qualities. Demonizing the villains—the method of turning them into beasts, is often a method by which supernatural novels fulfill the requirements of the real; almost all of the demons in Journey to the West are animals that have been changed into demons, originally some were lions, tigers, elephants, or bears, and some were pythons, rats, centipedes, or spiders . . . these surreal, cartoonlike characters figuratively displayed the antagonism of good and evil in the moral sense. This is precisely the method employed in Tracks in the Snowy Forest. All of the bandits, whether bandit leaders like Mountain Vulture (Zuo shan diao 座山雕) or Horse Cudgel Xu (Xu da mabang 許大 馬棒), or the petty bandits like Luan Ping 欒平 or Hairy Mole (Yicuomao 一撮毛), are terrifying and have monstrous countenances. It is not as accurate to call the

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portrait of bandits unfolded for the reader a historicized realistic realm as it is to characterize it as an animalistic world composed of demons and monsters. We might take Butterfly Enticer (Hudie mi 蝴蝶迷) as an example. Butterfly Enticer’s father, the landlord Fatty Jiang the Third, “treated others as a tyrant, leading a life of debauchery”; he had altogether “seven wives and concubines.” Though, as if cursed, he was unable to have children. “He had taken his fifth bride—Red Cherryapple, a first-class prostitute from a brother in Peony River City—when he was fifty-three. Seven months after Fatty Jiang bought her, she gave birth to a daughter. Privately, people laughed at him. ‘Does he think he’s the child’s father?’”(22)5 Her looks were enough to turn your stomach. An incredibly long head perched on her neck like an ear of corn. In an attempt to disguise her fantastic ugliness, she covered her enormous forehead with bangs right down to her eyebrows. But nothing could help her. The combination of dry yellow skin and the black freckles made her face even more revolting. She coated it with powder, so thickly at times that the powder flaked off when she blinked her eyes. Because her teeth had turned black from opium, she had them all crowned with gold. When she smiled, the glare was painful. (22)6

Unbelievable as it is, this horrifically ugly Butterfly Enticer is actually a famously promiscuous woman among the bandits. She is always fooling around with different men, and after going up the mountain she becomes the mistress of both Horse Cudgel  Xu and his son. After Horse Cudgel Xu dies, she becomes the paramour of Three Gun Zheng, and when he abandons her she becomes even more lacking in scruples: After Horse Cudgel Xu was eliminated, this female demon became a female bachelor, in this time of hardship all she did was use her two dried up legs to look for somebody to support her. (413)

In traditional narratives, licentious women always arouse more hatred in readers than even the most malicious men, a fact that vividly demonstrates the true status of women in the moral ranking system. In the composition of the essentially evil qualities of the bandits, Butterfly Enticer cannot be substituted, she adds an element of evil to the bandits’ fierceness. This sort of woman, who combines ugliness and lasciviousness in one character, is not often found in classical supernatural novels. This extreme evil represents an even more intrinsic need in the moralization of politics. Butterfly Enticer’s birth has symbolic significance, and her death leaves a similarly deep impression on readers. Here is the scene of Butterfly Enticer being hacked to death by Yang Zirong’s 楊子榮 bayonet: 5. Translator’s note. See Shapiro, Tracks in the Snowy Forest, 23. 6. Translator’s note. See Shapiro, Tracks in the Snowy Forest, 24.


Yang Li Watch my knife Butterfly Enticer!’ As he screamed, Butterfly Enticer was split in two from her right shoulder to her crotch, her stinking intestines spilling to the ground. (538)

We can compare this to a scene of the bandits hacking the villagers: Cheng Xiaowu’s young wife flung herself on her husband, only to be seized by the hair and pulled back by Butterfly Enticer. In a fury of hatred the girl flew at her tormentor. Digging her fingernails into the harpy’s face, she raked ten bloody tracks. As she was reaching for the witch’s throat, Xu Fu grabbed her by the hair and ripped her abdomen open with a big sword. Her constant and pure liver and gall fell to the ground. (28)7

Perhaps due to the author’s partiality, bloody scenes of disembowelment, “liver and gall falling to the floor,” fill the novel. Passages like this commonly appear in scenes deemed “unsuitable for children” in the novels of modernist writers, but they are used here by a realist author to develop a “body theory” that people would remember—because of the relationship between “revolution” and counterrevolution,” intestines and organs in the human body would give off a different scent. The saintly revolutionaries had “pure” “liver and gall” while the beastly counterrevolutionaries’ intestines and guts were “stinking.” The political struggle was simplified into a struggle between human and beast. An extremely essentializing and typifying rhetorical strategy here shows the surreal moral significance unique to the supernatural novel.

A Chivalric Criminal Case Novel Readers familiar with the “new school martial arts novels” might raise certain objections if one were to frame Tracks in the Snowy Forest as a “martial arts” novel with the main theme of “defeating bullies and bringing peace to the common people.” People have the impression that the new martial arts novels by and large narrate the story of individual revenge, with the weaker victim roaming the land, undertaking a desperate life-and-death struggle with the strong and cruel enemy, but the main characters in Tracks in the Snowy Forest are members of a small detachment of PLA soldiers, on a mission from the party to root out political bandits. They use modern weapons, carefully plan their strategy, and face the opposing army, and therefore Tracks in the Snowy Forest seems to more closely resemble a criminal case novel that describes the ways in which knights-errant “drive forward and eliminate invaders for the king.”8

7. Translator’s note: This is a modification of Shapiro’s translation, see Shapiro, Tracks in the Snowy Forest, 31. 8. Translator’s note: Many of the terms for literary genres have more than one common English translation. I have chosen to use the term “martial arts novel” to translate wuxia xiaoshuo, “chivalric romance novel” to translate xiaqing xiaoshuo, “chivalric novel” to translate xiayi xiaoshuo, “criminal case novel” to translate gongan xiaoshuo, and “chivalric criminal case novel” to translate xiayi gongan xiaoshuo.

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Actually, chivalry and criminal cases are two inseparable elements present in heroic tales throughout ancient China.9 In chivalric novels, knights-errant “broke the law in the name of justice” and established jianghu 江湖,10 which were realms governed in accord with the way of heaven existing beyond the real world that was regulated by “official law” yet marked by the dominance of corrupt officials and great disparities between rich and poor. These knights-errant have carried the hopes of generation after generation of Chinese people for justice and righteousness. Similarly, the long-standing tradition of the criminal case novel tells stories of how realistic everyday life struggles for inequality and justice are solved when local authorities intervene to “expose treachery and right wrongs.” If we can say that the central value in chivalrous heroes is “righteousness,” then the core value on display in criminal case novels, rooted as they are in the present, is “loyalty.” Therefore, on the fundamental value level, chivalric novels, which can be seen as moral novels, and criminal case novels, which can be seen as political novels, form a neat contrast. Though this may be the case, because of the special characteristics of Chinese political culture, in the structure of Chinese society a true opposition between morality and politics could not exist. As a fictional utopia, “the world of the jianghu” did not actually have the ability to contend with reality; the specific cultural and psychological structure meant our knight-errant heroes could not be completely uninvolved in the real world, they always fluctuated between the two worlds of the jianghu and reality and the two senses of righteousness and loyalty. The expression “living high in the imperial court one is anxious about the people, living far in the jianghu one is concerned for the leader,” is the true portrait of this psychology, and observing from an ethical perspective we easily discover that in the “morality of the knights-errant the two virtues of loyalty and righteousness are inseparable.” For this reason, chivalric and criminal case novels have always had the possibility of confluence. The Water Margin can be seen as the earliest chivalric criminal case novel, the spirit of the heroes on Mt. Liang “using martial arts to violate prohibitions,” and “righting wrongs for heaven,” as well as the political spirit of “pressing forward for the king,” can all be traced to the same origin. After the mid-Qing, the righteous knights-errant (yixia 義俠) who appeared in the once-pure chivalric novels were gradually replaced by the loyal knights-errant (zhongxia 忠俠) of the chivalric criminal case novels. The figure of the loyal knight who eradicated evil and set the good people at ease in the name of the feudal officials, due to either the desire to serve the state, the admiration for the integrity of upright officials and famous statesmen, or the repayment of the emperor’s patronage, actually 9. In Qiangu wenren xiake meng (The literati’s chivalric dreams), Chen Pingyuan gives a thorough analysis of chivalric and criminal case narratives in his chapter on “Qing Dynasty Chivalric Novels.” See Chen Pingyuan 陳平原, Xiaoshuoshi lunji 小說史論集 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1997), 974–92. 10. Translator’s note: I have chosen not to translate the complex term jianghu, explicated here by Li Yang in the text, because of the widespread familiarity with the term in English.


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became a loyal servant who could preserve the current system by practicing martial arts. From the late Qing to the Republican period, chivalric criminal case novels that propagated the unification of morality and politics became a central type of modern vernacular fiction, playing an extremely important role in the promotion of folk ethics. Using chivalry to represent the criminal case, using morality to represent politics—what the chivalric criminal case novels represented here was actually the combination of “politics” and “morality,” and this force clearly inspired the composition of Tracks in the Snowy Forest. In Tracks in the Snowy Forest, the only method by which to transform a mission from the “party” into an intrinsic need of Shao Jianbo 少劍波, the small detachment, and the masses—the method of moralizing politics— is to transform this “criminal case” story into a “chivalric” story, retelling the story of revenge. It is exactly in this sense that the novel opens, using “Blood Debt” as the title of the first chapter, in which the vicious bandits savagely kill Jianbo’s only relative, his sister, County Head Ju 鞠縣長, who had raised him as if she were his mother. Our main character has been thrust into circumstances with which readers of the chivalric novel are exceedingly familiar: Bending forward at the waist and stamping his feet in grief, the peasant wept, “County Head Ju, County Head Ju . . .” Speechless with sorrow and anger, he could only point in the direction of the mountain Jianpo turned pale; his heart sank. In a hopeless voice, he asked, “Where are they?” “The western mountain . . .” Gao Bo was after all still a youngster, with none of the adult’s self-control. He wept aloud, like a child. Something seemed to burst in Jianbo’s brain. His body felt paralyzed. He stood woodenly for a moment, his eyes blank. “Let’s go,” he said finally. His voice seemed to belong to someone else.11

When Shao Jianbo, burning with impatience, rushes to the western mountains, the bandits have already escaped, and only his sister, “whose stomach has been cut open, intestines spilling out on the ground, missing one ear” remains: When Shao Jianbo saw the wretched sight, for a moment he could see nothing, feel nothing. His head whirled. He began to fall. The weeping Gao Bo grabbed him and cried in alarm, “203. 203.”12

Different critics have differing methods to categorize chivalric (martial arts) novels, but regardless, none lacks the fundamental elements of a blood debt and revenge, in which the main character losing his or her entire family opens the narrative, the

11. See Shapiro, Tracks in the Snowy Forest, 8–9. 12. Slightly revised from Shapiro, Tracks in the Snowy Forest, 9.

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lone survivor beginning the long journey in pursuit of his foe, so he can kill him by his own hands, which becomes the only reason for existence of the main character. “The most important matter in a true man’s heart is the repayment of debts of gratitude.” Repaying debts of gratitude and seeking revenge have always been the most prominent ethical concepts in chivalric novels. The concepts and meaning of the knight-errant (xia) originate in primitive concepts of justice, the concepts originally worshipped by members of clan society; therefore, Morgan believes, “The age old practice of avenging a relative has been wide spread in each section of humanity, originating in the clan system.”13 In this, we observe the consciousness of gratitude and revenge was not unique to the Chinese people. However, after the end of clan society, revenge and gratitude became an important method by which to represent the social form of “society taking the structure of a family” unique to China. It is only in a society with the concept of “state and family as one” that avenging a relative is the means by which one fulfills the duty of filial piety and at the same time is also the foundation for “being utterly loyal” to the state. Even Confucius openly advocated avenging relatives; in Confucian thinking,14 loyalty and filiality are as one, filiality and fraternity are the origin. The foundational principle is changing “filiality into fidelity”: “the gentleman is filial in serving his parents, and so his loyalty can be transferred to his lord.” Avenging a relative gives expression to the sanctity of blood ties; blood ties are the starting point, foundation, and form of both family and state; they are the fundamental basis by which a “person” establishes oneself. Therefore, a knight that takes righteousness as a starting point can be a hero only in a patriarchal clan system society based on bloodline. This is also a main reason chivalric novels were underdeveloped in Western societies. It is no exaggeration to say that through the continual promulgation in prose and opera the concepts of revenge and gratitude have been internalized as the collective unconscious of the Chinese people. From the very beginning, Tracks in the Snowy Forest places its main character in this situation that has already become a classic; with this familiar and intimate feeling

13. See Chinese translation of Lewis H. Morgan’s Ancient Society (1877): Gudai shehui 古代社會 (Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1987), 75. 14. The Book of Rites states: “When avenging the death of a father or mother, one must be determined to win. He should not pursue a government office, focusing solely on the matter of revenge. He should sleep on a straw mat using a shield for a pillow, and during the mourning period he should continue to nurture the will to fight, if he happens to come upon his enemy he should have weapon at the ready, immediately engaging the enemy in battle” “ ( 子夏問於孔子曰: ‘居父母之仇,如之何?’夫子曰: ‘寢苦,枕幹,不仕,弗 與共天下也。遇諸市朝,不反兵而鬥。”). Another passage from The Book of Rites states: “When seeking to avenge the death of a parent, one should not let the perpetrator remain alive; when seeking to avenge one’s brothers, one should not let the perpetrator remain in the same country; when seeking to avenge a friend, one should not let the perpetrator remain in the same county; when seeking to avenge a clan relative, one should not let the perpetrator remain in the same neighborhood” “ ( 父母之仇,不與共生;兄弟之仇,不 與聚國;朋友之仇,不與聚鄉;族人之仇,不與聚鄰。” 《大戴禮記•曾子制言》).


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our readers join Shao Jianbo as he travels the path of righteous revenge. Having discovered this important growing point of meaning, this dangerous path of “rooting out the bandits” is no longer simply a “party” mission, at the same time, or perhaps more importantly, it serves as Shao Jianbo’s individual requirement for his own personal ethical and moral standpoint: Amid the angry accusations of the villagers it seemed he could hear his sister’s voice: her tired cough and little sigh as she sat working beside the lamp, her moving voice as she taught class, the lullabies she crooned holding him at night, the militant songs she sang after joining the army, her “Xiao Bo, Xiao Bo,” the loving voice with which she addressed Brother in Law . . . The lambskin on Jianbo’s chest seemed to move, to beat as he had heard his sister’s heart beat when as a child he rested with his head against her breast. Only this time, all these voices, all these sounds, were saying just one thing: “Don’t cry, Xiao Bo. Kill the enemy. Avenge us.” Grief turned into strength. Flames of rage smoldered fiercely in Jianbo’s eyes.15

At this point Shao Jianbo has become an unstoppable bullet of revenge. When “rooting out the bandits” transforms into “taking vengeance,” the external political mission is also successfully transformed into an internal moral imperative. County Head Ju, brutally murdered by the bandits, is no longer simply a CCP county official; rather, she is a kind-hearted “older sister,” a caring “mother.” Actually, Shao Jianbo’s blood feud is only the starting point of the narrative. From this point on, all the stories of rooting out the bandits are the unfolding of the same logic. Whether it is the small detachment soldier Yang Zirong or it is the common people, every character shares the painful experience of having a loved one killed; avenging a relative becomes their most internal motivation, and it also becomes the motivating force and direction of the narrative. In a certain sense, Qing dynasty chivalric criminal case novels can be seen as the mark of the martial arts novel’s formation, and only following this can characters in new-style martial arts fiction such as Guo Jing 郭靖 or Qiao Feng 喬峰, then freely move back and forth between the public space of “race” and “nation” and the private sphere of “love” and “friendship.” Bestowing the dual identity of sister and CCP “county head” on the fictional character of County Head Ju shows the unification of the public and private spheres in the novel. The effort to connect an individual’s flesh and family emotion with mass or “class” revolutionary sentiment, this method of uniting morality and politics was without a doubt established in the new space of the narrative of the vernacular novel.

15. Translator’s Note: See Shapiro, Tracks in the Snowy Forest, 20; slightly modified.

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A Chivalric Romance Novel Of the most fundamental elements in vernacular novels, the first is “heroes”; the second is “sons and daughters.”16 Throughout literary history in China and abroad, “heroes” plus “sons and daughters” (men and women) can be rewritten with a more vulgar expression, the “fist” plus the “pillow.” Or, in the modern period, we can use more the academic terms, “violence” and “sex.” Although these two most common elements are always present, in differing temporal and cultural environments they take on different patterns. The sentimental stories in Tracks in the Snowy Forest primarily reflect the influence of chivalric romance novels of the late Qing and after. Lacking “emotion” and lacking “sexuality” seems to be a common characteristic of all male knights-errant before the Ming-Qing period. The ideal male characters appearing to readers of the most familiar heroic tales are rough types who take pleasure in helping the people, have no interest in relations between man and woman, and “have neither lust nor evil thoughts,” a group of ascetic brave heroes such as Wu Song from Mt. Liang, who has an obvious “hatred of women.” This style persisted until the late Ming, the last years of which saw earth-shattering change; with the beginning of the movement to open up thinking, both the neo-Confucian doctrine of “the preservation of heavenly principles and the elimination of human desires” and Buddhist ascetic thought suffered violent assault. In the field of drama and fiction, a surge of literary writings about “emotion” represented by the “scholar and beauty novel” arose, and protagonists morphed from the boors who had no time for women into scholars who believed that, “though the time of a hero is brief, love between men and women is everlasting.” This transformation without a doubt breathed new life into the vernacular tradition; however, overly sentimental and cowardly scholars led the literary field to a different extreme, and as readers gradually began to tire of the excessively sappy scholar and beauty novel, people began experimenting with works that reconciled the “heroic” and “romance,” uniting “chivalry” and “romance.” The Fortunate Union and Heroic Sons and Daughters from the late Qing dynasty can be seen as the earliest examples of “chivalric romance novels,” although because they could not truly escape the limits of Confucian feudal ethics, neither of these two novels was successful. Since the chivalric romance novel could fulfill the popular desire for a grand reunion, how­ ever, the confluence of martial arts and sentimental novels finally became the main direction of the vernacular novel. “In the late Qing, neither the ‘exceedingly sentimental’ romance tale nor the ‘rough and rambling’ chivalric novel could satisfy readers. Romance and heroes, or one could say the combination of love and chivalry, was 16. Translator’s note: Li Yang uses the term 兒女 ernü, which literally means “sons and daughters.” In vernacular fiction, the term refers to love stories between youths; following this first paragraph, which for stylistic reasons must preserve the literal term “sons and daughters,” I have chosen to translate the term as romance in the majority of instances to make the text more intelligible to English readers.


Yang Li

inevitable; more and more of the protagonists of martial arts novels turned into ‘dual characters’ that possessed both chivalry and love.”17 Developing a love story between male and female knights-errant on a dangerous and winding voyage became one of the marks of great skill in the writing of a martial arts novel. The true peak in martial arts novels was in the Republican period, with the dissolution of feudal ethics, starting with Wang Dulu’s 王度廬 modern chivalric romance novels that incorporated modern thought and began to break from the bonds of “Confucian relationships.” The conflict between love and righteousness, love and reason, and spirit and flesh displayed a modern significance and in the mid-twentieth century with development by Jin Yong 金庸 and other modern literati, chivalric romance novels became an even more important branch of vernacular fiction, summoning for ordinary readers all kinds of equally infatuating reading experiences and heroic dreams. The seal of romantic chivalric novels deeply marks Tracks in the Snowy Forest. Shao Jianbo is a classic character in the style of those who appeared only with the heroic tales in late Qing chivalric romance novels. This twenty-two-year-old “young general,” vigorous and handsome, strong and brilliant, who knew the heavens and the earth, possessed both scientific knowledge and literary talent, and could overcome any obstacle and defeat any enemy, naturally became the savior of the people and the spirit of the small detachment. When faced with this ideal man, the innocent nurse Bai Ru 白茹 could not help but fall in love because he was so wise and so daring, yet so modest that he would often say, “all our success comes from the party and the masses.” Yang Zirong’s estimation of Shao Jianbo is thus, “Only a man like you . . . , having experienced hundreds of battles, can command an army of thousands as easily as waving your two fists, on this point I could never match you.” All of the small detachment soldiers idolized him, yelling jubilantly, “Our commander of detachment 203 truly possesses both martial (wu 武) and literary (wen 文) qualities.” The common people of Jiapigou went even further and worshipped him like a god, “So it was that in Jiapigou, Jianbo had already become a mythological figure.” The protagonist in new-style martial arts novels often expresses the author’s narcissism, and on this point Tracks in the Snowy Forest is no exception. However, Tracks in the Snowy Forest is not satisfied with turning Shao Jianbo into the scholar general from a heroic tale, in order to carve out a dual-sided hero that is “both strong to the bone and tender hearted.” The author gave Jianbo the sentimentality and softness of a literati. As the novel continually plays up the limitless affection Shao Jianbo had for his sister, he cannot escape the image of a childlike younger brother. As the text flashes back to Jianbo’s childhood, the novel employs much body language; actions of love such as hugging, embracing, holding, and kissing sustained Jianbo’s growth. After his sister was killed, Jianbo could never emerge from the pain of missing her 17. See Chen, Xiaoshuoshi lunji, 992.

How Is Revolution “Popularized”? 71

and often becomes mired in painful thoughts of his sister’s cruel death, unable to extricate himself. In the face of the totalizing affection for his sister and commander, Shao Jianbo always remains a child who cannot mature. This inability to escape from the scholar’s image marks a fundamental difference between Jianbo and the coarse, unsentimental soldiers in the small detachment, and, of course, it also prevents Jianbo from resembling the mature, strong “party member” from political novels; however, it actually puts him more in accord with the image of the ideal folk hero. Of course, the best method for expressing the unification of romance and heroes in the novel is the exceedingly sentimental love story between Shao Jianbo and female nurse Bai Ru. The novel’s meticulous description of the mutual fantasies, rejections, attractions, and desire between the two main characters makes the most of the appeal of the love story, pushing the interest of a scholar beauty novel to the forefront. After Shao Jianbo conquers Tiger Mountain, the snowy night gives rise to amorous feelings, and, with poetic sentiment flowing strong, the hero and beauty transform the battlefield of the thick forests and snowy plains into a tender space with beautiful scenery. “Rooting out the bandits” changes into a romance, a poetic yet treacherous journey, “spreading a little pink” onto the bitter war, using the fundamental element of heroes and romance from vernacular novels and turning them into a dual metonymy for morality and politics. Consider this scene of Shao Jianbo secretly spying on Bai Ru after defeating the bandits on Tiger Mountain: The snow was falling heavily now. When Jianbo entered the door, he found Bai Ru asleep. The room was warm and her face was pink. The lashes of her closed eyes looked exceptionally long. Jianbo’s leather case was locked in her arms, as if she was afraid that someone would take it. The red woolen thread that bound her braids had become undone and her hair fanned out beside her on the pillow. Her lips were red and shapely, the texture of her dimpled cheeks was fine. Bai Ru seemed to be smiling in her dreams. She slept relaxed and peaceful. Her small white feet stuck out from the end of the covers. Jianbo’s heart flamed, and he hastily withdrew. This beautiful young female soldier had temporarily conquered his heart’s desire. (308)18

This is a classic “male gaze” as theorized by Laura Mulvey. Song Weijie has described the scene in Jin Yong’s famous work, The Romance of Book and Sword (Shujian enchou lu 書劍恩仇錄), in which main character Chen Jialuo 陳家洛 peeps at Princess Fragrance 香香公主 as she is bathing as representing the “male gaze,” following Mulvey.19 This scene continually appears in Chinese vernacular fiction, often 18. See Shapiro, Tracks in the Snowy Forest, 313, translation slightly modified. Shapiro uses Bai Ru’s nickname, “White Dove” throughout his translation, I have chosen here to follow the text and use her name here. 19. See Song Weijie 宋偉傑, Cong yule xingwei dao wutuobang chongdong: Du Jin Yong de wuxia xiaoshuo 從 娛樂行為到烏托邦衝動:讀金庸的武俠小說 [From entertainment activity to utopian impulse: Rereading Jin Yong’s martial arts fiction] (Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 1999), 123.


Yang Li

representing a shared desire of the male main character, the male author, and the male reader. The “revolutionary vernacular novel,” which takes the “workers” and “peasants” as their objects, differs slightly from the literati “new school martial arts novels” represented by Jin Yong. Once again taking The Romance of Book and Sword as an example, in Chen Jialuo’s eyes Princess Fragrance bathing nude in the lake is “beautiful and pure, an irreproducible beauty”; this is obviously the “gaze” of a literati, lacking any “inappropriate thinking.” Shao Jianbo’s gaze when he looks at Bai Ru is full of worldly feeling, in particular the passage “two small, slender feet, white as pure cotton,” excites an irrepressible “lust” in the “young general” that has clearly surpassed the level of “spiritual love.” On this point, the “revolutionary popular novel” cannot completely wipe out an element of essential coarseness unique to revolution, and, at the same time, it points out the connection between “revolution” and a different kind of “folkness,” that from a market culture that is not at all of the literati. Possibly because of this, in understanding this literary genre that describes the individual and collective memories of several generations, “politics and sex” ultimately constitute an important dimension that cannot be ignored. Speaking to the goal of the narrative of Tracks in the Snowy Forest, writing about “the love between man and woman” of course pushed the “turbulence of the age” into prominence; however, unlike the efficient combination of public revenge and private hatred through the employment of the “chivalric criminal case novel,” politicizing individual love between man and woman was obviously a much more difficult task, and so, after Tracks in the Snowy Forest was published, the love story between Shao  Jianbo and Bai Ru was consistently castigated by critics. Many thought that Bai  Ru’s character was completely superfluous and that she adversely affected the purity of Shao Jianbo’s character. However, the critics could not help but acknowledge that this barely acceptable description of love was actually one of the main elements that determined the popularity of the book. For the common readers, “if a novel is to move the reader, then it cannot lack in romantic love.”20 As to the novel that takes it upon itself to “move people” without writing about romantic love, or to completely erase romantic love, that is not the mission of the “revolutionary popular novel.”

Bibliography Chen Pingyuan 陳平原. Xiaoshuoshi lunji 小說史論集. Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1997. Guan Daru 管達如. “Shuo xiaoshuo.” 說小說. Xiaoshuo yuebao 小說月報 3 (1912): 86. He Jiahuai 何家槐. “Lue tan Linhai Xueyuan” 略談《林海雪原》. Wenxue yanjiu 文學研究 2 (1958): 32.

20. See Lin Shu 林紓, “Xu” 序 [Preface], in Burugui 不如歸 [The cuckoo] (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan), 1908.

How Is Revolution “Popularized”? 73 Hou Jinjing 侯金鏡. “Yibu yinrenrusheng de changpian xiaoshuo” 一部引人入勝的長篇 小說. Wenyi bao 文藝報 3 (1958): 3. Lin Shu 林紓. “Xu” 序 [Preface]. In Burugui 不如歸 [The cuckoo]. Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1908. Morgan, Lewis H. Ancient Society. Translated into Chinese as Gudai shehui 古代社會. Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1987. Qu Bo 曲波. Linhai xueyuan 林海雪原. Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1957. ———. “On Tracks in the Snowy Forest.” 談《林海雪原》. Beijing ribao 北京日報, November 9, 1957, p. 3. Shapiro, Sydney, trans. Tracks in the Snowy Forest. By Chü P’o [Qu Bo]. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1962. Song Weijie 宋偉傑. Cong yule xingwei dao wutuobang chongdong: Du Jin Yong de wuxia xiao­ shuo 從娛樂行為到烏托邦衝動:讀金庸的武俠小說 [From entertainment activity to utopian impulse: Rereading Jin Yong’s martial arts fiction]. Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 1999. Wu Yan 吳岩. “Tan Linhai xueyuan” 談《林海雪原》[On Tracks in the snowy forest]. Shanghai: Xinwenyi chubanshe, 1958.

5 Shaping the “Red Classics” of Chinese Art in Early Socialist China Manipulating Tradition to Establish New Guohua Kuiyi Shen

Paralleling the systematic adoption of Soviet models in China’s political, economic, and social structures in the mid-1950s, Chinese educational and cultural institutions similarly instituted principles learned from the USSR. Soviet-inspired Socialist Realism became China’s official art style. It is not surprising, then, that oil painting emerged as the most prestigious form of official art. Indeed, it was the mainstream of Chinese art during the first seventeen years (1949–1966) of the People’s Republic of China and remains so today.1 If a Westernizing impulse lay behind the ideological support for oil painting during the Seventeen Years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the new government had a much less straightforward view of the future of China’s indigenous form of painting, guohua 國畫. Communist arts leaders had spent their lives working to overturn the forces of conservatism that they believed prevented China’s social, economic, and cultural progress. As artists, virtually all had pursued what they believed to be the most modern, cosmopolitan, and politically progressive forms of art, oil painting and printmaking. Administrators from working-class backgrounds, like Jiang Feng 江豐 (1910–1982), had no love for traditional Chinese painting, which he associated with conservatism and elitism. Furthermore, traditional Chinese calligraphy, because of its elaborate script forms, was considered an impediment to mass literacy, and in a series of reforms in the 1950s and 1960s was systematically simplified. Mainstream arts policy of the period immediately following 1949 thus threatened to eradicate China’s highest forms of indigenous art. The official policies of the period between 1949 and 1952 caused great difficulties for guohua artists who did not have a salaried teaching job, and even for some who did. As private property was nationalized, the art market almost disappeared. Many wealthy collectors and patrons fled abroad. By virtue of their traditionalist painting styles and ideological incompatibility with the new regime, there was little such 1. See Julia F. Andrews, Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1979 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 149–61.

Shaping the “Red Classics” of Chinese Art in Early Socialist China 75

artists could contribute. The wealthiest began liquidating their art collections to cover their living expenses. It may have seemed as though the new government sought to eliminate Chinese painting and other traditional arts. Yet, by1951, the government had formalized a policy to provide livelihoods and status for leading non-Communist cultural and intellectual figures. A system of Research Institutes for Culture and History (Wenshiguan 文史館) provided stipends and jobs but removed its members from active roles in society, thus creating a living museum of the former cultural elite. Ye Gongchuo 葉恭綽 (1881–1968), a founding member of the Chinese Painting Society in 1931 and former Republican official, served as administrative vice director in Beijing. Shanghai established a local branch in 1953, as did most provincial governments. The Shanghai Culture and History Institute, for example, appointed a former publisher and jinshi 進士 degree holder, Zhang Yuanji 張元濟 (1867–1959), as director. The institute employed 115 men who had earned official degrees, from jinshi to xiucai 秀才, under the Qing-dynasty educational system, along with many prominent figures from the Republican worlds of journalism, publishing, literature, art, history, and other kinds of scholarship. For guohua painters not yet so honored, production cooperatives were organized in 1953 at which fans, lanterns, and window blinds were decorated on a piecework basis. Party leaders with a greater interest in Chinese history recognized, however, that the greatness of China’s long, ancient civilization inspired patriotism at home and respect abroad. After 1949, new museums and archaeological research institutes were established in all parts of the nation to preserve and research art and antiquities, and Marxist histories and art histories analyzing China’s past in new ways were published. As cultural nationalism reasserted itself, protection of the national heritage emerged as an explicit cultural policy of the CCP. The uniqueness of China’s traditions of painting and calligraphy came to be recognized as a value worth protecting. Cultural theorists within the party had argued since the 1930s about whether, as they put it, new wine could be put in old bottles. Party ideologist Zhou Yang 周揚 (1908–1989) continued to promote such a strategy in his speech to the Second Congress of Literary and Arts Workers in September 1953: “We request that the contents of literary and art works express the people and thoughts of the new age, and the forms express the style and vigor of the nation. . . . All writers and artists should diligently study their own national literary and artistic legacy and take continuation and development of the national heritage’s excellent tradition as their own mission.”2 Artists like Jiang Feng and Ai Qing 艾青 (1910–1996), following their mentor 2. From Zhou Yang 周揚, “Wei chuangzao gengduo de youxiu de wenxue yishu zuopin er fendou—1953 nian 9 yue 24 ri zai Zhongguo wenxue yishu gongzuozhe dierci daibiao dahui shang de baogao 為創造更多的優 秀多文學藝術作品而奮鬥——一九五三年九月二十四日在中國文學藝術工作者第二次代表大會上的 報告 [Struggle to create even more excellent works of literature and art—report on September 24, 1953, at the Second National Congress of Literary and Arts Workers], Wenyibao 文藝報 96 (1953, no. 19): 12.


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Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881–1936), were far more skeptical that old artistic forms might serve contemporary needs.3 These two radically different approaches to guohua reform were implemented simultaneously, creating conflict within the party arts establishment. This uncertainty created many hardships for guohua artists but also some opportunities. Between 1949 and 1966 the same system of art education that transformed oil painting produced parallel changes in the mainstream practice of guohua, or Chinese painting. After 1949 the art academies in Beijing and Hangzhou merged oil painting and guohua instruction into a single painting department; during their threeyear program all students studied drawing, perspective, and anatomy, working both in the studio and “in actual life,” taking numerous field trips to work alongside peasants and workers. Academic figure drawing was thus an important part of the curriculum, along with outline-and-color painting, Western watercolor painting, and oil painting. Among the three basic genres of traditional Chinese painting, landscape, bird-and-flower, and figure painting, only the latter was taught, and in a modified form. Older masters of these genres, like bird-and-flower painter Pan Tianshou 潘天壽 (1897–1971) and landscapist Huang Binhong 黃賓虹 (1865–1955), were removed from the classroom. Most were subjected to thought reform, which included intensive work to change their practice of painting to accommodate the new ideology. All were sent to the countryside to live with and sketch the peasants and were urged to create figural images rather than the subjects in which they excelled. By 1953, when the first generation of art students trained after 1949 graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the emphasis of the party’s art policy had shifted from popularization to specialization. Ideologically well positioned to implement new policies and free of preconceptions about the styles or nature of art, most were hired as art academy teachers. They worked hard to develop new forms of art that would serve the needs of the new nation just as their classmates and colleagues sought to raise technical standards in oil painting, sculpture, and architecture by studying Soviet models. A concerted effort was made at the same time to remold guohua, both to correct its perceived ideological deficiencies and to improve its technical standards.4 Based upon the same synthesis of Soviet and Maoist standards required in all cultural fields, it was decided that the new guohua should be figure painting and should be based upon drawing from life. The result was novel—a new Socialist Realist Chinese ink painting. Beijing and Hangzhou each set about this project based upon the strengths of its own faculty and in the end developed slightly different styles. The Beijing style, relying on the foundations set by Xu Beihong 3. Ai Qing 艾青, “Tan Zhongguo hua” 談中國畫 [On Chinese painting], Wenyibao 文藝報 92 (1953, no. 15): 7–9. 4. See Andrews, Painters and Politics, 111–75.

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徐悲鴻 (1895–1953) and Jiang Zhaohe 蔣兆和 (1904–1986), focused more heavily on modeling three-dimensional volumes and rendering the effects of illumination (Fig. 5.1). In essence, this method applied Western techniques to Chinese paper and almost ignored those of China’s own tradition. The Hangzhou style was somewhat more gestural, relying more heavily on energetic outline strokes and slightly abstract washes, and it retained a few techniques that may be associated with the late nineteenth-century Shanghai school (Fig. 5.2). Most important in creating a feeling of immediacy and realism, however, was the artists’ successful integration of Western perspective into their compositions. Both groups, moreover, brought many of the basic principles of Socialist Realism into their painting. The academy in Beijing was perhaps most easily turned in this direction, because the new policies were compatible with the reformist agenda of Director Xu Beihong. Himself an admirer of the realism in the portraits of Ren Yi 任頤 (1840–1896), Xu Beihong had avoided conservative guohua painters in staffing the Beiping National Art Academy in 1946 and instead sought instructors committing to the reform of Chinese painting. One of the faculty members he hired, Jiang, had impressed him with large-scale, dramatically lit, and highly naturalistic ink paintings. Although Jiang  Zhaohe’s wartime painting, especially his most famous Refugees (Liumin tu 流民圖), was dark and gloomy, his style was easily modified to reflect the optimism of the Socialist Realist manner. His cheerful images of happy children, often constructed to symbolize peace, were both politically appropriate and recognizably Chinese and were selected as gifts for China’s diplomatic endeavors overseas. Jiang Zhaohe’s style served as the basis upon which a new guohua figural style developed at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, one sometimes labeled the “Beijing school.” One notable Socialist Realist to emerge from this milieu was Li Qi 李琦 (1928– 2009). Born only a few years after his parents joined the Communist Party, they took him to Yan’an when he was nine, and he grew up at the center of the revolution. As  an adolescent he attended Mao’s 1942 Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art and by all indications was a devout follower of Mao and the party. After the establishment of the PRC, he was appointed to serve as an assistant to Jiang Feng and the party administrators of the Central Academy of Fine Arts and won a Ministry of Culture prize for one of his new nianhua 年畫. Li Qi’s Mao Zedong Visiting the Entire Nation was inspired by his 1959 experience of witnessing Mao Zedong visit the Ming Tombs Reservoir work site during the Great Leap Forward (Fig. 5.3). The mass adulation displayed as the workers swarmed for a view of Mao suggested the artist’s theme, in which Mao’s power is humanized with a common touch. In placing the leader’s image against a blank background and outlining it with black ink, Li Qi explicitly follows a traditional convention. His basic technique, however,


Kuiyi Shen

does not come from traditional painting but from the conventions of academic drawing, Western watercolors, and Soviet Socialist Realism. Although influenced by Jiang Zhaohe in technique, Li Qi adopts a heroic Sovietstyle perspective, with Mao elevated, as though gazing genially down upon the viewer. The artist has artfully chosen to garb Mao in urban dress, giving him an air of authority, but softened this impression somewhat by the loose wrinkles of the white shirt, its casually open collar, and the straw farmer’s hat Mao holds in his hand, all of which serve to establish a connection with the working people of China. Mao’s ruddy good health and cheerful expression are extremely reassuring, and this 1960 work by a true believer has become an almost sacred image of the founding father of new China. The young artists in Hangzhou developed a slightly different style. Unlike the academy in Beijing, where the pre-1949 director, Xu Beihong, already stressed the necessity of academic drawing as the basis for a reformed guohua, the academy director who supervised the move back from Sichuan to Hangzhou after the war was Pan Tianshou, a bird-and-flower painter and one of the most committed advocates of traditional brushwork in guohua. Pan Tianshou was not permitted to teach after 1949, and instead freshly graduated instructors were charged with developing a guohua practice suitable to the new era. Between 1953 and 1955, thirty-nine graduates, all well practiced in “drawing from life” and in the ideological underpinnings of the new art were kept on as instructors. Some of the most talented, including two 1953 graduates, Zhou Changgu 周昌穀 (1929–1986) and Fang Zengxian 方增先 (b. 1931), were assigned to the newly reestablished guohua division, where they set about drawing modern figures from life with Chinese tools. In theme, they sought an ideal translated from Soviet theory as “typical” (dianxing 典型). In execution, they replaced the outline-and-flat-color manner of the new nianhua with ink lines of varying widths and richly applied ink textures. These two young painters were instrumental in developing the “Zhe 浙 style,” as the manner developed at Hangzhou (in Zhejiang province) came to be known, and that profoundly affected the subsequent practice of Chinese painting. Zhou Changgu’s Two Lambs, of 1954, represents a Tibetan herd girl in southern Gansu Province (Gannan 甘南), leaning pensively on a simple fence (Fig. 5.4). This work is an early example of the Mao-period depiction of the national minorities, a general theme that has remained very popular among artists and critics. The reasons for this are complex but are based at least partly in larger historical circumstances. During the Mao years, the party tried to educate the majority Han Chinese that their non-Han brethren, now referred to as the “national minorities,” were legitimately their fellow citizens. At the same time, educational policies were introduced to teach the minorities how they might contribute to the nation as citizens of the PRC. The Tibetan girl at center, in her youth and innocence, embodies the nation’s

Shaping the “Red Classics” of Chinese Art in Early Socialist China 79

dreams and hopes for the future, a potential reflected by the tiny lambs at her feet that are the explicit theme of the painting. Formally, the ground plane is so sharply tilted that the horizon line behind the figure cannot be seen, but the large flock of sheep extending behind her and beyond the picture plane creates an assumed vanishing point, as in Western conventions of perspective. Depicted as anatomically correctly as the artist found possible, the girl’s thoughtful concentration as she nibbles on a stalk of grass provides the psychological interest in the story. In contrast to earlier Chinese figure paintings, particularly those depicting female figures, the Tibetan girl’s hands and bare feet are evident, accentuating the Western perspective and revealing her thoughts almost as expressively as her face. The painting’s compositional structure, which is new to Chinese figure painting, is based on a recession that describes the arc of a reversed C-shape in space, culminating with the two foreground lambs. At the same time, however, many elements of this painting come directly out of recent Chinese tradition, and particularly the Shanghai school style as carried on within the pre-1949 academy in Hangzhou. Indeed, Zhou Changgu, Fang Zengxian, and their other young colleagues reluctantly acknowledged the technical facility of Pan Tianshou and the old teachers in the department, even if they looked down on them for their inability to paint anything but plants, birds, and fish. Choice of significant subject matter, in this case, the new theme of contented national minorities, was a core component of the new official art. Two Lambs won first prize in the 1955 Moscow International Youth Show, an honor that provided international legitimacy to the new Zhe figure painting style. Fang Zengxian, Zhou Changgu’s colleague and fellow graduate of the class of 1953, rendered more orthodox subjects from the worker-peasant-soldier canon of approved Maoist subjects. Every Grain is Hard Work, which is formally similar to Two Lambs, depicts a frugal and hardworking peasant picking up the last grains of rice after the harvest. When exhibited in 1955, this work garnered the artist substantial favorable attention. By 1964, when he painted Telling a Red Tale, Fang had developed his compositional, perspectival, and figural skills even further, while continuing to emphasize the Zhe school ink techniques of varied and expressive outlines and deep, rich washes (Fig. 5.5). In the upper part of the composition a group of peasants, old and young, recedes sharply in an inverted U-shaped formation, a virtuoso demonstration of the artist’s mastery of Western principles of perspective. These figures comprise the attentive audience for a farm boy, depicted with his back to the viewer, who is the main character. The eye-catching young man, his silhouette emphasized by a strong outline, uses his hoe as a stage prop to narrate and act out his revolutionary story. The overall composition, and particularly the three-dimensional organization of the figures, comes from the Western academic tradition and is completely unlike anything in Chinese art of the past. The artist does not depict the heroic story itself but instead describes the


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widespread enthusiasm for tales of revolutionary valor among all members of society, including the least educated. Very much a work of the post–Great Leap Forward period in its focus on the small pleasures of ordinary people and its lack of overt political subject matter, it nevertheless suggests the people’s (and the artist’s own) loyalty to the regime and its version of history. Compositionally and thematically, this is one of the most original works of the period, while at the same time upholding the principles of Socialist Realism. Quite significantly, in the mid-1950s, the departments where Zhou Changgu, Fang Zengxian, and Jiang Zhaohe taught were not called the department of guohua (literally, “national painting”), but instead were labeled by the more neutral term, color-and-ink painting (caimo hua 彩墨畫), thus removing the ideologically charged term “national” from its association with ink and Chinese paper. So named, the academic program to remold Chinese painting from its foundations up by replacing the traditional vocabulary of brushstrokes with academic drawing might more easily abandon any ties to the conventions of the premodern era, especially those of landscape and bird-and-flower painting. Some elements of earlier ink painting, particularly the hybrid realism of Ren Yi, were echoed in the Zhe style, but most important for all such artists were the development of Socialist Realist compositions and politically appropriate subject matter. The abstract beauty of brush and ink that was such an important aspect of pre-twentieth-century Chinese painting became a secondary concern, and many of its most subtle techniques and skills were not passed down to subsequent generations. The new figural style initiated at the two campuses of the Central Academy of Fine Arts spread throughout China in the ensuing years and in the hands of its most talented and dedicated practitioners bloomed into an art that was truly new. The Zhe style was disseminated and further developed by the students of Zhou and Fang. Liu  Wenxi 劉文西 (b.  1933), who received his high school education at the Yucai 育才 School for gifted students in Shanghai, was a student in their first class from 1953 to 1958. He was assigned to work in Xi’an upon his graduation and became a specialist in depicting the people of the former Communist base area in Northern Shaanxi, with more than sixty visits to the area beginning in 1957.5 His 1962 colorand-ink painting Four Generations shares the monumental, elevated perspective of revolutionary oil paintings of the era (Fig. 5.6). Yet, within the ideological and formal limitations of the era, Liu Wenxi strikes out on his own. Most notably, his dry brushwork, which almost seems to reflect the parched northwestern countryside, adds a powerful roughness to the composition that emphasizes the hardy spirit of perseverance with which he imbues his figures. The wizened face of the old grandfather, the weather-beaten visage of his turbaned 5. Some have labeled him the founder of the Yellow Earth school, borrowing the name of Chen Kaige’s 陳凱歌 1984 film set in the same yellow loess plateau region of northwestern China.

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farmer son, the ruddy health of his tractor-driving grandson, and the tender sweetness of his little great-granddaughter tell the history of the twentieth century, and the peasants’ mastery of their own destiny, from their own perspective. One of the successes of the new Socialist Realist ink figure painting was the transformation of guohua from an art form for private enjoyment into public art. Indeed, the expectation that guohua should serve the same public function as oil painting was an important development of the 1950s. Of 244 paintings commissioned for the 1959 painting campaign for the Museum of Revolutionary History, 136 were guohua paintings in a new Socialist Realist style. The Cantonese artist Yang Zhiguang 楊之光 (b. 1930) contributed a work to the Museum of Revolutionary History that illustrated Mao Zedong speaking to students at his 1926 training program in Guangzhou for rural cadres. Yang began studying with Gao Jianfu 高劍父 (1879–1951) in Guangzhou at age eighteen and was formally initiated as Gao Jianfu’s disciple. After 1949 he moved briefly to Shanghai, where he continued learning guohua at the Suzhou Art Academy. In 1950, however, he enrolled at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing under Xu Beihong, Ye Qianyu 葉淺予 (1907–1995), and Dong Xiwen 董希文 (1914–1973). He graduated in the same 1953 class as Jin Shangyi 靳尚誼 and Zhan Jianjun 詹建俊 and from that time until his retirement taught at the South-Central Art School in Wuhan and then, after its relocation, at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Yang’s painting for the Museum of Revolutionary History demonstrates complex use of ink, color, wash, texture, and line learned from the Lingnan 嶺南 masters (Fig. 5.7). For purposes of the museum exhibition, however, it is less Yang Zhiguang’s facility in guohua techniques and more his use of Western vanishing point perspective that gives the work its drama by adding a vivid three-dimensionality to a didactic theme that might otherwise be difficult to make exciting. The paintings from the history painting project were painted by post-1949 art academy graduates in the new official style. Although they faced the challenge of accommodating the absorbent and unforgiving paper of Chinese painting to the large compositions that were required, in general their adoption of the conventions of Socialist Realism and European history painting were relatively unproblematic. Rather than modifying traditional guohua, they simply invented a new way of painting with traditional materials. However, the reappearance of the traditional subject of landscape painting in the late 1950s is both surprising and significant. When the newly established Chinese art bureaucracy was reorganized in the fall of 1953, after the Second Congress of Literary and Arts Workers, a somewhat more conciliatory approach to Chinese painting was articulated, one that emphasized developing the national heritage.6 In premodern 6. Translation from Andrews, Painters and Politics, 119.


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Chinese painting, the landscape generally had a philosophical meaning or function. In one of the earliest surviving landscape texts, Zong Bing 宗炳 (375–443) describes the spiritual benefits of looking at a landscape painting in order to “wander while lying down.”7 In paintings of the Northern Song 宋 period (960–1127), landscapes serve as models of the perfect order of the universe; in Yuan 元 and Ming 明 literati art, they also express the mind or heart of the artist. It was partly on the basis of the individualistic and introspective latter practice that landscape painting had been largely rejected as useless to New China. One of the most important criticisms of Chinese painting by those within the Communist Party who sought to remold or abolish guohua was that it was based upon copying old art rather than on observation of the new real world. To meet this challenge, cultural authorities funded artists to travel in order to learn to paint the appearance and activities of the new nation. In August 1953, for example, Fu Baoshi 傅抱石 (1904–1965), who had worked briefly in the Nationalist government during the war but had successfully redeemed himself by completing a program of thought reform, participated in a field expedition to Anhui to paint from life at the construction site of the Foziling 佛子嶺 Dam. This engineering project, aimed at taming the Huai 淮 River, was billed as Asia’s largest dam and was a symbol of the new government’s ambition to conquer nature on behalf of the masses. From this time forth, plein air painting,8 previously common among practitioners of oil and watercolor painting, became a standard part of the project of reforming Chinese painting. As we have seen in the work of Zhou Changgu, travel to paint real places, only widely possible for artists in a time of peace and prosperity, became a major inspiration for new images and styles beginning in the early 1950s. Establishment of regional and local branches of the Chinese Artists Association further encouraged artists in regional centers to remold Chinese painting through close observation of the relationship between nature and human activity. During the Great Leap Forward of 1958, Jiangsu artists working with Fu Baoshi developed a unique regional style. Remarkably, they were also able to achieve a form of communal production. One early example of their collaboration, People’s Commune Dining Hall (Free food for all), combines exquisitely restrained and subtle washes of ink and color with complicated and rather fussy details of observed human activity (Fig. 5.8).9 7. Susan Bush and Hsio-yen Shih, eds., Early Chinese Texts on Painting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard-Yenching Institute; Harvard University Press, 1985), 36–38. 8. The term was originally used to describe a group of mid-nineteenth-century French painters painting outdoors and working in natural light. 9. Ten years after the land reform movement that aimed to free China’s impoverished farmers by redistributing the fields previously owned by wealthy landlords, in the late 1950s the Chinese state took control of agricultural land. As part of the Great Leap Forward’s move toward a more perfect Communism, this collectivization of agriculture was accompanied by a system of free dining halls set up across the nation. In many cases, family cooking pots were confiscated to be melted down in backyard steel furnaces.

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The 1958 painting by members of the Jiangsu Institute of Chinese Painting, which depicts a newly collectivized rural village, was particularly praised by party administrators in Beijing. Using Western principles of vanishing point perspective, the artists create an expansive and sharply tilted ground plane in the lower half of the picture that enables the viewer to see details within the courtyard where free food is served to contented villagers. Such minute details as menus, slogan boards, and propaganda banners; murals depicting giant pumpkins and ears of corn on the outside of the compound wall; loudspeakers high atop electric poles; and distant windmills, haystacks, and factories all contribute to the purpose of the painting, illustrating the iconography of economic progress under the Great Leap Forward. The lyrical distant Jiangnan 江南 hills serve as backdrop for the action and give the work an aesthetic appeal that partially overcomes the didactic functionality of the foreground architecture and figures. While traditional Chinese landscape painting often gracefully and logically incorporates multiple viewpoints within a single composition, the movement in this work from the lower half, with its unitary Western vanishing point perspective, to a completely different and rather disjunctive ground plane in the upper part of the picture is unexpected. Nevertheless, because of its minute and engaging details of daily life, the painting is oddly compelling. Over the next several years the Jiangsu artists largely resolved such conspicuous contradictions between Western architectural perspective and Chinese modes of rendering distance and space (Fig. 5.9). Starting around 1953, guohua artists who showed some promise of bringing new life into landscape or bird-and-flower painting were organized to sketch from nature in the nearby countryside or in remote scenic areas. The Beijing artists Li Keran 李可染 (1907–1989) and Zhang Ding 張仃 (1917–2010), the Hangzhou painter Pan  Tianshou, and the Xi’an artists Shi Lu 石魯 (1919–1982) and Zhao Wangyun 趙望雲 (1905–1997) are only a few of the other well-known ink painters who were treated to long sketching trips in the mid-1950s and early 1960s at government expense, and whose subsequent work was powerfully affected by their experiences drawing from nature in far-flung parts of the country. In addition to familiarizing the artists with sights and people of a larger nation and providing them with excellent opportunities to experiment with empirically based compositions, the artists from one locale met those from another, and successful innovations rapidly spread. In 1953, as the new year’s painting movement was brought to a close, an earnest and unassuming instructor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Li Keran, began advocating the development of a new ink landscape painting based on plein air drawing. A 1925 graduate of the Shanghai Art Academy, Li Keran had gone on to become one of the earliest students of Lin Fengmian 林風眠 (1900–1991) at the West Lake National Art Academy. He exhibited a modernist oil landscape in the 1937 National Art Exhibition and subsequently, during the war, dedicated substantial time to designing propaganda for the anti-Japanese resistance effort. In his wartime exile,


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however, he returned to the practice of ink painting. Hired by Xu Beihong to teach watercolor painting in Beijing after the Japanese surrender, he began studying with two elder artists then in Beijing, Qi Baishi 齊白石 (1864–1957) and Huang Binhong. With Qi he shared a love of rich, wet, textures of xieyi 寫意 brushwork. In the landscape painting of Huang Binhong, who was then suffering from severe cataracts, he saw, to his healthy eyes, the extraordinarily intense contrasts of dark and light. Having earned praise for his 1952 nianhua 年畫, Model Workers at Beihai Park, Li  Keran set forth, in 1954, along with two Beijing colleagues, Zhang Ding and Luo  Ming 羅銘 (1912–1998), on a five-month sketching and painting trip to the Fuchun 富春 River region of Zhejiang, Mount Huang in Anhui, as well as the cities of Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Wuxi, Suzhou, and Shanghai. Constantly painting and discussing their progress at remolding guohua, they returned to Beijing with a large body of work and a theoretical position from which to justify their practice. In the preface to their exhibition later in the year, they adopted a moderate position in the debates about realism and Westernization. For them, successfully modifying traditional techniques to reflect current reality was their goal as guohua painters. Li Keran’s paintings of the “real” Chinese landscape became more and more lyrical over the following decade. His personal breakthrough came following an exhibition of works by Rembrandt in 1956, through which he discovered what would fascinate him thereafter, the potential of light. By 1962 he had incorporated intense contrasts of dark ink and white paper into his landscape painting, thus creating works that were compositionally powerful in a Western manner but, with their complex washes and lines, texturally subtle in a Chinese way. His exploration of the optical effects of reflected light provided new ways of organizing space in Chinese painting (Fig. 5.10). By 1955, more overt official support for revival of traditional Chinese art began to emerge in the context of a growing cultural nationalism, and the works of some traditionalist artists were shown in national exhibitions. In conjunction with the launching of the Hundred Flowers campaign in 1956, Zhou Enlai 周恩來 (1898– 1976) and other high officials called for a more open-minded attitude toward preserving the national heritage. Zhou Enlai approved a proposal initiated by Ye Gongchuo and Beijing bird-and-flower painter Chen Banding 陳半丁 (1876–1966) to establish Institutes of Chinese Painting in Beijing and Shanghai. Localities such as Nanjing and Xi’an soon followed. Fu Baoshi would head the Jiangsu Provincial Painting Academy and Shi Lu the Chinese Painting Research Studio of the Xi’an branch of the Chinese Artists Association.10

10. The party secretary in Nanjing, Ya Ming 亞明, was particularly supportive and became a good painter himself. In Xi’an, Shi Lu 石魯 took over after the founding director, Zhao Wangyun 趙望雲, was declared a rightist in 1957. Zhao remained involved in their activities as a painter, however, and his technical and stylistic influence remained strong.

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In Beijing, Qi Baishi was appointed honorary director and Ye Gongchuo the director, along with a great many of the artists, who had been members of the Lake Society during the Republican period, to the new Beijing Institute of Chinese Painting. Preparations for the Institute for Chinese Painting in Shanghai were organized by Communist veteran Lai Shaoqi 賴少其 (1915–2000) and extended beyond the city of Shanghai to encompass artists in other provinces, particularly Jiangsu and Zhejiang.11 Buddhist artist Feng Zikai 豐子愷 (1898–1975) was appointed director, and the institute employed many key members of the Republican-era Chinese Painting Society, including Wu Hufan 吳湖帆 (1894–1968) and He Tianjian 賀天健 (1891–1977), founders and prominent members of the Women’s Calligraphy and Painting Society, as well as former art school administrators such as Liu Haisu 劉海粟 (1896–1994), Lin Fengmian, Pan Tianshou, and Chen Qiucao 陳秋草 (1906– 1988). Wang Geyi 王個簃 (1897–1988), along with calligrapher Shen Yinmo 沈尹默 (1883–1971), added to the rather diverse roster of the institute’s first fellows. While Li Keran worked to develop a new personal style of painting in the 1950s, experimenting with combining Eastern and Western modes of painting, the traditionalist Wu Hufan held fast to a visual language he had perfected decades earlier. His delicate brush techniques are the result of a lifetime of studying ancient masters, particularly those of the Yuan period literati. His exquisite Twin Pines and Layered Green, of 1959, seems to show no trace of the historic political changes through which he lived but is subtly textured, tightly structured, and entirely imaginary (Fig. 5.11). In his mature years his combination of soft ink tones and deep blue and green color were particularly compelling. After resisting political pressure for fifteen years, Wu Hufan finally gave in around 1964, on the eve of the Cultural Revolution. Celebrate the Success of Our Atomic Bomb Explosion was painted in 1965, probably based on magazine photographs of the mushroom cloud (Fig. 5.12). Despite the refusal of the USSR to share nuclear technology with China, the nation’s scientists were able to obtain the information they needed to construct the Chinese bomb. It is extraordinary to see Wu Hufan’s soft ink and gentle literatistyle brush strokes used to depict such an ominous subject. Although artists who knew Wu Hufan well speculated that Wu would not have painted such a work without 11. Former Chinese Painting Society members included Wu Hufan 吳湖帆, He Tianjian 賀天健, Tang Yun 唐雲, Xie Zhiliu 謝稚柳, Sun Xueni 孫雪泥, and Qian Shoutie 錢瘦鐵. Founders and prominent members of the Women’s Calligraphy and Painting Society Li Qiujun 李秋君, Chen Xiaocui 陳小翠, Wu Qingxia 吳青霞, Zhou Lianxia 周練霞, Pang Zuoyu 龐左玉, and Lu Xiaoman 陸小曼 were hired. Former art school administrators Liu Haisu 劉海粟, Lin Fengmian 林風眠, Pan Tianshou 潘天壽, Chen Qiucao 陳秋草, and Guan  Liang 關良 received appointments. Also participating were Wang Geyi 王個簃, a disciple of Wu Changshi 吳昌碩, Nanjing art professor Fu Baoshi 傅抱石, and calligrapher Shen Yinmo 沈尹默. Among Beijing artists who had been members of the Lake Society during the Republican period were Chen Banding 陳半丁, Yu Feian 于非闇, Hu Peiheng 胡佩衡, and Wang Xuetao 王雪濤.


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substantial pressure, the painting’s quality suggests that in the end the artist fully engaged himself with its formal problems. It is at the intersection of three policies—reviving the national tradition, remolding guohua, and encouraging local cultural developments—that two major revolutionary landscapes in ink were commissioned for the new edifices on Tiananmen Square. The first landscape was painted for the Museum of the Chinese Revolution by Shi Lu, a Communist war veteran working in Xi’an. For the Beijing project he was assigned to depict Mao Zedong in 1947, as the military leader devised a plan to rescue the Communist forces from their retreat (Fig. 5.13). From this rather desperate position in northern Shaanxi, Mao initiated a successful strategy of mobile warfare against the Nationalist army. Shi Lu, by choosing to depict the yellow loess plateau of northern Shaanxi, rather than a portrait-like image of Mao, conclusively redefined the meaning and appearance of the landscape in Chinese art as a symbol of the integrity of the Chinese nation. Indeed, in his painting Mao, the landscape and the nation are one. Shi Lu apparently struggled with the composition before reaching this powerful solution. The narrative of his history painting is conveyed by Mao himself, who stands in silhouette at the edge of the precipice, his hands folded behind his back as he contemplates his next move. Below him are his white horse and three fellow soldiers. Originally, the artist emphasized Mao’s relaxed self-confidence by a walking stick on which he leaned, but one official thought the line of the knotted stick looked as though Mao were bound in chains, and Shi Lu removed it.12 Inspired as a young man by the iconoclastic writings of the seventeenth-century individualist painter Shi Tao 石濤 (1642–1707), as well as by the equally sharp observations of the social critic and novelist Lu Xun, he adopted the name Shi Lu when joining the Communist army. When he returned to guohua painting in the 1950s, he sought, like his idol Shi Tao, to develop new brushwork to depict new scenes that would be free of the traces of past masters. In one account of the development of this composition, Shi Lu described an epiphany triggered by gazing at stains on bathroom wall. The liberation from convention suggested by these accidental dribbles are an appropriate metaphor, as the artist does indeed use bold, irregular outline strokes of his own devising, covering the surface of the paper and leading our eye back to a distant, heroic horizon. Shi Lu’s application of bright color, in contrast to the blacks and grays of his ink, along with his slightly wild landscape brushwork and huge scale, gives the painting a powerful presence when hung in its original position, high on the wall of the large gallery. That an ink landscape such as this might become a suitable subject for a historical display was a significant shift in official policy.

12. In close examination of the painting, a patch may be seen where the stick was cut out.

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For the grand staircase of the Great Hall of the People, across Tiananmen Square from the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, Fu Baoshi, from Nanjing, and Guan Shanyue 關山月 (1912–2000), from Guangzhou, were commissioned to illustrate Mao Zedong’s 1936 poem “Ode to Snow.” From early times, Chinese artists had responded to poetry, both ancient and contemporary, in their paintings, just as Chinese poets exchanged lines that echoed one another’s rhyme patterns or imagery. A similarly rich dialogue between poetry and painting survived into modern times. Largely a form of private expression, it had briefly been codified in Song dynasty imperial practice, when a poem composed or transcribed by the emperor might serve as a subject for painting by one of his court painters. As an art historian, Fu Baoshi was certainly aware of this imperial practice, as well as the far more extensive exchanges among individual artists and writers over the centuries. In the 1940s Fu Baoshi frequently composed paintings in his distinctive style that were inspired by phrases from such classical Chinese poets of the Tang and Song periods, or by writings or paintings of the seventeenth-century artists he admired. An artist whose style was completely unsuited to Socialist Realism, Fu Baoshi undertook a rather daring experiment after 1949. Probably through his friendship with poet, scholar, and Communist administrator Guo Moruo 郭沫若 (1892–1978), who occasionally exchanged poems with Mao  Zedong, Fu Baoshi obtained copies of a number of Mao’s as yet unpublished poems.13 In February 1950 he began to apply the same interpretive strategies that had inspired his earlier work to the poetry of China’s new leader, creating paintings inspired by Mao Zedong’s poems, including Ode to Snow. One such work was exhibited in the First National Guohua Exhibition of 1953.14 In July 1959, Fu Baoshi was summoned to Beijing to create art for the new Great Hall in what would prove to be the most politically significant work of his career. Painted collaboratively with a senior disciple of Gao Jianfu, the Cantonese artist Guan Shanyue, the painting This Land So Rich in Beauty (Jiangshan ruci duojiao 江山 如此多嬌) was based on Mao’s poem Ode to Snow.15 (Fig. 5.14) Multiple versions of the preliminary draft for this panoramic vision survive, some presumably brushed as the artists received suggestions from the political and cultural leadership. In the end, Guan Shanyue painted the Great Wall and the distant snowy mountains, while Fu Baoshi rendered the panoramic middle distance, including the river view which leads the eye to the right, toward the glorious rising sun. Guan Shanyue’s bold mountains cross Fu Baoshi’s more restrained valleys to unify 13. I am grateful to Nanjing painter Xiao Ping 蕭平 for this suggestion. 14. See Anita Chung, ed., Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). 15. The poem, written in 1936, appears in many collections, including the bilingual Mao Zedong Poems (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1976), 46–49.


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the depiction of all of China’s majestic features. One of the largest Chinese ink paintings of the era, 5.5 by 9 meters in size, it became a favorite venue for photographs of visiting dignitaries.16 This monumental, horizontal, framed picture for permanent display in a public building confirmed the possibility that guohua could serve the national agenda. In general theme and composition one is reminded of the powerful images of Mount Fuji created by promilitary Japanese ink painter Yokoyama Taikan 橫山大觀 (1868– 1958) during World War II. Like the building in which it was hung, This Land So Rich in Beauty was essentially Western in its nationalistic conception and format, if recognizably Chinese in its content and style, and fulfills much the same function as a monumental European or American oil painting of the nineteenth century. The gradual expansion of politically acceptable forms of art to encompass not only works painted in traditional guohua mediums on historical or Socialist Realist themes but also more romantic landscapes was a response to forces within the art world and in the larger political environment. During the Hundred Flowers campaign, many guohua painters spoke out in criticism of the hard-line cultural policies of the early PRC period. Although many of them were declared rightists, some of their complaints were addressed. Indeed, a purge was conducted within the party, and a number of Westernizers accused of failing to support guohua were condemned as rightists for the crime of “nihilism” in face of the national heritage. Most notably the Yan’an revolutionaries Jiang Feng and Yan Han 彥涵 (1916–2011), who had largely steered the remolding of art education, were purged and expelled from the party. Their colleague Mo Pu 莫樸 (1915–1996) met the same fate in Hangzhou, and the pre-1949 director of the academy, Pan Tianshou, was returned to the directorship. He emerged in this highly nationalistic era as one of the strongest spokesmen for the value of traditional Chinese painting. Pan Tianshou had not been permitted to teach between 1949 and 1955 but was assigned in the mid-1950s to direct an art history research institute at the academy. Urged to participate in school expeditions to draw from life, he created meticulous botanical studies. If not what hard-line administrators had in mind, this practice enabled him to expand his technical vocabulary beyond the xieyi manner that he had learned from Wu Changshi 吳昌碩 (1844–1927) and incorporate into it some new elements rendered with greater three-dimensionality in color and fine lines. In a series of works painted in the 1960s, Pan Tianshou began making works of public 16. Discussion of the commission appears in Fu Baoshi 傅抱石 and Guan Shanyue 關山月, “Wanfang gewusheng zhong tantan women chuangzuo Jiangshan ruci duojiao de diandi tihui 萬方歌舞聲中談談我們創作《江 山如此多嬌》的點滴體會 [Discussions, amidst the sounds of song and dance everywhere, of realizations made while creating This Land So Rich in Beauty], Meishu 美術 no. 10 (1959), 14; and Guan Zhendong 關振東, “Qingman guanshan—Guan Shanyue zhuan” 情滿關山——關山月傳 [Feeling fills the passes and mountains—a biography of Guan Shanyue], Renmin ribao 人民日報, overseas edition, August 2 and 3, 1989.

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art, monumentalizing the intimate bird-and-flower painting genre, and proving to skeptics that even this form of Chinese painting could successfully compete with oil painting in its function of display. In the epigraphic tradition of Wu Changshi, whose early encouragement he had enjoyed, his 1963 Corner of Xiao Longqiu emphasizes the force of the brush almost as much as the actual scene that he depicted (Fig. 5.15). Guohua were traditionally painted with the paper flat on a table. This huge painting, however, was executed on the carpet of a hotel reception room, with the artist walking on the paper in his stocking feet. Pan Tianshou’s success at structuring observed details, rich tones of ink, and bold lines into a unified composition is remarkable. The loose xieyi manner of painting has rarely been employed on such a scale or with such power. Throughout this period an odd debate about whether bird-and-flower painting possessed “class characteristics” was played out on the pages of the party art journal, Meishu. Sufficient support was garnered for the proposition that everyone, particularly workers, peasants, and soldiers, appreciated bird-and-flower painting that for a time it was considered, like folk art or temple mural painting, to be an art of the people and thus politically acceptable. Pan Tianshou’s paintings of the 1960s are among the most beautiful and formally innovative of the era, but there is nothing political about their themes. They could only have emerged in a period when cultural nationalism could justify any art that glorified China’s tradition. Growing cultural nationalism in the period that led up to the Sino-Soviet split of 1960, however, had other unexpected effects on these developments. Overt official support for revival of Chinese painting began to emerge in this period, as China sought an independent place, and a recognizable cultural identity, among the family of socialist nations. Politically acceptable forms of art expanded to encompass not only works painted in traditional guohua mediums, and dealing with historical or Socialist Realist themes, but also more romantic landscapes. The acceptance of landscape as a suitable subject for a historical display marks a conspicuous alternative in official policy. The reappearance of the traditional subject of landscape painting in the late 1950s is both surprising and significant. It was at the intersection of three policies—“reviving” (actually redefining) the “national tradition,” remolding guohua, and encouraging local cultural developments—that many major revolutionary landscapes in ink were commissioned for decorating new public spaces. Some works served a more explicitly didactic purpose: to illustrate revolutionary history or represent model citizens. Even artists who responded to this trend in the art world and in the larger political environment found themselves forced to manipulate their compositions and subject matter in ways that could claim allegiance to Mao’s Yan’an Talks. Equally important, the public function of art was primary. Manipulating traditional styles and techniques to serve Socialist Realism created a strange hybrid, once referred to as “new guohua” and now as the “red classics,” and


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fundamentally changed the discourse of Chinese painting, severing it from theoretical roots from which art of the previous millennium had grown. When the “red classics” were established in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Chinese painting was transformed into a tool of political power, even political propaganda, that was conveyed using a popularizing aesthetic that simultaneously transformed the ideology and taste of at least two generations. Sincerely and enthusiastically designed by idealistic administrators but implemented by artists who may have been manipulated or pushed into this evolutionary process, they nevertheless successfully created a new kind of art. In the post–Cultural Revolutionary period, the 1980s, 1990s, and new millennium, we have seen artists seeking self-expressive ideals, but the artistic vocabulary of the Soviet-inspired “red classics,” particularly figurative painting, still dominates the art world. Ironically, when the “red classics” reemerge today, they have become, at least partially, a comfortable part of contemporary consumer culture. On the one hand, their forms have been adopted and vigorously marketed in a cynical, postmodern gesture by political pop artists. On the other hand, and perhaps no less cynically, new works in the straightforward “red classic” style have been commissioned for political celebrations by recent party leaders to persuade the populace of the success of China’s socialist revolution during the Mao era. None of this is the aim of popularization of art envisioned by Jiang Feng, Ai Qing, and the two generations of artists with whom they were involved, but today these are the “red classics.”

Bibliography Ai Qing 艾青. “Tan Zhongguo hua” 談中國畫 [On Chinese painting]. Wenyibao 文藝報 92 (1953, no. 15): 7–9. Andrews, Julia F. Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1979. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Andrews, Julia F., and Kuiyi Shen. A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1998. ———. The Art of Modern China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Bush, Susan, and Hsio-yen Shih, eds. Early Chinese Texts on Painting. Cambridge, MA: Harvard-Yenching Institute; Harvard University Press, 1985. Chung, Anita, ed. Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011. Fu Baoshi 傅抱石 and Guan Shanyue 關山月. “Wanfang gewusheng zhong tantan women chuangzuo Jiangshan ruci duojiao de diandi tihui” 萬方歌舞聲中談談我們創作《江山 如此多嬌》的點滴體會 [Discussions, amidst the sounds of song and dance everywhere, of realizations made while creating This Land So Rich in Beauty]. Meishu 美術 no. 10 (1959): 14. Guan Zhendong 關振東. “Qingman guanshan—Guan Shanyue zhuan” 情滿關山——關山月 傳 [Feeling fills the passes and mountains—a biography of Guan Shanyue]. Renmin ribao 人民日報, overseas edition, August 2 and 3, 1989.

Shaping the “Red Classics” of Chinese Art in Early Socialist China 91 Laing, Ellen Johnston. The Winking Owl: Art in the People’s Republic of China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. Zhou Yang 周揚. “Wei chuangzao gengduo de youxiu de wenxue yishu zuopin er fendou— 1953  nian 9 yue 24 ri zai Zhongguo wenxue yishu gongzuozhe dierci daibiao dahui shang de baogao” 為創造更多的優秀多文學藝術作品而奮鬥——一九五三年九月 二十四日在中國文學藝術工作者第二次代表大會上的報告 [Struggle to create even more excellent works of literature and art—report on September 24, 1953, at the Second National Congress of Literary and Arts Workers]. Wenyibao 文藝報 96 (1953, no. 19): 12.

Fig. 5.1 Jiang Zhaohe, Reader, 1955, ink and color on paper, 67 × 46.7 cm, National Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic.

Fig. 5.2 Ren Yi, Hua Mulan, one leaf from Album of Figures, Flowers, and Birds, 1882, ink and color on paper, each 31.5 × 36 cm, Palace Museum, Beijing.

Fig. 5.3 Li Qi, Mao Zedong Visiting the Entire Nation, 1960, ink and color on paper, 197 × 117.5 cm, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

Fig. 5.4 Zhou Changgu, Two Lambs, 1954, ink and color on paper, 79.3 × 39.3 cm, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

Fig. 5.5 Fang Zengxian, Telling a Red Tale, 1964, ink and color on paper, 96 × 183 cm, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

Fig. 5.6 Liu Wenxi, Four Generations, 1962, ink and color on paper, 118 × 98 cm, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

Fig. 5.7 Yang Zhiguang, Mao Zedong at the Peasant Movement Training School, 1959, ink and color on paper, 141 × 205 cm, Museum of the Chinese Revolution, Beijing.

Fig. 5.8 Jiangsu Institute of Chinese Painting, People’s Commune Dining Hall, 1958, ink and color on paper, 146 × 96 cm.

Fig. 5.9 Qian Songyan, Fields in Changsu, 1963, ink and color on paper, 53 × 36 cm, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

Fig. 5.10 Li Keran, The Hometown of Lu Xun, 1956, ink and color on paper, 69.2 × 49 cm, National Art Museum of China, Beijing.

Fig. 5.11 Wu Hufan, Twin Pines and Layered Green, 1959, ink and color on paper, 160 × 100 cm, Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting.

Fig. 5.12 Wu Hufan, Celebrate the Success of Our Atomic Bomb Explosion, 1965, ink and color on paper, Shanghai Institute of Chinese Painting.

Fig. 5.13 Shi Lu, Fighting in Northern Shaanxi, 1959, ink and color on paper, 238 × 216 cm, Museum of the Chinese Revolution, Beijing.

Fig. 5.14 Fu Baoshi and Guan Shanyue, This Land So Rich in Beauty, 1959, ink and color on paper, Great Hall of the People, Beijing.

Fig. 5.15 Pan Tianshou, Corner of Xiao Longqiu, 1963, ink and color on paper, 141 × 365.5 cm, Pan Tianshou Memorial, Hangzhou.

6 Castration for the People The Politics of Revision and the Structure of Violence in Hao Ran’s Short Stories Xiaofei Tian

In a famous treatise entitled “On the Self-Cultivation of a Communist” (“Lun gongchandangyuan de xiuyang” 論共產黨員的修養), the author delineates the image of an ideal Communist. Among other things, “he may well be the most sincere, honest, and cheerful person, because, without any selfishness, he has nothing to hide from the Party, doing ‘nothing that he cannot tell others about’” (他也可能最誠 懇、坦白和愉快,因為他無私心,在黨內沒有要隱藏的事情,“事無不可對人 言”).1 The quotation at the end of the sentence is a remark made by a well-known neo-Confucian statesman and historian, Sima Guang 司馬光 (1019–1086), who had once proudly asserted, “There is nothing I have done in my life that I cannot tell others about” (平生所為未嘗有不可對人言者).2 The remark not only implies the uprightness of one’s behavior but also advocates complete transparency of the self. The author of the modern treatise was Liu Shaoqi 劉少奇 (1898–1969), the chairman of the People’s Republic from 1959 to 1968. Liu and his treatise were violently denounced in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), but the fight against si 私, a word that encompasses a wide range of meanings from selfishness and self-interest to anything personal and private, had remained a crucial part of the agenda of socialism and of the Cultural Revolution movement itself. With one of its most widely known slogans being “Battle hard against the flickering of the word si in one’s mind” (hen dou si zi yi shannian 狠鬥私字一閃念), the Cultural Revolution, “a revolution touching the soul” (chuji linghun de geming 觸及靈魂的革命), represents a climax of the obsessive quest for the transparency of the self, a quest that constitutes the core of the spiritual violence of the mass movement. The economic system of socialism characterized by the rejection of private ownership of the means of production was translated into the social and cultural realm, in which anything

1. Liu Shaoqi 劉少奇, “Lun gongchan dangyuan de xiuyang” 論共產黨員的修養, Liu Shaoqi xuanji 劉少奇 選集 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1981), 1, 133. 2. Tuotuo 脫脫 et al., comp., Song shi 宋史 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1977), 10769.


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personal and private was considered potentially subversive and must be eradicated. There could be no opaqueness in such a social system: everything, and everyone, must be transparent to allow for maximum surveillance and control. The Sisyphean fight against si in human nature and indeed against human nature itself is one of the major themes of the works of Hao Ran 浩然 (1932–2008), the socialist writer laureate. Born as Liang Jinguang 梁金廣 into a poor peasant family in Hebei, Hao Ran was orphaned at a young age, joined the Communist Party in 1948, and published his first short story in 1956. Hao Ran is best known for his novels Bright Sunny Sky (Yanyang tian 艷陽天) and The Great Road of Golden Light (Jinguang dadao 金光大道), both of which sold millions of copies and were made into movies in the 1970s, turning Hao Ran into a household name and the most eminent writer of the Cultural Revolution period. And yet, with only three and half years of schooling, Hao Ran probably had received less formal education than any other prominent modern writer. He was not only saved from destitution by the Communist Party but also owed his literary success entirely to opportunities created by the socialist regime.3 Premodern Chinese writers would often romanticize farming life in their writings, admiring the farmer’s freedom from the pressures of public life; but the farmer had always remained the object of the scholar-official’s fetishizing gaze and never talked back—until Hao Ran. An antithesis of the traditional Chinese cultural elite, Hao Ran wrote from within the peasants, as a peasant himself, not the gentleman observer standing on the outside looking in. Quite aware of his unique place in the Chinese literary tradition, Hao Ran justifiably refers to his story of success as a “miracle.”4 In many ways, Hao Ran epitomizes the cultural revolutions of modern China, which began with the New Culture Movement of the early twentieth century and culminated in the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution of the socialist regime. Focusing on stories published between 1958 and 1960, this essay explores Hao Ran’s treatment of the epic fight against all forms of si, from material self-interest to private feelings regarded as potentially conflicting with the larger goals of the socialist nation, through a discussion of the politics of his revisions of his early stories. From literary works dominated by a strong political ideology, one might expect to see simple, straightforward portrayals of a struggle with a predetermined outcome, but nothing is further from the truth: Hao Ran’s early short stories often turn out to be unintentionally complicated representations of issues of gender, social class, desire, and sexuality. The stories discussed in this essay, except for the last one, are all from the following collections: Magpies on the Branch (Xique dengzhi 喜鵲登枝), published in 1958; Apples Are About to Ripen (Pingguo yao shu le 蘋果要熟了), published in 1959; and Song of New Spring (Xinchun qu 新春曲), published in 1960. As Hao Ran’s

3. Hao Ran, Hao Ran koushu zizhuan 浩然口述自傳 (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2008), 111–60. 4. Ibid., 303–4.

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first three story collections, they possess a fresh energy, exemplifying the author’s newness on the literary scene that is matched only by the newness of the rural life he depicts. More than a decade later, he stated that these three collections “basically belonged to an unself-conscious phase” of his literary career: at that time, “I wrote however I liked, without thinking and crafting; as long as it read smoothly to myself, I would pass it.”5 He thought that his earlier literary language “lacked precision, and was interspersed with many obscure dialect words and slang, even containing some naturalistic elements that hurt the images of the characters.”6 And yet it is exactly those “unself-conscious” first attempts at fiction writing that bring out a fascinating mix of socialist ideology and a raw sexual energy that refuses to be entirely subsumed by the revolutionary discourse. Hao Ran’s subsequent revisions of his early stories reflect not only changes in contemporary politics but also the gradual transformation of his identity from a peasant writer to an aspiring member of the cultural elite; more important, they paradoxically bring our attention to precisely what he desires to suppress. In telling stories sanctioned by the party state, socialist literature of the Seventeen Years period (1949–1966) helped establish norms of behavior in the People’s Republic. Instead of holding a mirror to material practice, Hao Ran’s stories are constitutive of the material practice of the age: they were performative in the sense that they help found a new social order by proclaiming it. Yet writings can easily get out of the writer’s control: on the one hand, the stories often employ rhetorical strategies and narrative patterns that are culturally familiar to readers on a deep level, and they are written with a literary language that is tainted by the very thing that the writer wants to eliminate, namely, the cultural past; on the other hand, wayward impulses and repressed desires return to the surface of the revolutionary writing, both in the form of unconscious revelations and in the form of revisions—conscious acts of suppression that expose rather than conceal. Our author is thus betrayed by the medium he uses and by his attempts to bring his writings under control. As the Cultural Revolution represents a climax of the epic socialist battle against si, the pruning and clipping performed by Hao Ran to his early stories are ultimately paralleled by the violence committed within a text. The last part of the essay will analyze a Hao Ran story written at the end of the Cultural Revolution period; I argue that it demonstrates what I call a discursive structure of violence, which embodies the obsessive quest for transparency and the spiritual violence of the Cultural Revolution itself.

5. Sun Dayou 孫達祐 and Liang Chunshui 梁春水, eds., Hao Ran yanjiu zhuanji 浩然研究專集 (Tianjin: Baihua wenyi chubanshe, 1994), 106–7. 6. Ibid., 107.


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Covered Nakedness and Displaced Penetration In contrast with the observation that in pre–Cultural Revolution agricultural novels “there are no female heroes at all,”7 women feature prominently in Hao Ran’s short stories. Many are positive characters embodying the ideal socialist womanhood: strong, cheerful, public-minded laborers working for the collective good. Upon closer examination, however, we find numerous fissures and cracks disrupting the glossy surface of the socialist pastoral scene. Gender stereotyping and conventional gender roles persist despite the newness of the socialist new woman, and the structure of male authority never changes in the larger family—that is, the agricultural co-op—beyond her immediate family. In a story that focuses on the conflict between daughter-in-law and father-in-law, “The Control Commissioner” (“Jiancha zhuren” 監察主任), Bai Guihua 白桂花, though criticizing her selfish father-in-law as the “control commissioner,” nevertheless plays the conventional role of a filial daughterin-law by personally making amends for his misconduct.8 When social hierarchy is mapped onto family hierarchy, the new woman suddenly finds herself in a double predicament, because she must be “good” on both fronts: at home and in public. In “Wind and Rain” (“Feng yu” 風雨), Liu Shuying, the wife of the head of the agricultural co-op and a new mother, is moved by her progressive husband, Xiao Yongshun, to lend a helping hand to the daughter of an old family enemy, now a member of the same co-op. Throughout the story Liu Shuying is presented as a nurturing figure: she tends to her sick husband, and, at the end of the story, decides to suckle the baby of her hospitalized enemy. When the husband volunteers to go and find a few more new mothers to help out, she says, “This is the business of us womenfolk; there’s no need for you [to intervene],” and rushes out herself into the rain.9 This gesture forms a neat symmetry with her husband’s earlier rushing out into the rain to make funerary arrangements for the deceased husband of the woman in trouble, but the purposes of their efforts are drastically different: while he as the authority figure of the socialist family takes care of the dead, she as a woman gives life. Each is performing a traditional gender role. More than men, women are often portrayed as the targets of edification and transformation. This is particularly obvious in the 1959 collection, Apples Are About to Ripen. Of the fifteen stories included therein, eight feature female protagonists, and with the exception of one (“A Girl and the Blacksmith” 姑娘和鐵匠), the female characters in all seven stories are shown to have undergone some sort of change. A particularly noteworthy story is “Shuisheng” 水生; the title heroine Chen Shuisheng, 7. Yang Lan, “The Ideal Socialist Hero: Literary Conventions in Cultural Revolution Novels,” in China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: Master Narratives and Post-Mao Counternarratives, ed. Woei Lien Chong (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), 191. 8. Hao Ran, Xique dengzhi 喜鵲登枝 (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1958), 173–89. 9. Ibid., 41.

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spoiled by her grandmother, is transformed spiritually and physically in the demanding labor of building Beijing’s Shisanling Reservoir; the soft bruised female body, with swollen legs, is ultimately forged into “a girl cast in iron” (tieda de guniang 鐵 打的姑娘).10 Toward the end of the story the author asks, “What difference is there between her and the forty thousand soldiers at the construction site?”11 The answer is of course, “None.” Gender difference and individual difference are both eliminated in the vision of a composite image of the glorious socialist: Shuisheng, a peasant girl turned into a soldier (zhanshi 戰士) on a construction site (gongdi 工地), has disappeared into an iron-cast statue embodying the perfect union of Worker, Peasant, and Soldier (gong, nong, bing), the three pillars of the socialist society. Hao Ran claims that his stories are created not from “writing” but from “revising” (“bushi xie chulaide, ershi gai chulai de” 不是寫出來的,而是改出來的).12 The revisions of his early stories are often much more than mere stylistic changes, revealing a changing ideology and underscoring the fissures and cracks in the original texts. A simple instance is “Double-Bloomed Lotus” (“Bing di lian” 並蒂蓮), in which the heroine, Dong Chuntao 董春桃, and her husband, Peng Xinghan 彭興漢, are a loving young couple.13 One day, when Peng comes home in the evening to find his wife not in, he goes out to the co-op’s canteen to buy dinner for her. Later, after she comes home, he asks her whether she has borrowed a copy of Stormy Years (Fengyun chuji 風雲初記)—a famous novel about the Sino-Japanese War by Sun Li 孫犁 (1913– 2002)—from the county library as he has requested; the wife answers that she has got him a copy of “On the Self-Cultivation of a Good Communist” instead. In the revised version, Stormy Years is replaced by the vague reference, “some novel,” and “On the Self-Cultivation of a Communist” by the disgraced Liu Shaoqi has been changed to “Serve the People” (“Wei renmin fuwu” 為人民服務) and “The Foolish Old Man Moves the Mountain” (“Yugong yishan” 愚公移山), two essays by Mao Zedong that rose to the status of red canon in the Cultural Revolution years.14 More interestingly, instead of buying dinner from the co-op canteen, the ill-fated institution founded in the late 1950s, Peng in the revised version cooks dinner for his wife. “The New Bride” (“Xin xifu” 新媳婦) furnishes a more intriguing example. In the story, a “middle peasant,” Huang Quanbao 黃全寶, clashes with the progressive new bride, Bian Huirong 邊惠榮, on her wedding night because, with a feminist consciousness, she resists the wedding guests’ attempts to “roughhouse in the nuptial chamber” (nao dongfang 鬧洞房), an old local custom that subjects the bride to various forms of physical abuse. Later on, the new bride publicly criticizes Huang Quanbao 10. Hao Ran, Pingguo yao shu le 蘋果要熟了 (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1959), 52. 11. Ibid., 52. 12. Sun and Liang, Hao Ran yanjiu zhuanji, 110. 13. Hao Ran, Xin chun qu 新春曲 (Beijing: Zhongguo qingnian chubanshe, 1960), 97–114. 14. Hao Ran, Chun ge ji 春歌集 (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 1973), 130–31.


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for the sloppiness of his work in the field. On the next day, Huang Quanbao works side by side with Bian Huirong in the field; at the end of the day, unwilling to walk home with the others, he takes an alternative route and thus cuts his foot on a broken willow branch. Bearing no personal grudge against him, Bian Huirong helps him out by dressing his wound and carries him back home, and the young man is moved to tears by her generosity and implicitly becomes a morally reformed man. When the story is reprinted in a 1973 selection of Hao Ran’s stories written from 1956 to 1966, Songs of Spring (Chunge ji 春歌集), Hao Ran revised it heavily. Many of the revisions try to repress the sexual tension in the original story. In depicting the custom of “roughhousing in the nuptial chamber,” the original version states that sometimes wedding guests would even “rip off the new bride’s clothes, or spray pepper powder in her nostrils.”15 In the revised version the guests are said to “spray pepper powder in the new bride’s nostrils, or pour cold water over the new bride’s head.”16 The sexual violence inherent in the phrase bo yifu 剝衣服 (rip off clothes), as opposed to the more neutral tuo yifu 脫衣服 (take off clothes), and the speculative nakedness of this bride, Bian Huirong, are edited away, though they resurface, transformed, in the bride’s voluntary stripping of her blouse to dress the wound of Huang Quanbao. While the consummation of Bian Huirong’s marriage is quickly dismissed in one sentence, “the young couple spent a sweet night together,” we have a long passage about a very different sort of bleeding: that of Huang Quanbao’s foot “almost pierced through” by the willow branch.17 The description, “Blood stained her pants and sullied both of her hands,” is revised to “Blood flew onto Bian Huirong’s pants and made a large red blot.” The avoidance of the mention of hands seems to be an attempt to downplay the physicality of Bian Huirong’s care of Huang Quanbao. Earlier, as they work side by side in the field, she is said to be “chatting and laughing with him like nothing had happened [between them],”18 but the revised version deletes “with him.”19 The deletion, another attempt to distance Bian from Huang, tones down a classic example of “unresolved sexual tension” between a male and female character. There are, however, always perverse elements that are out of the author’s control and cannot be edited away no matter how hard he tries. The sexuality and the penetration of the new bride are not repressed, but displaced, onto her tension-filled interaction with Huang Quanbao, the wedding guest who teases her the most mercilessly, and with her father-in-law, Liang the Elder, another man who becomes incapacitated because of conflict with her and is subjected to her tender loving care and reduced to tears by her. The revisions undertaken by Hao Ran in the last years 15. Hao Ran, Xique dengzhi, 2. 16. Hao Ran, Chun ge ji, 23. 17. Hao Ran, Xique dengzhi, 18. 18. Ibid., 17. 19. Hao Ran, Chun ge ji, 37.

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of the Cultural Revolution are the author’s struggle against the immaterial forms of si—romantic love and sexual desire, the most selfish, personal, and private of human emotions—which parallels the battles against si in the stories.

Love and Desire in the Agricultural Co-op Many of the stories represent the author’s attempt to reconcile romantic love with revolutionary ideology. The young man and woman in “Spring Silkworms Spin Cocoons” (“Chuncan jiejian” 春蠶結繭) find a solution to their budding love by devoting themselves to the common enterprise of sericulture. The silkworms producing silk threads, si 絲, which puns with si 思, love-longing, is a classic image of faithful love in the classical tradition, borne out by the Tang poet Li Shangyin’s 李商隱 (c. 813–858) immortal line that has attained the status of a common saying in the Chinese language, “The threads/longing of a spring silkworm will only come to an end with its death” 春蠶到死絲方盡.20 Hao Ran’s story ends with a scene of reunion and transference: while the young man grabs the girl’s hand, “wanting to say something, and yet unable to utter a word,” his mother calls out to the girl: “Lanfen, Lanfen, I have missed you like crazy!”21 The expression of longing becomes acceptable only when displaced. The artful ending of the silkworm story exemplifies the charm of Hao Ran’s early stories; however, few early stories about love and courtship made their way into the 1973 collection of his selected stories, and, for those that did, drastic revision ensures that romantic elements of the stories are reduced to the minimum. Of the nine early stories included in Songs of Spring, only “By the Arrow-Shaft River” (“Jian’gan he bian” 箭桿河邊) is originally a love story proper.22 After misunderstandings and mishaps, a middle-aged widower, turned misogynist because of his painful experience with his ex-wife in the “old society,” and a widow with three daughters, finally come together when they work side by side on the levy during a flash flood. Thunderstorms and flash floods are frequent in Hao Ran’s stories—they are a convenient device to build a crisis and a dramatic climax in rural fiction—but in this story the swelling river takes on a symbolic value, signifying the sexual desire of a mature man and woman. Near the end of the story, there is a scene in which they stand together talking on the riverbank, and the man begs for the woman’s forgiveness and for a second chance. In the original version, the woman said she would raise “a new condition.” When the 20. Although he had not received much formal schooling, Hao Ran had been a passionate reader of China’s classical novels as well as an avid fan of traditional operas; the novels and operas are rich sources of cultural lore and classical literary, particularly poetic, references. By his own account, Hao Ran’s first literary education consists of oral storytelling tradition, live theater performance, classical vernacular novels, and, among other things, chantefables and opera play scripts. Hao Ran, Hao Ran koushu zizhuan, 25–26, 47–57. 21. Hao Ran, Xique dengzhi, 61. 22. Hao Ran, Xin chun qu, 75–96.


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man, surprised, asks her what it might be, she “lowered her head and walked forward a few steps,” reviewing her whole life in her head and commenting on the impossibility of love in the old days when a woman married only for livelihood. Ignoring her comment, the man urges her to clarify her “condition,” and she replies emphatically, “You must truly love me, and I you, and we work together for the good of our commune. Understand?”23 In the revised version, however, she “walked forward, looking at the infinitely stretching earth, the grains growing from the earth, and their golden and fiery red fruits. Her heart felt incredibly uplifted and glad,”24 and this is all that is left of the scene. The dialogue about mutual love is deleted, and the image of the woman holding her head high and gazing into the distance, with the man eagerly nodding at her words, evokes the typical visionary pose struck by the hero, often surrounded by the admiring “masses” whose eyes are fixated upon the hero’s face, in revolutionary Beijing Operas and propaganda posters from the Cultural Revolution era. The revision gives the final scene a strong sense of tableau devoid of animation and movement. Two stories dealing with love triangles form an interesting pair for comparison. “Morning Clouds Red as Fire” (“Zhaoxia hong si huo” 朝霞紅似火) describes a young farmer Ding Dachuan’s love entanglements with two girls during the “steel production” initiative.25 The increase of steel production was part of the Great Leap Forward movement, during which many so-called backyard furnaces were set up across urban neighborhoods and rural areas, tended by people with no knowledge of metallurgy, to produce steel from scrap metal and double China’s steel production. In Hao Ran’s story, Ding Dachuan falls in love with a girl named Jin Huazhen when learning from her how to produce steel. Resisting his adoptive mother’s attempt to match him with his cousin, Qin Yuzhu, a lively and pretty girl, Ding sets his wedding date for October  1, the National Day. Right before their wedding, Jin is severely wounded in an explosion accidentally set off by a fellow worker. Ding is tormented. He asks himself, “Is a person whose body is damaged lovely no more?” He never answers the question directly, but later he states, “I love her not because of her looks, but because of her heart that is only concerned for the collective, not individual, good.”26 Supported by his cousin, who is also in love with Ding but selflessly feels no jealousy, Ding reaffirms his love for Jin, even if she has lost her right hand and part of her left hand. The plot reveals, certainly unintentionally, the dark side of the “steel production” initiative, which mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to handle something they were not ready for. The charm of the story lies in its intricate web of symbols and 23. Ibid., 95. 24. Hao Ran, Chun ge ji, 123. 25. Hao Ran, Xin chun qu, 1–33. 26. Ibid., 21 and 26.

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symmetries of images and colors that produce a pattern of meaning underneath the surface moral message. Dachuan’s name literally means “Great River.” As the story begins, we are told that he has once saved his village from drowning by blocking a hole in the levy with his body. His sweetheart’s surname, Jin, means “Gold,” and her name, Huazhen, is “Splendid Gem.” Saving the lives of more than a hundred people by throwing her body over the explosives, she is spiritually, if not in physical body, the true gold that cannot be melted by fire. It is only right that the two, each fighting a dangerous element of nature, should be united in the end against the morning clouds “burning like flames,” which stands for a safe sublimation of the threatening furnace blaze.27 The shadow of the story is the lively, charming cousin Yuzhu, “Jade Pearl,” who is also a precious gem, and with whom Dachuan “had always gotten along excellently.”28 Yuzhu is conveniently the best friend of Huazhen; at one point in the story she tells her, “It is no longer fashionable in our present society; otherwise I  would certainly form sworn sisterhood with you.”29 In a premodern narrative it would have made perfect sense for two “sworn sisters” to both marry the man they love, but we all know that it is no longer “fashionable” in the new society. Throughout the story a recurring image is that of fire: the flushed faces; the flames of passion, anger, or pain; the pomegranate blossoms ablaze in Huazhen’s yard; the morning clouds “burning like fire”; the girl wrapped in flames; and, last but not least, the fiery glow in the furnaces all over the hilly land.30 In stark contrast with the “raven black iron and steel,” the rural landscape is represented in bright colors—yellow, white, and green, and yet the produce of the earth are also presented in metallic terms: “millet of gold,” “cotton of silver,” and “wheat field like green jade.”31 Just as the physical body of Jin Huazhen becomes deformed during the steel production initiative, the rural landscape itself has gone through a metallurgical transformation, an engraving on which the writer attempts to trace out a meaningful design in the midst of the “billowing smoke and dust” of a feverish, and ultimately disastrous, movement.32 As Hao Ran reminiscences in his memoir years later, he had been similarly torn between two girls when he was young: a lively girl he had truly loved but could not marry and a gentle and quiet one who became his wife, with whom he felt dissatisfied but nevertheless spent his whole life. At one point he fantasized about marrying both girls.33 “Morning Clouds,” more than any other story, becomes a catharsis of the

27. Ibid., 33. 28. Ibid., 25. 29. Ibid., 12. 30. Ibid., 7, 14, 16, 15, 20, 25, and 28. 31. Ibid., 1, 3, 27. 32. Ibid., 27. 33. Hao Ran, Hao Ran koushu zizhuan, 80.


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author’s personal discontent and frustration. This story is excised from the collection in Hao Ran wen ji published in 1983. The other love triangle story, “Apples Are About to Ripen,” reverses direction and depicts a young woman and two men. A high school graduate from the city, Peihong starts to work with a team of young people on the apple orchard of the Back Hill Village. She has two suitors: Huang Hui, the rural technician, is described as “the only intellectual in the agricultural co-op”; Mangzhong, in contrast, is a “mountain man through and through,” with a rich store of firsthand experience in tending fruit trees.34 Initially attracted to Huang Hui, who indulges her sense of self-importance, Peihong has many clashes with Mangzhong. By and by, she comes to see Huang’s selfish nature and realizes, to her delight, that Mangzhong is in love with her. Hao Ran’s penchant for symbolism can already be detected in this early story. Peihong’s name means “Cultivating Red,” quite appropriate for an orchard worker. Mangzhong is figured as an apple tree: his “ruddy face” evokes the “bright red” apples peeking from behind the leaves, and “his thick, strong arms, revealing their bulging muscles, are like the trunks of little trees.” Working in an orchard since childhood, he has almost become an incarnation of the apple tree himself. In contrast, the “yellow spots” appearing on the sick apples “as if having been burned by the heads of incense sticks” evoke the surname of Huang Hui (literally, “Yellow Light”); Huang Hui also smokes cigarettes, which visually echo the burning incense sticks.35 The most remarkable aspect of this story is the unresolved sexual tension between Peihong, who is ambitious and overconfident, and Mangzhong, who to her chagrin is made the leader of her team. They argue and fight, and keep distance from each other with a strained politeness. The tension is released only in the final episode. When Peihong, with a new understanding of Mangzhong’s love for her, rushes to the orchard to save the trees she has sprayed too much pesticide on, she finds Mangzhong there, who has suffered a heat stroke from working on the sick trees in the hot weather: Underneath a tree Mangzhong sat on the ground; Lichun’s wife was holding him up giving him water to drink. His eyes were closed, and his eyebrows knitted together. His broad chest, exposed through his unbuttoned shirt, was heaving hard. Peihong came to a standstill as if being nailed to the ground, her heart violently shaken. . . . She went over in a hurry, grabbing Mangzhong’s shoulders tightly with both hands and shaking him.36

The strong, powerful male body, now incapacitated and immobilized, becomes a passive object of gaze, admiration, and compassion, made attractive and sexualized by its temporary vulnerability and humanity. And yet, in the 1983 complete collection of Hao Ran’s works, this ending is excised, and the revised version ends abruptly with 34. Hao Ran, Pingguo yao shu le, 3 and 4. 35. Ibid., 4, 18, 12, 19. 36. Ibid., 22.

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Peihong’s rushing toward the orchard. The excision conforms to Hao Ran’s general practice of rewriting his early stories into cleaner, more politically correct versions. Hao Ran has a proclivity for depicting the compromised, sexualized male body. In “Wind and Rain,” Xiao Yongshun, who is sick in bed, insists on going out in the rain to help a co-op member. After he comes home, he “collapsed on the kang bed, breathing so heavily that his chest was rising and falling. His face was more sallow, and his lips chapped even more. While Shuying wiped away the rain on his face with a towel, she stroked his chest gently. . . . Only after a long time did Xiao Yongshun open his eyes.”37 Xiao Yongshun and Liu Shuying were the real names of a real couple, and Xiao was Hao Ran’s best friend. In his memoir, an entire chapter is devoted to Xiao,38 who is described as a man of attractive appearances and noble character, principled and public minded at the expense of all personal relationships, including his friendship with Hao Ran. Hao Ran’s chapter relates how he has changed his initial impression of Xiao as a “rude, barbaric fellow” despite his “handsome looks” upon seeing Xiao jump into a cold river to save the co-op’s jammed logs.39 Next summer, Hao Ran used four out of five days of his vacation cycling fifty miles and crossing a flooding river to visit his friend. He had expected a warm reunion, but, after he got there, Xiao Yongshun, returning from the field, rode Hao Ran’s bicycle away without so much as coming into the house and saying hello—only later did Hao Ran learn that Xiao had rushed to a meeting in the shire. These incidents seem to have been combined and written into another early story, “Crossing the River” (“Guohe ji” 過河記), from the 1959 collection, which epitomizes several issues—selflessness versus private interest, repressed desire, and textual/sexual excision—discussed so far. The story narrates how a rural youth, Li Chunyang, meets Chen Xiangqun, by a flooding river with a broken bridge. Initially contemptuous of the bespectacled young man’s bookish appearances and a funny-looking half-shaven head, Li changes his attitude after he learns that Chen is a doctor who has interrupted his haircut to respond to a call to a medical emergency in a village. Li risks his life by helping Chen cross the river; in midcurrent, when they begin to sink, Chen voluntarily lets go of Li to save his life. They finally make it together. Only later does Li realize that Chen is coming to the rescue of his pregnant wife, who is having a difficult delivery. An embodiment of the creed “Everyone for one, one for everyone” (Renren wei wo, wo wei renren 人人為我,我為人人), the story is charming with its lyrical simplicity and the neat plot symmetry typical of Hao Ran’s fiction. Notable is the male bonding achieved through the river crossing together, mirrored by the difficulty undergone by mother and baby in childbirth, another liminal state that finds release in the ultimate safe passage and the celebration of new life. Li Chunyang first appears 37. Hao Ran, Xique dengzhi, 39. 38. Hao Ran, Hao Ran koushu zizhuan, 171–86. 39. Ibid., 172.


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in the story stark naked, wringing his clothes drenched by the rain. Later, there is a great deal of mutual gazing in the repeated structure of “X’s two eyes were fixated on Y.” In Chen’s eyes, Li has “a big, tall build, a ruddy face with a dark complexion, two not very dark but clearly defined eyebrows, and a few speckles on his nose: all these demonstrated his forthrightness and firmness. After just a few words he fell deeply in love with this peasant man.”40 In the revised version, the last sentence is toned down to “After just a few words he had already loved this peasant man.”41 In Li’s view, “Only a while ago he had thought the other man’s clothes, glasses, haircut and so forth were all so laughable and odd; but now they have all become so nice-looking, so lovable. He could not help blushing for his earlier rudeness.”42 With an ever-so-slightly homoerotic touch, the two men are bound to each other both by their physical proximity in the river and by their spiritual affinity, as they look at each other after their crossing, “everything in their hearts having been understood in silence.”43

Spring Snow Many motifs of “Crossing the River”—selflessly helping others, potential conflict between rural and urban—reappear in a story of almost twenty years later, but with a new edge. The last section of this essay will analyze the story entitled “Spring Snow” (“Chun xue” 春雪), written in late 1976, toward the very end of the Cultural Revolution. In the story, Hao Ran shows himself a seasoned writer, but the political movement, with its relentless quest for transparency, has also left a deep impact. The pastoral easiness and simplicity in the early stories are gone; in their stead, we see a story about the violent quest for transparency. The story is structured in such a way that the structure itself becomes part of the message that the author wants to convey. Like a detective story, it begins with a mystery and a question. As the story unfolds, the reader is drawn more and more deeply into the process of discovery, until the riddle is solved at the very end. The story opens with a scene of spring snow in a rustic landscape; a jeep from Beijing, with the narrator, “I,” and the driver in it, is speeding on the road. Unlike in his early stories with a first-person voice, there is no explanation of the narrator’s identity or his mission. As we read on, we realize it is important for the narrator to establish, through his implied importance, both narrative anonymity and authority. He is the I/eye—a spectator whose only action throughout the story is watching, which nevertheless bestows on him immense power and control.

40. Hao Ran, Pingguo yao shu le, 120. 41. Hao Ran, Hao Ran wen ji 浩然文集 (Shenyang: Chunfeng chubanshe, 1983), 321. 42. Hao Ran, Pingguo yao shu le, 119. 43. Ibid., 123.

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Watching is the first thing the narrator tells us he does in the story. “Looking outside through the jeep’s window,” he notices in a snow-covered landscape “something like a ball of flame rolling down over the hill ridge and vanishing from view.”44 Soon afterward, he sees “that ball of fire” again flashing through a grove of jujube trees and begins to “speculate on this strange sight” when the jeep comes to a sudden stop and violently throws him off balance. There turns out to be a hitchhiker standing in the middle of the road. The driver is initially upset about the sudden stop and refuses the request. Then the narrator discovers that the hitchhiker is a young woman—and a rural young woman at that, which changes everything. This episode sets the tone for the story. Active verbs about looking, observing, and discovering abound. The narrator repeatedly uses “only then did I find out / only then did I see clearly (這時候我才發現/我這時候才看清) to indicate a belated recognition of what lies underneath surface. Significantly, the girl is at first difficult to recognize in terms of gender. She has “a dark complexion,” “narrow, elongated eyes,” hands with thick, calloused fingers; she wears a pair of old sneakers but no socks. The conclusion drawn by the narrator is that “she is a peasant girl from the mountain village,” which leads him to “immediately forgive her reckless behavior” and enjoin the driver to give her a ride.45 The girl’s eccentric behavior is not immediately transparent either. She shows no interest in chitchat; when the narrator tries to start a conversation, she cuts him off rudely; she angrily mutters to herself things that the narrator finds mysterious and provocative when she sees a man wearing a yellow oilcloth raincoat riding a bicycle on the road, things such as “What a scoundrel! What a scoundrel! I guessed right— he has indeed come this way today!” Then something drops from her pocket— “a small, oddly-shaped knife glistening like snow.” When the narrator asks her why she carries a knife around, “she replies coldly, ‘This is a weapon.’”46 Intrigued, the narrator decides to follow the girl while the driver goes off to file a report at the police station about a suspicious person. The narrator stresses that he is acting thus because of “an inescapable sense of political responsibility,” stating, “I made up my mind to get a complete clarification about this person and never allow a serious incident such as this to slip away from under my eyes.”47 What happens next is a series of unveilings of the mystery girl. First, the narrator loses track of her in the crowd in the marketplace, where he overhears a conversation between two men:

44. Hao Ran, Hao Ran duanpian xiaoshuo xuan 浩然短篇小說選 (Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1981), 380. 45. Ibid., 381. 46. Ibid., 382–83. 47. Ibid., 383.


Xiaofei Tian “Hurry up—let’s go take a look at this novel show . . .” “Really? I’ve never seen anything like this all my life.” “That woman is really something. One at each cut!” “Wow, she really has the guts to do it?”48

The narrator intuitively knows that they are talking about the mystery girl. He follows their footsteps and finds out that she is castrating piglets for the villagers. Pig castration is universal in swine production. There are two reasons for castrating a boar: behavioral and economical. Boars tend to become aggressive as they reach sexual maturity; castrated boars are much more docile and easier to handle; more important, they are fatter and produce meat that does not have a strong odor and flavor commonly called “boar taint.” Carrying out pig castration involves training, skill, and precise handling. Traditionally, this had been a male profession. Hence the villagers are surprised at seeing a young woman do the work: a large crowd begins to gather around her. The narrator, while feeling relieved, still wonders about her earlier angry outburst upon seeing the cyclist on the road. At this moment he overhears another conversation. A bearded man, with two piglets under his arms, is chatting with a middle-aged man wearing a gray polyester overcoat lined with sheepskin. “I heard that demoted old bureau chief has been rehabilitated?” “Well, it was I who founded this country along with my comrades. Whoever wants to take power away from my hands—impossible! Rest assured: anyone who has defended me and supported me will have a place; how could he be left as a spectator?” “Wonderful, wonderful. Whenever you have time, come to stay a few days in our village. You got to do me a favor.” “Sure. That son of yours has made a contribution. He got demoted for no reason—wasn’t it just because he had an affair with some woman? Tell him to stand upright again. He’s got me behind him! By the way, what are you doing here with the pigs?”49

The conversation turns to pig castration. The man in the overcoat tells the bearded man to go to a Doctor Huang instead, who has come from a family specializing in the profession for generations. It turns out that Doctor Huang is that very cyclist on the road. He is “around thirty years old, with eyeglasses for deep nearsightedness, in a smart uniform, and skillfully handling the surgical knife.” After he finishes castrating a piglet, he raises his head and “cordially smiles at the pig owner.”50 The courtesy and professionalism of the male doctor form a sharp contrast with the peasant girl, who is uncouth from her clothes to her manner. 48. Ibid., 384. 49. Ibid., 385–86. 50. Ibid., 387.

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Doctor Huang attracts all the customers, but soon he gets into a tiff with the bearded man over payment. In the meanwhile, the girl calls out to the crowd and explains that she desires to help develop swine production for the country and is offering castration for free. A plump middle-aged woman onlooker serves as her commentator, saying, “This girl here is serving the people [wei renmin fuwu 為人民 服務]; she does not want people’s money [renminbi 人民幣]!”51 She and a tall young man also testify to the girl’s skill. Although clearly no “capitalist roader,” the girl nevertheless needs advertisement. She also gives a bad rep to her competitor by revealing to the crowd that, instead of doing his proper job as the state-paid veterinarian, Doctor Huang has falsely asked for a sick leave from the commune and is trying to make personal profit. The story thus establishes a clear economy: if the commune members put their bet on the girl, they gain in both moral and financial terms; but if they put their bet on Doctor Huang, they will lose not just their hard-earned money but also their moral capital. The reader, like the villagers at the marketplace, is faced with two choices and must choose wisely. The choices imply more grave political consequences in the contemporary con­ text. Behind the conversation between the bearded man and the man in the overcoat about the rehabilitation of an old bureau chief looms a larger political story. The last campaign in the Cultural Revolution was the “strike against the rightist deviationist wind to overthrow correct verdicts” (Fanji youqing fan’an feng 反擊右傾翻 案風). The “rightist deviationist” referred to Deng Xiaoping, who had been rehabilitated in 1973. Deng’s pragmatic economic policy and his disapproval of the Cultural Revolution finally drew Mao Zedong’s ire, who decided that Deng was, after all, a  “capitalist roader” and that there was a “struggle between two lines,” that is, between socialist orthodoxy and capitalism. Hao Ran’s story may be read as a fictional realization of the struggle; it creates and operates within a perfect symmetry, with the anonymous and thus literally selfless girl and the selfish Doctor Huang representing two different value systems, one good and one evil. Underneath this immediately resonant political message, the real lesson of the story is one about reading and interpretation. Nothing is what it seems in the story. The chase ends in the final uncovering of truth. Both Doctor Huang and the girl reveal their true identities, motives, personal histories, family backgrounds, layer upon layer, until the narrator learns everything about them, including the girl being the younger sister of the party secretary of a middle school in the city—a seemingly gratuitous detail, but proving her entire family is “red” and trustworthy, thus completing her official dossier.

51. Ibid., 389.


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While the narrator is content with discovering truth for himself, the girl is determined to expose Doctor Huang’s true nature in public. She is ruthless in her persecution of the man. He laments pitifully: “Do you have to wipe me out like this? . . . [W]here do you want to push me now?” The girl replied, stressing every word like a sharp ax chopping at wood: “We want to push you till you completely collapse! We will not leave even one inch of space for you to carry on your dirty business!”52

She takes him to the marketplace management “so that people here will all recognize your true face.”53 The man in the overcoat is in charge there and defends Doctor Huang, so the girl decides to appeal to the county committee. The narrator’s chauffeur now steps up and offers a ride to the girl. The keyword here is “expose”—jiefa 揭發, jielu 揭露, or baolu 暴露—one of the most common terms used in the Cultural Revolution. In close association with the imperative to expose is the necessity for labeling, as clearly defined identities in a rigidly classified society are an obligation. There were the “Red Five Categories” and the “Black Five Categories” or the “Black Seven Categories.” The “struggle sessions” during the Cultural Revolution involved making “class enemies” wear a dunce’s cap or a plaque with his or her name and identity written on it. Since a dunce’s cap or a plaque is not a permanent part of a person’s physical appearance, a more ingenious method sought to inscribe difference directly on the body with a hairstyle, such as a cross-shaped cut or the “yin-yang haircut,” so named because the hair on one side of the head is entirely shaved off. The young man’s unfinished haircut in “Crossing the River” has in retrospect become an uncanny omen. In Hao Ran’s story that is structured as a quest for transparency, the signs are just as physical as a dunce’s cap or a haircut: the girl in red, the doctor in yellow, and the man in gray are set against a white wintry landscape, with each color indicating the true nature of the person. In accordance with the levels of their moral caliber, each piece of clothing is more opaque than the other: from the girl’s translucent plastic raincoat, to Doctor Huang’s oilcloth raincoat, and finally to the man’s gray overcoat with sheepskin lining, which recalls the saying about “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Opaqueness indicates concealment, and any concealment points to something that needs to be hidden, which, in a world that demands absolute transparency, could mean only treachery and deceit. In order for transparency and clarity to be maintained, the world must be sterile and static, because procreation and growth mean change, and change is disorderly. The girl plays a key role in upholding the stasis. In the jeep, the narrator comments on the unexpected snow in a season of things growing and coming out: 52. Ibid., 390. 53. Ibid., 391.

Castration for the People 109 “A spring snow like this will surely damage the plants?” “That depends on how you look at it. Spring snow can kill off all kinds of pestilent insects that are hiding in corners and preparing to come back to life!”54

We realize that the girl is unnamed because she is both spring and snow in the story’s title: while her movement resembles that of a “light and nimble swallow” and her raincoat is of the color of peach blossoms, she is “cold,” “angry,” and “fierce”; her surgical knife glistens like snow; she talks to Dr. Huang like “a sharp ax chopping away at wood.” The piglets are not the only victims of castration in this story. It is significant that Doctor Huang and the marketplace manager are both male while the pig castrator is a young woman. The maleness of the negative characters brings home the castration metaphor, but the femaleness of the pig castrator is necessary because the girl is set up to represent the marginalized social class rebelling against its oppressors and trying to rise in hierarchy, and no one could better fulfill that symbolic function than a woman from a poor peasant family who is doubly underprivileged in terms of both class and gender. To be made a rebel against authority, however, means that she can never gain true authority, because as long as her sole power comes from resistance and rebellion, she is doomed to remain marginal. Like in Hao Ran’s early stories, positions of social, political, and technical authority in this story are all occupied by men; even the driver is male—he operates a motor vehicle while the girl goes around on foot. The girl is celebrated on account of her opposition to them—without them, without anything to resist and rebel against, she is nothing. This is a feminism that demands, by virtue of the narrative function, a fundamental asymmetry and inequality between women and men. The only out-of-place character in the story is the narrator: the omnipresent I/eye. While everyone else succumbs to the quest for transparency, the narrator alone remains opaque till the end: we never know who he is, what he is doing, and where he is going. Being chauffeured around in a jeep from Beijing, he is, in some ways, a good allegory of the central government in a totalitarian regime: the authority that scrutinizes and monitors everyone but itself refuses to be monitored and scrutinized. To sum up, “Spring Snow” is a long way away from Hao Ran’s early stories in Magpies on the Branch, Apples Are About to Ripen, and Songs of New Spring. It is unapologetically harsh and violent, reflecting both the changed political atmosphere and Hao Ran’s personal changes. It is an allegory of the violent textual excisions performed by Hao Ran on his more crude, but also much more energetic, fresh, and rich, early stories, an allegory of the paradoxical, unintended revelations and exposures affected by these erasures.

54. Ibid., 382.


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The narrator of “Spring Snow” is in some ways a projection of Hao Ran himself in real life, who lived and worked in Beijing but constantly went back to his roots in the countryside. In other ways, however, he comes closer to identification with the unnamed girl. Just like the girl, Hao Ran himself was from a poor peasant family, and his mastery of the literary skills was not hereditary like many prominent modern writers who belonged, by virtue of their family and educational background, to the traditional cultural elite. He was a peasant who, in his own words, “wrote about peasants for peasants.” At his best he was good at what he did, but finer psychological truths and nuances escaped him. The aesthetic charm of his stories is that of Chinese regional opera, of which he was an avid fan when he was a child:55 there are distinctive role types in the stories, each of which is marked with a special makeup and costume to indicate the character’s identity—the sharp-tongued girl with a heart of gold or the kind but stubborn old man; the plot and characterization are minimalist and possess a cleanness, plainness, and what Cyril Birch nicely describes as a “Biblical simplicity” that sometimes rises to a lyrical height;56 good and bad, right and wrong are distinctly drawn with bold, thick lines of woodcut. In this world, everyone’s identity is predetermined by class and family; there is little possibility for change or complications. Such is the neat, clean, and oppressive social vision of the socialist regime, which coincides with the writer’s artistic vision. Hao Ran himself both benefited from such a social vision and was ultimately trapped in it.

Bibliography Birch, Cyril. “Continuity and Change in Chinese Fiction.” In Modern Chinese Literature in the May Fourth Era, edited by Merle Goldman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977. Hao Ran. Chun ge ji 春歌集. Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 1973. ———. Hao Ran duanpian xiaoshuo xuan 浩然短篇小說選. Shijiazhuang: Hebei renmin chubanshe, 1981. ———. Hao Ran koushu zizhuan 浩然口述自傳. Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 2008. ———. Hao Ran wen ji 浩然文集. Shenyang: Chunfeng chubanshe, 1983. ———. Pingguo yao shu le 蘋果要熟了. Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1959. ———. Xin chun qu 新春曲. Beijing: Zhongguo qingnian chubanshe, 1960. ———. Xique dengzhi 喜鵲登枝. Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1958. Liu Shaoqi. “Lun gongchan dangyuan de xiuyang” 論共產黨員的修養. In Liu Shaoqi xuanji 劉少奇選集, Vol. 1, 97–167. Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1981. Sun Dayou 孫達祐, and Liang Chunshui 梁春水, eds. Hao Ran yanjiu zhuanji 浩然研究專集. Tianjin: Baihua wenyi chubanshe, 1994.

55. Hao Ran, Hao Ran koushu zizhuan, 22–23, 26–27. 56. Cyril Birch, “Continuity and Change in Chinese Fiction,” in Modern Chinese Literature in the May Fourth Era, ed. Merle Goldman (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), 400.

Castration for the People 111 Tuotuo 脫脫 et al., comp. Song shi 宋史. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1977. Yang, Lan. “The Ideal Socialist Hero: Literary Conventions in Cultural Revolution Novels.” In China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: Master Narratives and Post-Mao Counternarratives, edited by Woei Lien Chong, 185–211. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.

PART II Making over the Canon: The “Red Classics” in the Reform Era

7 The Politics and Aesthetics of Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua of the Reform Era Rosemary Roberts

Lianhuanhua 連環畫, or picture storybooks, were traditionally palm-sized books in which on each page two or three lines of text, usually at the bottom of the page, are accompanied by a hand-drawn illustration (or sometimes a still from a film) that link together to tell a story. Lianhuanhua became popular in China in the 1920s and 1930s and were promoted by left-wing intellectuals as a means of spreading revolutionary ideology to the lower classes and children because they were engaging and could reach people with low levels of literacy.1 As such the new Communist government post-1949 strongly supported their production and distribution, leading to a golden age of lianhuanhua in the 1950s and early 1960s. Many of the major “red classics” of the Seventeen Years appeared in lianhuanhua form at this time, with the most common style featuring black-and-white line drawings derived from the pictorial conventions of traditional Chinese illustrations integrated with elements of folk and Western art, and featuring sturdy, handsome, idealized worker, peasant, and soldier images in accordance with Mao’s theories of socialist art. After briefly disappearing in the early part of the Cultural Revolution,2 lianhuanhua reappeared in the 1970s and reached a peak of popularity in the early 1980s. By the mid-1980s however, television had become a common item in Chinese households, and Japanese manga and Western comics also flooded the Chinese market, diminishing the appeal of lianhuanhua as a form of entertainment, reducing its popularity and weakening its efficacy as a vehicle for propagating ideology. Publication of lianhuanhua dropped

1. For a study of the origins of lianhuanhua, see Kuiyi Shen, “Lianhuanhua and Manhua: Picture Books and Comics in Old Shanghai,” in Illustrating Asia, ed. John A. Lent (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001), 100–21. For a general history of lianhuanhua, see John A. Lent, “Lianhuanhua,” 9a Arte Sao Paulo 1, no. 2 (2012): 5–24. 2. For a discussion of Cultural Revolution period lianhuanhua, see Barbara Mittler, A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2012), 331–70.


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sharply, and they largely disappeared from the streets where they had previously been a feature of many roadside stalls.3 As the wave of red nostalgia hit China in the new millennium, however, along with the reprinting of “red classic” novels and reissuing of “red classic” films, lianhuanhua of the “red classics” reappeared, often as reprints of the earlier versions but sometimes in new versions with new illustrations and new story elements. This chapter presents a case study of two such new lianhuanhua versions of “red classics,” Red Sister-inLaw (Hong Sao 紅嫂) and Who Are the Most Beloved People? (Shui shi zui ke’ai de ren? 誰是最可愛的人?) published separately in Lianhuanhua Bao 連環畫報 in the early 1990s and then republished together in book form in 2008 and on sale in major bookstores in 2013.4 In examining the phenomenon of the multiple reappearances of these lianhuanhua over a period of more than half a century, this chapter considers how socioeconomic change and changing political needs of the ruling party have reshaped each of these “red classic” lianhuanhua with respect to (1) the content of its textual component through the extension of the original story and (2) the graphic component through a changed aesthetics and politics of portraiture. It will consider the complex relationships between the original and the new versions of the stories, and their accompanying texts, in terms of issues of authenticity, truth, the role of the working class as hero, subject, and reader and the changing nature of propaganda. The study will adopt a framework based on “the dialogic approach to cultural forms” proposed by Martin Barker in his study of Western comics, which in turn draws on the work of the Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp.

Red Sister-in-Law and Who Are the Most Beloved? as “Red Classics” The story of Red Sister-in-Law was first published in Shandong Literature (Shandong wenxue 山東文學) in 1961 in the form of a short story by Liu Zhixia 劉知俠 and reprinted in several collections over the next few years. From there it was adapted

3. Several scholars have discussed the reasons for the decline of lianhuanhua, see, for example, Simran Kaur Khaira, “The Decline and Revival of Chinese Picture Books,” unpublished PhD dissertation, Ohio State University, 2012; Minjie Chen, “Chinese Lian Huan Hua and Literacy: Popular Culture Meets Youth Literature,” in Perspectives on Teaching and Learning Chinese Literacy in China, ed. C. B. Leung and J. Ruan (Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media, 2012), 157–81, and Lent, “Lianhuanhua.” 4. Li Chen 李晨. Hong Sao 紅嫂 [Red sister-in-law] (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 2008). Lianhuanhua versions of other “red classics” also continue to appear on a regular basis: for example, a hardback version of Baimaonü 白毛女 published by Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe in 2007, with artwork by Hua Sanchuan, features full-color plates that use a modified traditional ink and wash style, displaying the influence of Western oil painting, socialist-era portraiture, and cinematic framing techniques. The story has been extended to include Xi’er and Da Chun’s wedding after her rescue. Lianhuanhua bao 連環畫報 also published new versions of the yangbanxi classics Shajiabang 沙家幫 and Hong deng ji 紅燈記 [The red lantern] in its September 2015 issue. however, these works are beyond the scope of this present study and await further research.

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into forms including Beijing Opera, dance drama, film, and lianhuanhua.5 The earliest lianhuanhua version I have been able to identify was published with a print run of 100,000 copies in February 1963 by Hebei People’s Art Press, while a rival version was published by Shanghai People’s Art Press around the same time.6 In 1977 a lianhuanhua version under the name Red Cloud Ridge (Hong yun gang 紅雲崗)— the name of the yangbanxi Beijing Opera based on the story—was published by Shandong People’s Press, and it is very likely that during the 1970s there were also lianhuanhua using film stills of the yangbanxi 樣板戲 performances in their Beijing Opera and ballet forms.7 The Shanghai People’s Art Press version of the lianhuanhua was reprinted in 1984. The frequency of publication and the multiplicity of forms in which the story appeared attests to its importance within the “red classic” canon. Red Sister-in-Law tells the story of a young married woman from a remote village in Shandong Province who comes upon a badly wounded Communist soldier in the mountains. She saves his life by feeding him her breast milk and then conceals him from the enemy while he recovers. Although impoverished and short of food, Red Sister-in-Law kills the family’s only remaining chicken to provide the soldier with nourishing chicken soup. While in the earliest lianhuanhua version of the story Red Sister-in-Law’s husband, Wu Er 吳二, is a backward, jealous, and incompetent peasant, by the time of the Cultural Revolution with its more extreme demands that literature portray peasants as proletarian heroes, he had transformed into a militia leader and staunch revolutionary. In both the 1963 and 1977 versions, the enemy are the Nationalist (KMT) army and KMT allies in the form of the Landlords’ Restitution Corps.8 This original story celebrated the heroism of the ordinary country woman and the closeness of the relationship between the peasants and the army—the fishwater relationship discussed by Qian Gong in Chapter 10 of this book. In the 1991 version of Red Sister-in-Law, the ninety-seven plates of the 1963 version have been reduced to only ten and the wartime story is finished by Plate 6. The remainder of the lianhuanhua is now devoted to portraying the subsequent life of the real Red Sisterin-Law, Ming Deying 明德英, as a woman who consistently sent her children and 5. One reprint appeared in an anthology of Liu Zhixia’s stories entitled Yimeng shan de gushi 沂蒙山的故事 (1962) (reprinted in 1964 by Zuojia Chubanshe in Beijing as Yimeng gushiji 沂蒙故事集) and a second appeared in an anthology of stories from Shandong wenxue (1960–1962) entitled Hong Sao 紅嫂, both published by Shandong Renmin Chubanshe. 6. The 1963 Hebei People’s Art Press (Hebei Renmin Meishu Chubanshe 河北人民美術出版社) version has text by Chen Pingfu 陳平夫 and drawings by Wang Li 王裏. The Shanghai People’s Art Press (Shanghai Renmin Meishu Chubanshe 上海人民美術出版社) version (precise date not known) was adapted by Lan Xiang 藍翔 and had drawings by Qian Guisun 錢貴孫. 7. The 1977 Shandong People’s Press (Shandong Renmin Chubanshe 山東人民出版社) version featured art by Wang Qimin 王啟民 and Yuan Dayi 袁大儀. The yangbanxi ballet version of the story was named Ode to Yimeng 沂蒙頌. I have seen film-still versions of many of the other yangbanxi, so it is reasonable to presume that they also existed for the two works that told the Hong Sao story. 8. “Huan xiang tuan” 還鄉團—small armed forces put together by local landlords allied with the KMT to seize back property and land that had been confiscated and distributed to the poor by the CCP.


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then her grandchildren off to become soldiers and remained a loyal, undemanding supporter of the army and government throughout her life. “Who Are the Most Beloved People?” was an essay written by Wei Wei 魏巍, veteran war correspondent and author of the novel The East (Dongfang 東方). Published in People’s Daily (Renmin ribao 人民日報) on April 11, 1951, the essay celebrated the courage and patriotism of Chinese volunteer troops fighting against the United States in Korea. Wei Wei listed the names of fourteen soldiers in particular who held a small hill against vastly superior enemy numbers to block the escape route of the enemy army. The essay described in graphic detail the struggle to the death of the fourteen men and appealed to civilians to appreciate that it was the heroic self-sacrifice of these ordinary soldiers in Korea that allowed them go about their mundane everyday business in peace. The essay was publicly praised by Mao Zedong, Zhu De, and Zhou Enlai and ordered to be made compulsory reading in the national middle school curriculum.9 The essay was credited with causing a significant shift in the attitude of the general population toward the army that saw the traditional disdain for soldiers replaced with a new admiration and respect. The term “the most beloved people” (zui ke’ai de ren 最可愛的人) became a new affectionate term for People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers. Who Are the Most Beloved People? was also published in an anthology of the same name by People’s Literature Press (Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe 人民文學出版社) in 1951, and by 1978 was into its third printing of the fourth edition. It was first published in lianhuanhua form by Qing Feng Shudian 青鋒書店 in 1951.10 The lianhuanhua celebrated the compassion of the Chinese soldiers toward Korean civilians, showing a soldier rescuing a Korean child from a burning house, and celebrated their courage and sacrifice through pictures of soldiers in hand-to-hand combat with US troops. The front cover shows Chinese soldiers, having run out of ammunition, using their own burning bodies (set alight by US napalm attack), to burn their opponents to death. As with the new story of Red Sister-in-Law, the 1991 version of the lianhuanhua, now named You Will Always Be the Most Beloved (Ni yongyuan shi zui ke’ai de ren 你永遠是最可愛的人), spends only five out of twenty-one plates on the war experience of one of the martyrs, Li Yu’an 李玉安, who it turned out had been living incognito for forty years after being the only survivor of a company of more than one hundred men. Once again the majority of the lianhuanhua depicts the life of the “living martyr” as a quiet, loyal supporter of the army and party who never wavered in living out the early Communist period ideal of the new socialist man.

9. See Qiang Shouyi 強守一, “2000 yuan de lao lianhuanhua Shei shi zui ke’ai de ren” 2000 元的老連環畫《誰 是最可愛的人》., accessed July 7, 2014. The website says middle school curriculum; however, a colleague born in the early 1960s recalls studying the text at primary school. 10. Adaptation by Feng Ming 馮明 and artwork by Wang Yiqiu 王亦秋.

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The political function of the early “red classics” as narratives that established the foundation myths of the Communist Party and People’s Republic and gave the party’s monopoly of power moral validity and political legitimacy has been well established and will not be repeated here. What this chapter will focus on instead is the way in which these two “red classics” supported this function of literature through the particular literary genre of lianhuanhua and how this changed in the contemporary versions of the works. For this, a framework is necessary that will facilitate analysis of the functioning of each lianhuanhua within its historical context as well as in comparison across several decades of socialist and postsocialist society. Research into Western comics, a relatively new field of scholarship in itself, provides some useful guidance in this respect.

Analyzing Lianhuanhua: A Dialogic Approach Martin Barker’s 1989 study Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics puts forward principles for analyzing comics using a “dialogic approach to cultural forms” that I will draw on in discussion of the two lianhuanhua and their multiple historical remakes.11 Put simply, Barker observes that in analyzing cultural forms it is useful to consider the nature of the typified readership (what Barker also calls “the natural audience”) that this form implies, how readers are positioned to respond to the story and characters, and the particular production histories that have produced those works.12 Production history here includes both the producers (their purposes, institutional structures, external constraints, relations with creators, writers, artists, etc.), and their audiences (traditions of reading, definitions of the medium, etc.). Following on from this, how then are readers positioned to respond to the Red Sister-in-Law lianhuanhua of the two periods, and who is the typified readership identified by the typified social experience sedimented within each form? I argue that the aesthetic forms of the artwork and nature of accompanying texts create two different positionings and implied readerships that constitute a synecdoche of the changing sociopolitical formations within Chinese society. The early lianhuanhua project an imagined role for readers within general categories of “the people,” “the party,” “the Communist army,” and their wartime opposition and invite the readership to identify themselves with the proletariat, supporting the party and the revolutionary forces, and opposing the KMT and the US Army. What is invited is primarily a broad class identification. 11. Martin Barker, Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1989). Barker acknowledges his debt to Vladimir Propp’s work on Russian folk stories in developing his ideas. 12. Barker uses the term “imaginative projection” to describe the response that is expected to be elicited in readers by the work. I borrow this term to discuss “imagined roles.”


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Fig. 7.1 Red Sister-in-Law (1963), Plate 5.

Fig. 7.1 is Plate 5 from the 1963 lianhuanhua Red Sister-in-Law, showing a group of figures that have no particular distinguishable individuality and can chiefly be identified simply as “peasants” or “soldiers.” The caption carries an undisguised political propaganda message: “Red Sister-in-Law hurried to the river bank and gave the board to a soldier feeling happy and excited. Her native village was in an old revolutionary base area and the PLA had helped her to get free from the local landlord. She would never, ever forget the kindness of the Communist Party.” Notably, the support for the party is based on gratitude for tangible assistance the party had given her in the past. In contrast, the 1991 versions of the two lianhuanhua invite the reader to establish a close personal relationship with two individual Communist proletarian heroes (whose stories as historical revolutionary heroes they already know); to understand and appreciate their honesty, generosity, loyalty, undemanding nature; and then to reflect on their own behavior, appreciate the army and party the same way these people do, and to remember and appreciate the current regime’s glorious past authenticated by these people. What is invited is a personal epiphany and renewed faith, an invitation that is encapsulated in the artist’s own narrative of his experience of being commissioned to create the new version of Who Are the Most Beloved People? The striking similarity between this response and that of Zhao Dongling 趙冬苓, the

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director of the TV series Yimeng, quoted in Qian Gong’s chapter in this book, raises the question as to whether these contemporary intellectuals have genuinely rediscovered a respect for forgotten ordinary Communist heroes or whether this narrative is a form of trope in itself.13 When the Editorial board arranged for me to draw Li Yu’an, I only knew that he was a martyr that Wei Wei had written about who had turned out to be a “martyr” who was actually still alive today. To tell the truth, this did not arouse my creative urge [jiqi wo de chuangzuo yu 激起我的創作欲]. I only really wanted to draw him after I went to his hometown in Bachan County. At the township if you stop anyone on the street and ask them do they know Li Yu’an, they all answer in the affirmative. The little things they told me about him in casual conversation all moved me very deeply. The old man’s rich spiritual world formed such a contrast with the material and spiritual pursuits of today’s young people, that it shook me to the very soul. So I hid myself away in a quiet room and facing the canvas and manuscript paper expressed my heartfelt admiration and respect. I used my emotions to draw, and my heart to paint, for the sake of the last 40 years of the old hero, for the last 40 years of our republic and for the countless forty years of our generation and the generations to come.14

Correspondingly the typified readership has changed. The typified social experience sedimented within the form in the lianhuanhua from the early 1950s and early 1960s is that of the recent experience of national wars and the postwar effort to rebuild the nation in collective life under socialism. The typified readership were children and adults (civilian and PLA) with low levels of literacy (the greater part of the population at the time)—for whom the primary function of the simple line drawings was to enable them to comprehend the meaning of the text and accept its political and social messages. This readership is implicit, for example, in this panel from Five Days and Nights on Flying Tiger Mountain (Feihushan shang wu zhouye 飛虎山上 五晝夜), a lianhuanhua of the Korean War contemporary with Who Are the Most Beloved People? (Fig. 7.2). The panel includes a double speech bubble, one with text, the other illustrating the content of the text, rendering the meaning comprehensible to the illiterate. (Their messenger reports discovering a Korean child crying in a ditch at the side of the road next to the dead body of its mother—killed in a US air strike.) The typified social experience and typified readership sedimented into the form of the 1990s version of the two “red classics,” however, has changed: now the implicit social experience is that of individuals who were children in the collective era, who know the stories and feel nostalgic, but who relate to the lower-class characters as outsiders. The refined artwork of the panels, the perspectives and content of the pictures, and the accompanying artist’s notes on the creative experience, now bespeak 13. See Chapter 9 in this volume. 14. Li, Afterword to Red Sister-in-Law.


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Fig. 7.2 Five Days and Nights on Flying Tiger Mountain (1953?), Plate 6, showing the use of the double speech bubble.

a middle-class intellectual readership who can appreciate the elevated artistry of the drawings and identify with the lianhuanhua’s narrative viewpoint of an outsider recalling the past beneficence of the masses, rediscovering their virtues and being elevated spiritually by the stories of their lives. Before turning to a specific analysis of how the differences in the positioning of the readership of the lianhuanhua of the two periods are manifested in the changing treatment of artwork and text, I will first examine the production histories of the lianhuanhua of the two periods to establish the environments in which they were produced. During the period of the Sino-Japanese War, both the KMT and the Communist Party had used lianhuanhua to instill patriotism and inspire resistance to the invaders among the general population.15 The efficacy of the literary form for political education was therefore well recognized before the Communist victory. Post-1949, needing to consolidate support for the Communist regime, Mao directed Zhou Yang, then vice minister for publicity, to set up a state publishing house for lianhuanhua because of their broad appeal and educative function. Popular Pictures 15. Lent, “Lianhuanhua,” 7.

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Press (Dazhong Tuhua Chubanshe 大眾圖畫出版社) was established, then in 1951 was merged with the People’s Art Press and began publishing the comic journal Lianhuanhua bao. Ideological control over lianhuanhua production was asserted by sending army cadres to supervise at the Shanghai lianhuanhua publishing houses and making artists undertake ideological education. The earlier convention of one person creating both text and drawing was replaced with a system under which lianhuanhua were split between artists and writers, so that the artists were now responsible only for creating drawings for texts that were provided to them. This professionalized both the writing and drawing and made state control of textual content more efficient.16 Content of the lianhuanhua was dictated by the criteria for socialist literature and art set by Mao’s 1942 Yan’an Talks as well as being constrained by the low literacy level of its intended readers and the simple aesthetic tastes of the lower classes and the young, so that the text was relatively simple and pictures had to be able to tell the story without requiring much reference to the text. The words therefore repeated the information that the pictures told, as exemplified in the lianhuanhua panel from the early 1950s incorporating the double speech bubble discussed above. The pictures themselves had to be in the style of Socialist Realist art that portrayed an optimistic outlook on the future of the revolution, and focused on positive heroic figures from among the peasants, workers, and soldiers. During the Cultural Revolution years, these ideological requirements were made even more extreme under the straightjacket of the “Three Prominences” theory; however, both of the early lianhuanhua discussed here were created prior to the Cultural Revolution, so the Three Prominences theory was not applied to either book. In fact, the drawings and text in Red Sister-in-Law contravene Cultural Revolution codes for literature and art in a number of ways. As mentioned earlier, Red Sister-in-Law’s husband, Wu Er, is portrayed as a weak and cowardly figure who only gradually acquires revolutionary consciousness and courage through learning from her example and the force of circumstance—thereby contravening Cultural Revolution requirements to portray all poor peasants as heroic characters. The text also contravenes the sexual mores of Cultural Revolution literature and art by directly confronting the sexual implications of a young woman breast-feeding an adult man: Red Sister-in-Law is described as blushing at the idea of breast-feeding the soldier, before overcoming her embarrassment in order to save his life (Plate 23), and Wu Er is shown getting into a rage of sexual jealousy and preparing to beat his wife when he discovers she is taking food to the soldier hidden nearby. Red Sister-in-Law is also portrayed deliberately flirting with the villain Diao Gui in order to extract her husband from his clutches (Plate 75) so that he then visits her for dinner expecting sex. Cultural Revolution prudery required all these scenes to be excised from yangbanxi versions of the works, with the crucial breast-feeding scene 16. Julia Andrews, Jonathan Spence, and Shen Kuiyi, A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1998), 23.


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dealt with by Red Sister-in-Law taking the soldier’s canteen and disappearing behind a bush to appear moments later with the canteen now filled with expressed milk that she feeds him from the bottle. Pictorial conventions of the Cultural Revolution are also contravened in the 1963 Red Sister-in-Law: for example, in Plate 72 the villain can be seen foregrounded in relation to the peasant couple, appearing taller than them and being depicted slapping the passive, intimidated husband’s face (see Fig. 7.3).

Fig. 7.3 Red Sister-in-Law (1963), Plate 72, showing the villain foregrounded and with dominating stance.

Actual drawing styles in the lianhuanhua of the 1950s and early 1960s were dictated by the need to be able to draw quickly and clearly and drew on traditional techniques of line drawing as well as borrowing techniques from Western art to achieve perspective and shading.17 In the typical style of Socialist Realist art, positive human figures are drawn as sturdily built with firm, squared chins and vague though regular and quite attractive features. Emotion tends to be expressed through body stance more than through facial expressions, which are often given little detail. As McCloud points out, simpler, more symbolically abstract representations of people are easier for readers to identify with than are realistic drawings, because they allow audiences to imagine themselves in those roles more readily and then become absorbed in and participate in the fantasy more easily.18 In the Chinese case it follows therefore that 17. The quite crude use of perspective in the drawing of the row of soldiers approaching from the left in Fig. 7.2 seems to illustrate that this was a new technique being learnt from Western art at the time. 18. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (New York: Harper Perennial, 1994).

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the simple outline figures found in early lianhuanhua such as the 1951 version of Who Are the Most Beloved People? or Red Sister-in-Law render political messages more effective by increasing the degree of identification between readers and the characters depicted. Although, as in traditional lianhuanhua style, the two early lianhuanhua include only one picture per panel, the drawing of Red Sister-in-Law in particular does adopt some of the techniques of Western comic art to indicate motion through space. For example, as Wu Er rushes in to save his wife from the ravages of the villain, rapid motion is signaled by a series of curved parallel lines that start at Wu Er’s back leg below the knee, cross the lower front leg, which is striding out in front of him, and project on forward in front of him. Similarly, dense lines circling Red Sister-in-Law and Diao Gui indicate that they are whirling around as she tries to hit him with the kitchen chopper. The action is neatly captured in four successive panels. In Panel 84, Diao Gui confronts Red Sister-in-Law, intending to molest her. She stands near the stove, her chopper on the chopping board next to her. In Panel 85 she is lunging toward him, the chopper now held high in her hand. His hat is falling from his head as he backs toward the dining table. In the next plate the circular lines show they are whirling around in a grim struggle, his hand grasping her wrist to stop her chopping at him, her other hand on his other wrist to stop him drawing his handgun. The stool by the table, upright in the previous panel, is now lying on the ground. In the next panel, from a viewpoint outside the house, we see through the open door that Diao Gui has wrestled Red Sister-in-Law onto her knees in front of him, while outside the house Wu Er is sprinting toward the door with fists clenched. The simple outline representation of the figures consistently viewed in long shot, the clear moral superiority of the central characters, and the satisfying resolution of the plot all encourage reader identification with the Communist heroes of the story. As was the intention with the lianhuanhua of this period, the story can be discerned quite clearly from the pictures alone. The text simply reiterates what is already shown in the pictures. In contrast to the 1950s and 1960s when simple lianhuanhua were one of the most popular forms of entertainment in a society dominated by the working class and the “red classics” were a powerful propaganda tool to establish the foundational myths of the party and consolidate support for the new regime, the environment into which the remakes of Red Sister-in-Law and Who Are the Most Beloved People? were born in 1991 was a different world. Not only had Chinese society endured the Cultural Revolution, but, equally shocking in its ideological import, the 1989 student protests and Beijing massacre had deeply shaken the idea that this was a party and army that belonged to the people. One of the functions of reviving the “red classics” at this time, then, must be seen as the effort both to restore the credibility of the party through a revival of its glorious past and to reinstall the idea of the masses and the army being one family that had been damaged by recent events. The statement by the artist


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Li Chen, quoted above, in which he records the fact that the project was assigned to him as an initially unenthusiastic participant, verifies that the institutional structures that assigned subject matter to lianhuanhua artists still bore some resemblance to those controlling the production of lianhuanhua in the earlier period. There are hints and signs in the artist’s two afterwords that the publication was vetted in the same way as old lianhuanhua, with panels checked for approval by the party and army personnel. In notes on the production of Red Sister-in-Law, Li remarks that he was advised by a large group of people and speaks collectively of people looking over his material to help select characters and scenes for the panels. He also mentions help from Wang Shenglie 望盛烈, a prominent Socialist Realist ink painter of the 1950s. So the production process was a combination of official and group direction, input, and monitoring that kept the work within official paradigms while providing support from the artists representing the pinnacle of the socialist tradition. A photo even shows the artist showing Wei Wei the original large-sized drawings for the lianhuanhua and presumably seeking his approval.19 Nonetheless, in an era in which the collective has been deemphasized and the individual celebrated, the individuality of the creative process is also emphasized by the artist himself through the afterwords following each of the two stories. These describe in detail the independent process by which the artist undertook the project and the way his style for the drawings grew out of introspection and experimentation in a “marvelous process” (qimiao de guocheng 奇妙的過程) that has come from life itself.20 The individual nature of his art is emphasized: “Like writers, artists should be independent creators [duli de zhizuo ren 獨立的製作人], it is just that their tools and methods are different.” The afterword finishes, “When the time comes that, standing in front of your work, you can identify your own individual style, you are no longer just purely copying.” Implicit in these declarations of independence lies a tension between the commission for a political task and the independent creative drive of the artist. The external environment was also one in which the government and major artists were seeking to find a new Chinese style of lianhuanhua/comic to push back against the tide of imported manga and Western comics that by the 1990s had garnered 90 percent of the Chinese comic market.21 This concern led the General Administration of Press and Publication to implement the “5155 project” to construct five new Chinese major comic publishers within three years to establish fifteen series of comic books and five comic magazines.22 According to Lent the strategy was to encourage 19. The association of Li Chen with these major figures of the literature and art world of the 1950s also symbolically marks him as one of their successors in the world of socialist culture. 20. Li, Afterword to Ni yongyuan shi zui ke’ai de ren, in Red Sister-in-Law. 21. Chen, “Chinese Lian Huan Hua and Literacy.” 22. Lent, “Lianhuanhua,” 13.

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nonmanga styles and content that avoided “dull historical stories.”23 Lianhuanhua was also treated as serious art and included in fine art publications and major art exhibitions. Some of the original drawings from Li Chen’s You Will Always Be the Most Beloved were taken into the collection of the China National Art Gallery and were awarded multiple national fine art prizes in the first decade of the new millennium, thereby giving official endorsement to this mode of experimentation with the lianhuanhua form.

Politics through Aesthetics in the New “Red Classic” Lianhuanhua The attempts to reinvigorate the indigenous lianhuanhua industry meant that in creating the new “red classic” lianhuanhua, Li Chen had considerable artistic freedom to convey his subject matter in new ways. Unlike earlier artists who simply had to replicate in visual form the texts provided to them, Li produced both text and artwork himself and was thus able, in his own words, to “free himself from the fetters of text.”24 Below I shall discuss the most significant ways in which Li Chen’s aesthetic reworking of the “red classic” stories transforms their mode of functioning as lianhuanhua and as political propaganda and orients them toward an entirely new audience. First, Li Chen’s work brings a transformation of the relationship between text and drawing. In contrast to the traditional lianhuanhua in which text and drawing maintain the fixed format of a large rectangular picture with two to four lines of text running along the length of one side, in Li Chen’s lianhuanhua the space given to each has been radically altered, with artwork spread across a two-page opening, leaving a narrow column on one side in which the text is minimized and confined to a small space at the bottom of the column (see, for example, Fig. 7.4 below). As Wolk observes, “Language conveys time, images convey space. So when there is little text, the reader has to stop and assess what exactly is happening and how long it is supposed to take.”25 In other words, the new format forces readers to focus their attention on the picture, derive their own meanings, and imagine the action that surrounds the particular instant portrayed. Li Chen’s style of intricate sometimes hyperrealist pencil drawings reinforces this effect by providing the reader with an extraordinary amount of fine detail to absorb and derive information from on every page. Most importantly for the functioning of the text as new propaganda, it forces the reader to absorb the extraordinarily expressive emotional dimension of the drawings. Without a single word of the explicit political rhetoric found in the Mao-era lianhuanhua, the tender

23. Ibid. 24. Li, Afterword to Red Sister-in-Law. 25. Douglas Wolk, Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2007), 130.


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Fig. 7.4 Red Sister-in-Law (2008), Plate 3, Red Sister-in-Law tending the wounded soldier.

expression of Red Sister-in-Law and the vulnerability of the young soldier draw the reader into a position of empathy with the characters portrayed. Also unlike the traditional lianhuanhua, text and picture now provide different information, and both are necessary to fully understand the narrative. The panel in Fig. 7.5, for example, would not be comprehensible without the text to inform us that the narrative has jumped from Red Sister-in-Law concealing information from Japanese soldiers to a scene of the villagers bidding farewell to the now-recovered soldier.

Fig. 7.5 Red Sister-in-Law (2008), Plate 6. Villagers bidding farewell to the soldier.

Layout has become more varied and draws on techniques from Japanese manga and Western cartoons, with some panels now split into multiple sections that show a set of related multiple events that take place within a short period of time, so that the visuals convey both a space and time dimension. Other techniques include the visual blending of the “present” and memories, or the overlaying around “the present” of the content of a narrative being related by one character to a group of others. A redesigned relationship between drawing and text forcing new modes of reader reception is therefore a striking and powerful feature of Li Chen’s new “red classics.”

Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua 129

Second, Li’s remade “red classic” lianhuanhua manifest a transformation of the relationship between panels. Scott McCloud refers to the process of imagining the relationship between the image in one panel and the image in the next as “closure.”26 In traditional lianhuanhua the information needed to achieve closure is all contained within the panels themselves, as in the sequence of four panels depicting the fight between Red Sister-in-Law and Diao Gui described earlier: the upright stool in one panel followed by the stool overturned on the floor in the next easily produces the “closure” of visualizing the two combatants knocking over the stool as they struggle. In the Li Chen version of Red Sister-in-Law, however, closure is no longer possible simply by relying on the content provided in the panels themselves. Only with knowledge of the original stories that are being retold can the narrative gaps between successive panels be filled and closure be achieved. Li Chen does not depict Red Sister-in-Law risking her life by hiding the soldier and nursing him back to health or making him soup from her only chicken; rather, the panels jump from her breastfeeding him in the field, to a brief four-word exchange between her and two Japanese soldiers, and then jumps again to the panel depicting the villagers bidding the soldier farewell as he leaves. The effect of this gap in “closure” is to cause a knowledgeable readership (and here that is implicitly assumed) to recall the details of the heroic narratives of the past without having to directly mention them, and to allow those narratives to sit in the background as the story moves on to focus on Red Sister-inLaw’s life of quiet contribution over the subsequent fifty years, thereby creating layers of ideological education operating simultaneously within the narrative. Third, the new works bring a transformation in the style and nature of lianhuanhua artwork and a consequent transformation in the relationship between the reader and the panels. The variety of sources of Li Chen’s aesthetic experimentation with viewpoint and technique evident in the lianhuanhua remakes of the “red classics” under analysis suggest that the artist was seeking ways to expand the limited aesthetic vocabulary of the traditional lianhuanhua, identified as one of the problems responsible for the decline of lianhuanhua in the mid-1980s. Here I will analyze just a few examples of innovative aesthetics to illustrate this variety and explore the way in which they contribute to a more subtle but still powerful medium for ideological persuasion. As Li Chen’s subject matter concerns narratives of wartime heroes, it is not surprising that some of his inspiration might be drawn from the Socialist Realist painting traditions of the 1950s—particularly when we recall that the painter Wang Shenglie was named as having been one of his mentors during the project. Panel 3 from You Will Always Be the Most Beloved shows the compositional influence of Socialist Realist art such as Zhan Jianjun’s 詹建俊 1959 painting of Five Heroes of Mount Langya (Langyashan wu zhuangshi 狼牙山五壯士) (see Fig. 7.6). The 26. McCloud, Understanding Comics.


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lianhuanhua panel displays the powerful triangular structure of the group of men and also adopts the upward angle of vision that conveys the sense of looking up in admiration. Interestingly, in contrast to the sharp topography of the landscape and edgy aggression of the Langya heroes, in the lianhuanhua drawing, the rounded landscape seems to reflect a calm self-confidence expressed in the relaxed but alert postures of the men and their untroubled facial expressions. The combination of techniques from Socialist Realism and more contemporary photo-realism with the air of calm mastery of the soldiers, perhaps reflective of China’s greater sense of confidence in its place in the world, has a powerful allure, promoting a powerful patriotic pride and exerting an implicit ideological educative function on behalf of the army and party.

Fig. 7.6 Top: Five Heroes on Langya Mountain (1959). The tension in the soldiers is reflected in the sharp points of the landscape. Bottom: You Will Always Be the Most Beloved (2008), Plate 3. The relaxed poses of the soldiers are reflected in the rounded shapes of the mountains.

Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua 131

Fig. 7.7 shows Panel 15 of You Will Always Be the Most Beloved. Here the artist foregrounds Li Yu’an, describing his battlefield experience to young members of the PLA, overlaying the room behind them with the scene of shells exploding, the dirt thrown up by one shell spraying over and partly concealing the arm of the young woman seated on the right, conveying the drama and vividness of the old soldier’s narrative, the grimness of his experience belied by the wry smile on his face.

Fig. 7.7 You Will Always Be the Most Beloved (2008), Plate 15. The drawing incorporates both the storyteller and his narrative and shows influence of Japanese manga.

Characterization shows the influence of foreign comic genres, with the face of the young woman in the center displaying the unnaturally large rounded eyes and round face with small pointed chin that is typical of the characters drawn in Japanese shōjo manga.27 The stylized, elegant beautification of the young PLA soldiers listening intently and respectfully to the old war hero projects an attractive image of the army as both professional and personable. Other techniques borrowed from film and Western cartoons or manga are the extreme close-up, montage, fade out, and framing and angle manipulated to create particular emotional responses to the subject matter. The first panel of Red Sisterin-Law, for example, is an extreme close-up of the “real” Red Sister-in-Law, who was a deaf-mute, crouched over a low wall as smoke from a Japanese bombardment drifts across a haystack and stone wall behind her. The closeness and detail of her face, in which can be read a mixture of bewilderment, anxiety, and dogged endurance, thrusts the reader into sharing her emotions and empathizing with her experience. A panel portraying Li Yu’an recalling his fallen comrades functions similarly to evoke a strong emotional identification with the old man. 27. See, for example, the illustrations in Schodt’s chapter on shōjo manga entitled “Flowers and Dreams,” in Frederik L. Schodt, Manga Manga! The World of Japanese Comics (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1983).


Rosemary Roberts

Fig. 7.8 You Will Always Be the Most Beloved (2008), Plate 12. Li Yu’an recalling fallen comrades.

Li Yu’an’s face, shown in close-up so that the head fills the panel from top to bottom, looks up and past the reader, his face expressing a mixture of sorrow and affection and the lingering guilt that he feels as the sole survivor of his company. Behind his head, the shadowy figures of his dead comrades, their faces undefined and their figures incomplete and fading out into a blank white space that fills the bottom of the page, walk toward us as if heading onto the battlefield (See Fig. 7.8). Empathy with the character in the illustration also positions the reader to be receptive to the accompanying edifying text as a model for introspection and emulation: “Li Yu’an had no complaints about his poverty and hardships of the last 40 years. ‘When I think of my comrades who sacrificed their lives, I am content with what I have. . . . The whole company of 100 men died, only I am still alive. If I were to hold out my hand wanting things, I would be letting them down.’” Ironically, the hyperrealism of the lianhuanhua of Li Chen, which is reminiscent of the photo-realism of experimental art of the early 1980s such as Luo Zhongli’s 羅中立 Father,28 can be understood theoretically to cause a loss of reader identification with the characters being portrayed. Wolk argues that realism in comics does not work because it leaves too little to the imagination.29 He quotes Scott McCloud’s observation that simpler, more abstract representations of people are easier for readers to identify with than realistic drawings. Bold, undetailed cartoons of characters, especially if they are contrasted with more realistic-looking settings, make it possible for readers to imagine themselves in the fantasy world of the comic’s narrative.30 The new lianhuanhua with their highly realistic drawings, therefore, unlike early lianhuanhua in their original social context, do not function to draw readers into a fantasy of actually being the characters portrayed. The characters are to be admired and even emulated, 28. For a discussion of Father and its significance as a challenge to Mao-era socialist realist art, see Martina Koppel-Yang, Semiotic Warfare: The Chinese Avant-Garde, 1979–1989; A Semiotic Analysis (Shenzhen: Timezone 8, 2003), 92–103. 29. Wolk, Reading Comics, 122. 30. Ibid., 120.

Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua 133

but the fantasy that the reader might be Red Sister-in-Law or Li Yu’an cannot get off the ground. The positioning of the reader as actually being observed by the characters in some of the plates also reinforces this barrier to identification. In Fig. 7.5, for example, Red Sister-in-Law and the villagers look out of the drawing at the reader as they bid farewell to the soldier they have rescued. The reader is therefore implicitly positioned not as one of the villagers but as one of the soldiers, many of whom went on to administrative jobs and middle-class status in the new regime.31 Implicitly, too, the reader is positioned with the artist, who is clearly highly trained in Western fine art techniques, in other words, one of the educated literati who constituted the upper class of traditional society. Further, the positioning of a cow at the end of the group of villagers, also standing observing the soldier/artist/reader, reinforces this sense of “otherness” and brings to mind Luo Zhongli’s comment on his portrait Father: “Only in front of this huge portrait can I feel this kind of benevolent gaze, resembling that of sheep and cows.”32 The association of the characters portrayed with domestic animals reduces the enticement to the reader to fanaticize that he or she is one of them. All of this lends support to the argument that while the early lianhuanhua can be seen as proposing a relationship and subject position to the reader as “one of the revolutionary masses,” in these new “red classic,” lianhuanhua the reader is no longer one of the masses but observes them from the viewpoint of the establishment, a middle-class bourgeois reader who can appreciate the sophisticated artistry of the new lianhuanhua form, while the peasants are now an “other,” akin to domestic animals, whom readers can regard with some affection but do not identify with. Since readership is no longer positioned to relate to the “red classics” as “one of the masses” and is no longer susceptible to overt ideological molding, other devices in the lianhuanhua come into play to take over the ideological task of reaffirming party and army. These include the insertion of minor details into both the main story and pictures and into the afterword texts. One of the panels, for instance, shows Red Sisterin-Law as an old woman feeding her large flock of chickens. Though the text is silent on the matter, intertextual reference sets up an implicit comparison between the “old days,” when she had a single chicken that she fed to the soldier, and now, when she has more chickens than one can count. Likewise, in the afterword, the author talks of a second soldier rescued by Red Sister-in-Law, who returned to visit her in 1988. Without mentioning the relations between army and people, as is done explicitly in the early lianhuanhua version of Red Sister-in-Law,33 the author observes that Red Sister-in-Law’s children joyfully refer to the soldier as “our eldest brother” (an da ger 31. In fact, in the Afterword to Red Sister-in-Law this is revealed to have been the case with the other soldier saved by Red Sister-in-Law who returned to visit her after retiring in 1988. The implication of “after retiring” being that he held a government position that included provisions for retirement. 32. Quoted in Koppel-Yang, Semiotic Warfare, 95. 33. In Plate 27, Red Sister-in-Law says to the wounded soldier, “Don’t say that [i.e., don’t thank me for saving you]. We are all one family” (women dou shi yijia ren a! 我們都是一家人啊!).


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俺大哥兒). The concept of the army and people as one big family is therefore subtly repeated. This is also reinforced in panels in You Will Always Be the Most Beloved that show Li Yu’an welcomed into the homes of Wei Wei and Yang Dezhi 楊得志, where he is treated as an intimate friend.34 Most powerfully, however, it is the rediscovered “real-life” old Communist proletarian heroes that become vehicles for revalidating the history and reputation of the party and army. These old heroes function to endorse the current regime as a continuation of the same regime they supported in their youth. (That it is the same is reinforced by the appearance of political/military stars of the time here represented by Yang Dezhi and Wei Wei.) The location of real revolutionary heroes “proves” that the revolutionary myths were real: the foundation myths of the party are not myths but reality. And the lifelong unwavering support for the army and party exhibited by these old heroes and their quiet contribution to the nation are an implicit model for emulation by any who now question the moral and political legitimacy of the regime. Ultimately, in the 1990s lianhuanhua remakes of these two “red classics,” the old heroes form a bridge of soft power between the party, army, and the current population.

Bibliography Andrews, Julia F., and Kuiyi Shen. The Art of Modern China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Andrews, Julia F., Jonathan D. Spence, and Kuiyi Shen. A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1998. Barker, Martin. Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1989. Chen, Minjie. “Chinese Lian Huan Hua and Literacy: Popular Culture Meets Youth Literature.” In Perspectives on Teaching and Learning Chinese Literacy in China, edited by C. B. Leung and J. Ruan, 157–81. Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media, 2012. Khaira, Simran Kaur. “The Decline and Revival of Chinese Picture Books.” Unpublished PhD dissertation, Ohio State University, 2012. Koppel-Yang, Martina. Semiotic Warfare: The Chinese Avant-Garde, 1979–1989; A Semiotic Analysis. Shenzhen: Timezone 8, 2003. Lent, John A. “Lianhuanhua.” 9a Arte São Paulo 1, no. 2 (2012): 5–24. Li Chen 李晨. Hong Sao 紅嫂 [Red sister-in-law]. Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 2008. Liu Zhixia 劉知俠. “Hong Sao” 紅嫂. In Yimeng gushi ji 沂蒙故事集. Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1964. McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994. Mittler, Barbara. A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2012. Qiang, Shouyi 強守一. “2000 yuan de lao lianhuanhua Shei shi zui ke’ai de ren” 2000 元的老 連環畫《誰是最可愛的人》[Old picture story book Who are the Most Beloved People?

34. Yang Dezhi was commander of the Chinese Volunteer Army during the Korean War.

Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua 135 on sale for 2000 yuan]. Posted on Tiexue Net,, January 10, 2014. Schodt, Frederik L. Manga Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1983. Shen, Kuiyi. “Lianhuanhua and Manhua: Picture Books and Comics in Old Shanghai.” In Illustrating Asia, edited by John A. Lent, 100–21. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001. Tan, Fengxia. “To Give Chinese Children ‘a Memorable China’: The Trend of Chinese Indigenous Picture Books.” Journal of Cambridge Studies 7, no. 4 (2012): 143–51. Wei Wei 魏巍. “Shui shi zui ke’ai de ren?” 誰是最可愛的人? Renmin ribao 人民日報, April 11, 1951, 1. Wolk, Douglas. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2007.

8 The Cultural Indigenization of a Soviet “Red Classic” Hero Pavel Korchagin’s Journey through Time and Space Frederik H. Green

In 1991, not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I, an adolescent West German, was visiting my uncle in East Berlin. One day, as we were strolling through a Berlin flea market selling postsocialist memorabilia, my uncle fished out a worn paperback from a pile of East German army uniforms and medals, paid the vendor’s asking price, and ceremoniously handed me an East German translation of the Soviet Socialist Realist classic How the Steel Was Tempered (Kak zakalialas’ stal’; 1934, 1936, Steel hereafter) by Nicholai Ostrovskii. “This was one of the most important books of my youth,” he said. Raised on the other side of the Iron Curtain, I had never heard of Pavel Korchagin, the novel’s protagonist. It was not until 1998 that Pavel’s and my paths crossed again when I stumbled on a set of old picture books titled Gangtie shi zenyang liancheng de 鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的 (How the steel was tempered) in another flea market, this time in the heart of Beijing. The books were time worn and had evidently passed through at least as many hands as my East German version. I paid the vendor’s asking price and immediately took to reading them. My second encounter with Steel rekindled my curiosity about this Soviet classic and led me to explore Pavel’s remarkable journey through China’s turbulent revolutionary era and beyond. This chapter traces the history of the reception of this revolutionary classic from its first appearance in China in the late 1930s through the ideology-driven first decades of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) up until the present day. It examines the many roles attributed to its protagonist Pavel Korchagin, from war hero and popular icon of the Mao era, to unlikely role model during the reform period, and, finally, to a symbol of nostalgia in postsocialist China. I will start by chronicling the various stages of Pavel’s career within the context of Communist China’s popular culture and then discuss the transnational character of this Stalin-era bildungsroman. By analyzing the personal reflections of a number of intellectuals of the postrevolutionary period about their encounter with the novel, I argue that the act of reinterpreting Steel allowed these intellectuals to reflect critically on certain aspects of China’s own revolutionary past.

The Cultural Indigenization of a Soviet “Red Classic” Hero 137

Through my discussion of Lu Xuechang’s 路學長 1997 movie Growing Up (Zhangda chengren 長大成人), I will proceed to illustrate how Ostrovskii’s novel was turned by this Sixth Generation filmmaker into a potent critique of postrevolutionary hooligan culture and, finally, explore the symptomatic postsocialist nature of a 1999 remake of the novel for China’s Central Television (CCTV). In conclusion, I will comment on the discursive complexity that this revolutionary novel presents to readers in the twenty-first century and argue that this Soviet import was so thoroughly indigenized that it has become inseparable from Chinese modern popular culture.

The Making of a Hero The thing one prizes most is life. Life comes to us but once, and it should be possible to live one’s life in such a way that looking back one would feel no regret for years lived pointlessly, no shame for a petty worthless past—so that as one died one could say, “All my life and all my strength has been given to the most beautiful thing in the world—the struggle for the freedom of mankind.”1

Undoubtedly the most famous passage from Steel, these words uttered by its protagonist Pavel Korchagin formed the basis for what came to be known in China as the “Pavel Spirit” (Baoer jingshen 保爾精神), a life-affirming devotion to duty and unwavering support of the revolution. Dispirited during his second extended period of convalescence after a number of setbacks, the dying hero Pavel Korchagin (Baoer Kechajin 保爾柯察金 in Chinese translation) urges himself to go on with life and in the process becomes the apotheosis of the selfless hero dedicated to nothing short of the liberation of mankind. The original Steel appeared in two parts, serialized in the magazine Young Guard (Molodaya gvardiya), in 1932 and 1934.2 In 1936, a heavily edited two-part book version came out, which also became the basis for the novel’s countless translations and adaptations. Part I chronicles Pavel’s early life in a poverty-stricken village near the Ukrainian railway town of Shepetovka. It describes Pavel’s expulsion from school and his work as a kitchen hand at a railway buffet and then as a stoker at a power plant. It also traces Pavel’s gradual political awakening, first under the influence of his brother Artem (Aerqing 阿爾青), an upright, though politically ignorant, mechanic in the Shepetovka railway depot, and then under Fiodor Zhoukhraï (Zhu Helai 朱赫來), a Bolshevik activist who becomes Pavel’s lifelong mentor. When Shepetovka is occupied first by German and then by Czarist forces during World War I, Pavel embraces the revolution, first intuitively when he helps Zhoukhraï escape after an arrest, and later consciously when he bonds with the local Bolsheviks after he is 1. Nicolai Ostrovskii, The Making of a Hero, trans. Alec Brown (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1937), 280. 2. Lilya Kaganovsky, “How the Soviet Man Was (Un)Made,” Slavic Review 63, no. 3 (2004): 580–82.


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himself arrested. Pavel then leaves home for Kiev, where he joins the Komsomol, the Communist Youth League, and enlists with the First Cavalry Army Corps to fight in the Russian Civil War. In Part II Pavel proves himself in battle, is badly wounded by shrapnel, and loses an eye. Eager to rejoin the revolutionary ranks after convalescence, Pavel distinguishes himself when the local Komsomol, of which he is now secretary, is dispatched to build a narrow-gauge railroad track to supply the stricken Kiev with firewood for the approaching winter. The line is successfully defended against rebel gangs and completed in time, but Pavel eventually collapses from exhaustion and almost succumbs to typhus. Narrowly escaping death, Pavel, now promoted to leader of the Komsomol, despairs as his health rapidly deteriorates and he finds himself unable to rejoin the ranks of active revolutionaries. Contemplating suicide, he resolves to write down his story to serve as a model for future generations of revolutionaries. The novel ends when Pavel, blind, paralyzed, and on the brink of death, receives word that his biographical novel Children of the Storm has been enthusiastically received by the authorities and is about to be published. Parallel to Pavel’s political growth runs a personal narrative describing his romantic involvement with three different women. While this second narrative line is intricately linked to Pavel’s political trajectory, it is treated differently in the various adaptations and translations. At the beginning of the novel, an intimate friendship develops between young Pavel and Tonya Tumanova (Dongya Tumannuowa 冬妮婭‧杜曼 諾娃), daughter of Shepetovka’s chief forester. While at first Tonya is not deterred by their different class backgrounds and, on one occasion, saves Pavel by hiding him in her parents’ house, the two grow increasingly apart as Pavel’s revolutionary work in the Komsomol and Tonya’s individualism become incompatible. Rita Oustinovich (Lida Wusijinnuoweiqi 麗達‧烏斯金諾維奇), by contrast, is a revolutionary of equal devotion, but Pavel, blaming himself for having foolishly succumbed to his love for Tonya, forsakes their budding relationship and devotes himself wholeheartedly to revolutionary work. Their mutual affection, however, resurfaces at different points in the novel, and it is only because of a misunderstanding—Rita believing that Pavel has died of typhus—that Rita ends up marrying another man. Finally, there is Taya Kützam (Daya Qiuchamu 達雅‧丘查姆), the beautiful daughter of an abusive father whom Pavel marries out of a sense of duty. Taya becomes his companion as he struggles with terminal illness and the completion of his manuscript. Ever since the publication of Steel, there has been a tendency to conflate the author and the novel’s protagonist. Nicholai Ostrovskii (1904–1936) was born in Western Ukraine in 1904, then part of the Russian Empire. Growing up in Shepetovka, Ostrovskii’s youth largely mirrors that of Pavel in Steel. After suffering head and stomach injuries during his time with the First Cavalry Army Corps, he was demobilized in 1920 and began party work the following year. While helping to extend

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a railroad branch near Kiev to collect timber, Ostrovskii fell ill with typhus and rheumatism and became officially disabled in 1922. Despite his rapidly deteriorating health, he continued to work as a propagandist from his hospital bed. In 1928, having lost his vision and suffering from paralysis of both legs and his arms down to the wrists, he began work on Steel. Parts I and II were published to great acclaim in 1932 and 1934, just two years before Ostrovskii died from uremia. Following his death, Ostrovskii’s former residences in Moscow and Sochi were turned into museums. In  addition, hundreds of monuments were erected in honor of both Nicholai Ostrovskii and Pavel Korchagin, as well as streets, squares, airplanes, and ships being named after them.3 Chinese culture in the twentieth century has been profoundly influenced by Russian literature, theater, and cinema.4 If the pioneering translations of Russian fiction by Lu Xun 魯迅 and Zhou Zuoren 周作人, two key figures in the development of modern Chinese literature, met with only limited success, the interest in Russian realist and avant-garde art grew rapidly in the 1920s following the victory of the Russian Revolution.5 Given the central role accorded to Ostrovskii’s novel in the new Socialist Realist canon, it is not surprising that it did not take long for Chinese leftist intellectuals to notice it. The first Chinese translation was based on a Japanese version of only Part I of the novel. Translated by Duan Luofu 段洛夫 and Chen Feihuang 陳非璜 in 1937, it was published in Shanghai by Springtide Publishing (Chaofeng chubanshe 潮鋒出版社). The Japanese translation that served as the basis had been completed in 1936 by Ryokichi Sugimoto 杉本良吉, a Japanese director of experimental and proletarian theater and a member of the Japanese Communist Party.6 More influential, however, was Mei Yi’s 梅益 1942 translation based on Alec Brown’s The Making of a Hero, published in New York in 1937 by E. P. Dutton. From October 3. Ibid., 580–82. 4. See, for example, Mark Gamsa, The Reading of Russian Literature in China: A Moral Example and Manual of Practice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Tina Mai Chen, “Internationalism and Cultural Experience: Soviet Films and Popular Chinese Understandings of the Future in the 1950s,” Cultural Critique 58 (2004): 82–114; Mau-sang Ng, The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1988). 5. Gamsa, Reading of Russian Literature in China, 4. 6. In 1938, Sugimoto and his wife Okada Yoshiko 岡田嘉子, herself a famous actress in Japan, secretly crossed into Russia to meet Vsevolod Meyerhold and to immerse themselves in socialist theater. In 1939, Sugimoto, in what now appears like a cynical negation of the novel’s theme of sacrifice for the building of socialism, fell victim to Stalin’s purges and was executed on charges of espionage. Only one year later, in 1940, Meyerhold met the same fate as Sugimoto, ironically while working on a stage adaption of Steel. Entitled Odna Zhizn’ [A  life], the play was never publicly performed. It was denounced as politically harmful and artistically feeble. Okada was imprisoned during the war years and later remarried. It was not until the 1970s that her and Sugimoto’s story surfaced in Japan. See Hirasawa Yoshihiro 平澤是曠, Ekkyō: Okada Yoshiko, Sugimoto Ryōkichi no dasubitānya 越境:岡田嘉子・杉本良吉のダスビターニャ (Sapporo: Hokkaidō shimbunsha, 2000). For Meyerhold, see Gordon McVay, “Meierkhol’d’s Last Production: Two Letters from Zinaida Raikh to Nikolai Ostrovskii,” Slavonic and East European Review 68, no. 3 (1990): 503–6.


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1949 to December 1952, Miin-Ling Yu writes, People’s Publishing Press (Renmin chubanshe 人民出版社) printed more than 2 million copies, followed by a revised edition with a print run of more than 1 million copies between 1952 and 1966.7 Almost as soon as Mei Yi’s translation began to circulate, stage adaptations of the novel appeared in China. In July 1949, the play Pavel Korchagin (Baoer Kechajin 保爾‧柯察金) was performed in Dalian, ending with Pavel’s iconic vow to struggle for the freedom of mankind, which prompted a reporter from Young China (Zhongguo qingnian 中國青年) to proclaim that the book should become the standard for “all of us members of the Communist Party.”8 In the fall of the following year, the China Youth Art Theater premiered a stage version of Pavel Korchagin in Beijing that would soon become legendary. Directed by Sun Weishi 孫維世, one of China’s first female directors and adopted daughter of Zhou Enlai, it starred the famous stage actor Jin Shan 金山 as Pavel and Jin Shan’s wife Zhang Ruifang 張瑞芳 as Tonya.9 Jin Shan, who was already close to forty and at the height of his career at the time of the play’s premiere, enjoyed tremendous success. Not only did performances run in theaters for months, but Jin Shan also gave lectures on Pavel’s life to young audiences who came to identify Jin Shan with Pavel Korchagin. If Pavel’s innocent relationship with Tonya, which to many audience members seemed too beautiful to be terminated by politics, had fallen victim to unbridgeable class differences, Jin Shan’s own relationship to Zhang Ruifang began to deteriorate as Jin Shan and Sun Weishi fell in love. This gave audiences even more reasons to conflate Jin Shan and Pavel.10 Jin Shan brought to life a character that had been envisioned as a new type of citizen. Epitomizing the Socialist Realist hero, who, in Lilya Kaganovsky’s words, embodies the triumph of ideology over materiality and nature,11 Pavel Korchagin appeared at an opportune moment. In 1934, at the First Congress of Soviet Writers during the portentous “Debate on Socialist Realism and Modernism,” it was decreed that Socialist Realism was to be the official doctrine of Soviet art and that the future belonged to international revolutionary literature, “for it is linked up with the struggle

7. Miin-ling Yu, “A Soviet Hero, Pavel Korchagin, Comes to China,” Russian History/Histoire Russe 29, nos. 2–4 (2002): 337. 8. Lu Zhi 魯直, “Baoer jiaoyule women: Yige gongchandangyuan yinggai shi zenyang de ren” 保爾教育了我 們:一個共產黨員應該是怎樣的人 [Pavel has educated us: What kind of person a Communist should be], Zhongguo qingnian 20, no. 9 (1949): 8. 9. Xian Jihua 冼濟華 and Zhao Yunsheng 趙雲聲, Huaju huangdi: Jin Shan zhuan 話劇皇帝:金山傳 [King of drama: Jin Shan’s biography] (Beijing: Xinhuan shudian, 1987), 194–201. 10. While Jin Shan succeeded on the stage in his impersonation of Pavel as a selfless revolutionary, his personal life was unexemplary by Socialist Realist standards. When sent to Korea for a movie shoot in the 1950s, he struck up a romantic relationship with a personal secretary of Kim Il Sung. When found out, Jin Shan’s party membership was revoked and he was demoted to factory work. Ibid. 11. Kaganovsky, “How the Soviet Man Was (Un)Made,” 578–82.

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of the working class for the liberation of all mankind.”12 Socialist Realist literature was to promote the cause of socialism and to represent reality in its revolutionary development, favoring the collective over the individual. In fiction and film, Socialist Realism was intended as a form of popular culture with didactic functions promoting political consciousness. It was to serve as a repository of state myths and patristic texts. In effect, Ostrovskii’s novel Steel became precisely such a text. The doctrine of Socialist Realism was introduced to China in a 1933 essay by Zhou Yang 周揚 entitled “On ‘Socialist Realism and Revolutionary Romanticism’— the Negation of the Dialectic-Materialist Method of Creation,” where he stated that “there can be no doubt that the proclamation of socialist realism is a development towards a higher stage in literary theory.”13 In 1942, by calling on literature and art to serve revolutionary goals and the advancement of socialism, Mao Zedong famously called for its implementation in China at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art, even though he did not use the exact term Socialist Realism. A decade later, Zhou Yang, by then deputy head of the Propaganda Department of the CCP, praised the artistic results of its implementation in the USSR and China as the “highest pinnacle of human literature and art.”14 The creation of a popular literary culture that could lead Chinese readers toward political consciousness had been of great concern to progressive intellectuals since at least the 1920s. Lu Xun was the first Chinese writer to adopt and promote belief in human agency, which he harnessed, as Peter Button argues, through the invention of the “type” (dianxing 典型) in Chinese literature. The concept of type subsequently became a core principle of the Chinese Socialist Realist canon.15 If for Lu Xun, bildung above all led to awakening an individual to the realization of human essence, revolutionary bildung described an individual’s evolution toward political consciousness. Pavel Korchagin, in his evolution from spontaneous daredevil to disciplined revolutionary, presented such a type, and Steel was consequently endorsed by the CCP’s cultural agencies as the sourcebook for political bildung and personal growth in the first years of the PRC.16

12. Andreĭ Aleksandrovich Zhdanov, Soviet Writers’ Congress, 1934: The Debate on Socialist Realism and Modernism, trans. and ed. H. G. Scott (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1977), 271–90. 13. Lorenz Bichler, “Coming to Terms with a Term: Notes on the History of the Use of Socialist Realism in China,” in In the Party Spirit: Socialist Realism in the Soviet Union, East-Germany and China, ed. Hilary Chung (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996), 30–43. 14. Richard King, Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism, 1945–80 (Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2013), 47. 15. Peter Button, Configurations of the Real in Chinese Literary and Aesthetic Modernity (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 85–105. 16. He Donghui, “Coming of Age in the Brave New World: The Changing Reception of the Soviet Novel, How the Steel Was Tempered, in the People’s Republic of China,” in China Learns from the Soviet Union, 1949–Present, ed. Hua-Yu Li (New York: Lexington Books, 2010), 393–421.


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In 1951, Shanghai Film Studies released a film version of Steel that had been produced in the Soviet Union in 1942. Directed by Mark Donskoy, the film, like many other Soviet movies produced during World War II, emphasized the theme of national struggle against foreign aggression and foregrounded Pavel’s fight against the German occupiers of Ukraine during World War I. The distribution of the movie in China was motivated by the need for propaganda during the Aiding Korea Movement, which built on anti-imperialist sentiments. Donskoy’s film was soon followed by another Soviet production from 1956, released in China the following year. Directed by Aleksandr Alov, the movie Pavel Korchagin was widely distributed in Eastern Europe and China and quickly gained cult status. It was in large part due to this movie that Pavel became the epitome of a revolutionary hero in China.17 Compared to Donskoy’s film, Alov’s production forwent the patriotic theme, emphasizing instead Pavel’s heroism in the Civil War and during the construction of the narrow-gauge railway. Furthermore, while Tonya is developed as a central character in the earlier movie, her political shortcomings are highlighted in Alov’s version, where her relationship with Pavel ends after Tonya falls victim to class prejudice. Her unselfish loyalty, which is part of the original novel, is reduced in Alov’s movie to childish avowals of friendship. Pavel’s and Rita’s tragically unfulfilled love, on the contrary, takes center stage in Alov’s adaptation. Pavel’s marriage to Taya is absent from both movie versions. Instead of following the chronology of Pavel’s growth toward political maturity, Alov’s film version begins with a depiction of the paralyzed Pavel agonizing over the loss of his manuscript (Ostrovskii’s original manuscript had indeed been lost in the mail, a detail that is also embedded into the novel). Instead of giving in to despair, however, Pavel forces himself to recall the events of his life once more. They are subsequently presented through a series of flashbacks, giving rise to a new manuscript at the end of the movie. His struggle thus begins all over again, as it were, when the film ends, purposefully reminding the audience of the perpetual nature of Marxist dialectics. The final scene also emphasizes the conflation of author and protagonist that occurred following Ostrovskii’s death. Pavel, reinvigorated, speaks into the camera, urging the audience never to believe that Pavel Korchagin had died or given up his fight. A visit by Ostrovskii’s widow to China in 1957 further cemented this conflation of the two personas. Speaking to a crowd of 1,300 young adults in Beijing, Raisa Ostrovskaya told them that only recently, in Ukraine, she had met with Tonya, whose real name was Lyuba (Liuba 柳芭) and whose “life and work were both going well.”18 17. In order to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Russian October Revolution, the movie was publicly screened in twenty-nine Chinese cities and hundreds of projection crews were sent to the countryside to show the movie. Yu, “Soviet Hero, Pavel Korchagin, Comes to China,” 337. 18. “Aositeluofusiji de furen tong Beijing qingnian jianmian” 奧斯特洛夫斯基的夫人同北京青年見面 [Ostrovskii’s wife meeting with Beijing youths], Renmin ribao 人民日報 [People’s Daily], January 21, 1957.

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Pavel’s brother, likewise, was reported to live in Moscow and to be just as “strongwilled and full of vigour as described in the novel, dedicating his strength to the building of Communism in his homeland.”19 In effect, the Chinese popular imagination merged a fictional text with a historical narrative, thus finding tangible meaning in the complexities of Marxist dialectics. This had been common practice for Chinese leftist writers of reportage, or baogao wenxue 報告文學, since at least the early 1930s, when historical events were deliberately fictionalized to place emphasis on the moral aspects of historical experience. As Charles Laughlin observes, by affirming its bias for the perspective of workers and peasants, Chinese reportage privileged the literary construction of social space and historical events over character and narrative development, thereby launching an attack on individualism and revealing fundamental historical truths.20 Pavel’s reception in China from the very beginning was similarly characterized by a deliberate blurring of fact and fiction (if in reverse) in an attempt to give concrete meaning to the abstract concepts of class struggle and the inevitability of world revolution. Alov’s movie played an important role in making Baoer Kechajin, that is, Pavel, the best-known role model of foreign origin in revolutionary China in the 1950s,21 but it was thanks to a two-volume black-and-white picture book adaptation that Pavel’s popularity gained unprecedented heights. Adapted by Wang Su 王素 and illustrated by Yi Jin 毅進, the set was published in 1959 and 1963 by People’s Arts Press. The adaptation seems to have taken cues from Alov’s movie version, emphasizing Pavel’s political awakening and revolutionary heroism during the Civil War and the building of the railway. While Pavel’s budding relationship with Tonya is tangentially introduced in Volume 1, it is not developed further and lacks the psychological complexity found in Ostrovskii’s novel. Moreover, Pavel’s relationship with Rita is entirely absent from the picture book, as is Pavel’s marriage to Taya. Despite the considerable abridgement of the original novel, it is through this widely available picture book that most young readers first learned of Pavel. Liu Xiaofeng, in an essay published in Dushu 讀書 in 1994 and discussed below, admits that his first encounter with Pavel dates to 1965 when he had fallen in love with the picture books, and only later did his mother introduce him to Mei Yi’s Chinese translation.22 In light of the deterioration of Sino-Soviet relations in the late 1950s, it would seem surprising that Pavel’s legacy survived in China, yet when in 1961 the ideological differences between Mao and Khrushchev over the correct interpretation of 19. Ibid. 20. Charles Laughlin, Chinese Reportage: The Aesthetics of Historical Experience (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 1–36. 21. Chen, “Internationalism and Cultural Experience,” 102. See also Rudolf Wagner, “Life as a Quote from a Foreign Book: Love, Pavel, and Rita,” in Das andere China, ed. Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer and Wolfgang Bauer (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1995), 463–76. 22. Liu Xiaofeng 劉小楓, “Jilian Dongniya” 記戀冬妮婭 [“Recalling loving Tonya”], Dushu 讀書 6 (1994): 84.


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Marxism led the CCP to formally denounce Soviet-style Communism as revisionist, Pavel was spared, as it were, political prosecution. On the contrary, the Communist Youth League, the Chinese equivalent of the Komsomol, at its ninth congress in 1964 severely denounced Soviet revisionism and called for the upholding of the Pavel Spirit in China.23 Hu Yaobang 胡耀邦, the Communist Youth League’s general secretary at the time, charged the secretary of the Komsomol with encouraging petty individualism and its members with believing that “the era of Pavel Korchagin has already passed” and that “the self-sacrificing spirit of ascetic revolutionaries is excessive and outdated.” This, Hu concluded, was “the utmost insult to youthful Soviet heroes such as Pavel Korchagin, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya or Alexander Matrosov.”24 The negation of the glorious revolutionary tradition of the Soviet people by today’s revisionists, he continued, was equal to “the pursuit of the bourgeois tenet once so bitterly attacked by Lenin himself: ‘every man for himself, God for us all.’”25 It was therefore believed that it was up to Chinese youth to uphold the Pavel Spirit which had been forsaken by the Soviet Union. When the Cultural Revolution erupted in 1966 and virtually all foreign cultural products were denounced, Pavel, the indomitable hero, continued to weather the political storms that blew over China, and Steel remained one of the few works readily available. In fact, the Gang of Four repeatedly ordered the publication of the novel, despite the prosecution of its translator Mei Yi, and the picture book adaptation continued to be widely circulated.26 One of the reasons for this may be found in a new preface to the revised 1972 picture book edition. Praising the success of the October Revolution and the establishment of the world’s first socialist state ruled by the dictatorship of the proletariat, the preface asserts that reading Steel will illustrate that, despite the revisionists’ kidnapping of the Soviet state, “the great Soviet people cannot be insulted.” It concludes with Mao’s assurance that revisionism in the Soviet Union or elsewhere “will not persist.”27 Once more, it was up to the Chinese people to save the lifework of Pavel in the face of international revisionism. Officially, Pavel 23. Yu, “A Soviet Hero, Pavel Korchagin, Comes to China,” 343. 24. Hu Yaobang 胡耀邦, “Wei woguo qingnian geminghua er douzheng” 為我國青年革命化而鬥爭 [“Struggling to revolutionize the youth of our country”], Renmin ribao, July 7, 1964, 2. Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya (1923– 1941) was a partisan during World War II who was captured and later killed by the German Wehrmacht. Her heroic deeds and her death-defying bravery were celebrated in movies, articles, street names, and organizations, and even a mountain and a planet were named after her. Alexander Matrosov (1924–1943) was a Soviet World War II soldier who, by using his body to obstruct a German machine gun, allowed his unit to successfully attack a German position. Matrosov was likewise celebrated in movies, and his sacrifice allegedly inspired the Chinese soldier Huang Jiguang to perform a similar deed during the Korean War. What is interesting is that Pavel here is listed alongside real-life heroes, once more illustrating the Chinese conflation of Ostrovskii and his fictitious hero. 25. Ibid. 26. He, “Coming of Age in the Brave New World,” 413. 27. Nikolai Ostrovskii, Gangtie shi zenyang lianchengde, shang & xia 鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的, 上 & 下 [The making of steel, vols. 1 & 2], illustr. Yi Jin 毅進 and ed. Wang Su 王素 (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1972), ii–iii.

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Korchagin remained a political role model, epitomizing selfless devotion to the people and the cause of revolution. Moreover, Pavel emerged from the Cultural Revolution unscathed, ready to instill the following epoch with his revolutionary fervor. In the 1976 movie A New Generation (Nianqing yidai 年輕一代), about a team of young geologists working in Qinghai, there is a reference to Pavel Korchagin’s self-sacrifice when a team member led astray by selfish individualist thinking is brought back into the collectivist fold. During the decade following the Cultural Revolution, however, some of Pavel’s former admirers began to reflect critically on their youthful embrace of the Pavel Spirit, and a considerable number of essays appeared typically prefixed “Re-reading Steel” (“Chongdu Gangtie shi zenyang liancheng de” 重讀《鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的》). One of the first of these came out in 1983 and was authored by Mu Qing 木青, then chairman of the Liaoning Province Writers’ Association. When a group of young writers expressed their incredulity about the value of Ostrovskii’s work in contemporary circumstances, insisting that “the times have changed, and the idols people look up are no longer the same,” Mu Qing asked himself what lessons Steel still offered its readers.28 His own decision to become a writer, he reflected, was born out of his admiration for Pavel and for Nikolai Ostrovskii, while the realism (xianshizhuyi 現實主義) of Steel made the novel “a textbook for life, and a textbook for artistic expression.”29 Pavel, he concluded, would forever inspire readers to devote themselves to their ideals. It is worth noting, however, that Pavel’s influence was no longer linked to revolutionary but rather to broadly interpreted humanist ideals. For Mu Qing and many others, it was now the courage to make individual choices and find personal fulfillment that characterized the Pavel Spirit. At the same time, critics began to focus on the novel’s secondary narrative line, namely Pavel’s relationships with Tonya, Rita, and Taya. Pavel’s romantic experiences had always drawn Chinese audiences to the novel, but they had been marginalized in earlier adaptations in favor of the revolutionary narrative. Pavel’s relationship to Tonya in particular, a member of the bourgeoisie, had been deemed highly problematic. From the start the Russian original had been prefaced by a note from the chairman of the Central Executive Committee, G. Petrovsky, which also prefaced Chinese translations until at least the early 1980s: “Pavel,” he decreed, “committed a mistake by falling in love with a young woman, a young woman who had not severed her relations with the non-proletarian class.” However, even though he fell in love with Tonya, Petrovsky continues, Pavel “eventually abandoned this kind of love and

28. Mu Qing 木青, “Chongdu Gangtie shi zenyang liancheng de yinqide lianxiang” 重讀《鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的》 引起的聯想 [Associations evoked after rereading How the steel was made], Mingzuo xinshang 名作欣賞 3 (1983): 116. 29. Mu, “Chongdu,” 117.


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sacrificed body and mind to the socialist struggle.”30 The intensity of Pavel’s infatuation and Tonya’s loyalty to Pavel were downplayed in most Chinese adaptations, yet the original novel, as well as Donskoy’s and Alov’s films, offered Chinese readers and audiences glimpses of a romance that was both spiritual and physical. Despite the puritanism imposed by cultural functionaries during the first three decades of the PRC, Tonya’s and, to a lesser degree, Rita’s romantic involvement with Pavel continued to excite audiences.31 Liu Xiaofeng, in his essay “Recalling Loving Tonya,” tries to explore systematically the question he had asked himself when he first encountered the novel in the 1960s: “What is the role of love in Steel? What is the relationship between love and revolution?”32 Liu recalls that as the Cultural Revolution was getting under way and slogans denouncing “the capitalist class” resounded everywhere, he was trying to reconcile the novel with the increasingly brutal reality in the streets. How was it possible that the love of a girl like Tonya who was a member of the capitalist class was capable of arousing the emotions of a proletarian like Pavel? Why did she not follow Pavel on the road to revolution after she had vowed never to leave him? After witnessing the brutal and often irrational events of the Cultural Revolution, Liu claims to have intuitively realized that it was Tonya who, by way of her unwavering devotion to Pavel, deserved far greater respect than did the protagonist, whose love for her hinged on her renunciation of her origins, values, and individuality. Liu ends his essay by renouncing the Pavel Spirit and making a plea to return to the great humanistic tradition of European literature. “Following the unprecedented events of the Cultural Revolution,” he writes, “I never again read Steel. Pavel’s image has grown faint while Tonya’s image has stayed in my mind, fresh and fragrant like spring rain. . . . I went to search for the books that she would have read: Les Misérables, Injury and Insult, White Nights, The House with the Mezzanine or Carmen.”33

The Postrevolutionary Pavel Liu’s implicit prediction that Steel no longer held any meaningful lessons for young readers looking for guidance in a rapidly changing China, however, was premature. 30. Nikolai Ostrovskii, Gangtie shi zenyang lianchengde 鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的, trans. Mei Yi 梅益 (Hong Kong: Sanlian shudian, 1972), 10. 31. A particularly memorable and much quoted scene occurs at the end of chapter when Pavel spends the night in Tonya’s room before leaving by train the next day to avoid arrest. In Alec Brown’s translation, it reads: What can be nearer and dearer than the arms of one’s love round one’s neck and a kiss which thrills like an electric shock! In all their friendship this was the second kiss. . . . This girl who had come his way was an immense delight. He could smell her hair and seemed to see her eyes in the dark. He said: “Tonia, I love you very much—I don’t know how to tell you.” (Ostrovskii, Making of a Hero, 151–52) 32. Liu, “Jilian Dongniya,” 85. 33. Ibid., 92.

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While the production of literature and film in the 1990s became increasingly market driven and adapted to the emerging consumerist culture,34 the legacy of four decades of Socialist Realism and the almost uninterrupted presence of Pavel in the lives of the citizens of the PRC meant that Ostrovskii’s hero would remain an important model for emulation. Paul Clark argues that the commodification of revolutionary culture in postsocialist China—from restaurants themed in the style of collective dining halls to new productions of Cultural Revolution operas—resulted, in fact, from the ideological commodification of culture during the 1960s, when revolutionary heroes and the PRC’s founding myths were constantly referenced and reproduced.35 However, the adherence to such seemingly anachronistic texts can also be interpreted, as Huang Yibing argues, as symptomatic of a generation not entirely at ease with an uncertain present that replaced a past that was guided by a set of clearly defined codes of conduct. In his analysis of song lyrics by Cui Jian, the father of Chinese rock music and one of the most prominent avant-garde artists of the 1980s and 1990s, Huang argues that Cui Jian’s references to Communist iconography and state myths, such as the red cloth, the red flag, or the Long March, are far more complex than being just blasphemous wordplays, as some critics have implied. Cui Jian and his audience, Huang concludes, struggle to find their identity in a quasicapitalist, postsocialist, and postrevolutionary society that lacks a universally shared set of values.36 It is against this background that we need to read one of the most interesting adaptations of Ostrovskii’s novels in China, the 1997 film Zhangda chengren 長大成人 (Growing up) by Chinese Sixth Generation film maker Lu Xuechang 路學長.37 Since their emergence in the 1990s, Sixth Generation filmmakers have been chronicling the lives of China’s youth who came of age in a postrevolutionary era and were caught up in the tangled web of rapid market reforms and unwavering state control. As selfproclaimed spokespeople of a generation in transition, these filmmakers, through their exploration of the contemporary urban social fabric, often express the feeling of unease in a present perched precariously between a dubious revolutionary past and an uncertain capitalist future. In the broadest sense, Lu’s narrative is a coming-of-age 34. Jason McGrath, Postsocialist Modernity: Chinese Cinema, Literature, and Criticism in the Market Age (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2008), 59–62. 35. Paul Clark, The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 4. 36. Yibing Huang, Contemporary Chinese Literature: From the Cultural Revolution to the Future (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 13. 37. The Sixth Generation is a loose term for filmmakers who graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in the summer of 1989 or shortly after. It includes Wang Xiaoshuai 王小帥, Jia Zhangke 賈樟柯, Lou Ye 婁燁, and Zhang Yuan 張元, among others. It is by way of their pronounced neorealism along with their distinctly individualistic and “antiromantic” approach to social issues that Sixth Generation filmmakers came to perceive themselves as markedly different from the Fifth Generation, which had gained international renown thanks to their sensuous explorations of Chinese national myths and legends throughout the 1980s. Yingjin Zhang, “My Camera Doesn’t Lie? Truth, Subjectivity, and Audience in Chinese Independent Film and Video,” in From Underground to Independent: Alternative Film Culture in Contemporary China, ed. Paul Pickowicz and Yingjin Zhang (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 25–26.


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story in which the protagonist Zhou Qing tries to find meaning in the rapidly changing urban environment of 1990s Beijing. Closer analysis, however, reveals a more complex negotiation of China’s postsocialist reality. Lu had wanted to call the movie Gangtie shi zenyang lianchengde (How the Steel Is Tempered), but the censors insisted that he change the title to the more neutral Growing Up. In fact, according to Lu’s own account, the movie had to undergo eleven revisions over a period of two years before finally being released.38 Nevertheless, direct references to and parallels with Ostrovskii’s novel still abound. The opening scene shows Zhou Qing chancing upon a copy of the first volume of the picture book version of Steel. The movie then recounts Zhou Qing’s early youth and his unrequited love for Fu Shaoyin, the girlfriend of the local thug Ji Wen; his early endeavors as a guitarist in a band; and his apprenticeship at a railway depot where he befriends an engineer whom he starts calling Zhu Helai, because of his striking resemblance with Zhoukhraï in the picture book. Zhu Helai protects Zhou Qing against an abusive supervisor, teaches him how to box, and becomes his spiritual mentor.39 When Zhou Qing is hit by a truck, Zhu Helai donates bone marrow to save Zhou Qing from becoming paralyzed, but then disappears without a trace. At this point, a temporal break occurs, and the story resumes in Beijing of the 1990s where Zhou Qing has returned after spending several years in Berlin. In the transformed modern city, he encounters equally transformed acquaintances from his early youth: his childhood friend Mo Er has become a drug addict, Ji Wen, his former archenemy, is now a ruthless manager, and Fu Shaoyin, his former love interest, runs a diamond store for a shady Hong Kong businessman. The only character maintaining a degree of decency is Zhou Qing, who draws inspiration from his absent mentor Zhu Helai. His former friends, however, accuse him of “acting like a hero of former days” when he attempts to mitigate the depravity surrounding him. The only person who acknowledges his decency is the “Girl from Lanzhou,” a lonely drifter whom Zhou Qing helps to get back on her feet. Finally, Zhou Qing learns that Zhu Helai has been stabbed and blinded while attempting to rescue a young woman. After identifying the culprit, Zhou Qing decides to avenge 38. Cheng Qingsong 程青松 and Huang Ou 黃鷗, Wo de sheyingji bu sahuang: Xianfeng dianyingren dang’an— sheng yu 1960–1970 我的攝影機不撒謊:先鋒電影人檔案——生於 1961–1970 [My camera does not lie: Records of avant-garde filmmakers born in the 1960–1970] (Jinan: Shandong huabao chubanshe, 2010), 78–81. Many Sixth Generation filmmakers (at least in the early stages of their careers in the 1990s) produced movies outside the established Chinese studio and distribution system, which meant that they were shown almost exclusively at international festivals. Lu Xuechang, however, in an attempt to reach the greatest possible (i.e., Chinese) audience, chose to release Growing Up commercially in China, which meant that it needed to receive approval from the censors. 39. The mentor-disciple relationship between Zhou Qing and Zhu Helai that hearkens back to the original novel also mirrors Lu Xuechang’s relationship with his mentor Tian Zhuangzhuang, a Fifth Generation filmmaker, who assisted Lu in the making of Growing Up and played the role of Zhu Helai. Bérénice Reynaud, Nouvelles Chines, Nouveaux Cinemas (Paris: Editions Cahiers du cinéma, 1999), 88–90.

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Zhu Helai and in a sudden turn of events stabs out the offender’s eyes. After this unexpected outburst of violence, however, Zhou Qing’s voice-over informs the audience that in actual fact the offender was arrested by the police and put on trial while Zhou Qing and the “Girl from Lanzhou” set out on a train journey to meet Zhu Helai. It is not entirely clear whether Lu Xuechang wanted his audience to continue drawing parallels between the movie and the original novel. Which of Pavel’s three girlfriends is the “Girl from Lanzhou” meant to embody? Is Zhou Qing’s exile in Germany, where drug abuse almost kills him, meant to evoke Pavel’s ordeal while toiling on the narrow-gauge railway? While Lu Xuechang was reportedly dismayed by audiences’ inability to make sense of the movie,40 it would be unusual for a Sixth Generation filmmaker to entirely deprive the audience of interpretative freedom. The fact that in the opening scenes of the film Zhou Qing finds only the first part of the picture book-version of Steel and never manages to locate the second, suggests that Lu had not intended the movie to be unambiguous. While Zhu Helai gives moral guidance to Zhou Qing, he does not provide him with a versatile ideology, as Zhoukhraï does in Steel. His spiritual guidance helps Zhou Qing to “grow up,”41 but Zhu Helai does not relieve him of the difficulty of making personal choices that extend beyond ideology. One of these choices concerns renunciation of the kind of violence to which Zhou Qing resorts in his daydream, when he brutally avenges Zhu Helai, yet to which others in Growing Up frequently resort in real life. The violence that characterizes much of the movie echoes the irrational violence that Liu Xiaofeng had observed during the Cultural Revolution. Liu seems to imply that revolutionary classics like Steel provide examples of such brutality, buttressed by the rhetoric of the historical inevitability of class struggle, which justified violence against “enemies of the people.” Once sanctioned by the discourse of revolution, this violence survived into the period of nascent capitalism in China in the 1980s and 1990s and was described by Yibing Huang as the “master mentality of the heirs of the Cultural Revolution.”42 Explored in particular in the fiction of “hooligan” writer Wang Shuo, the literary counterpart to the Sixth Generation, this master mentality is also characterized by an opportunistic indulgence in crooked economic schemes and in womanizing, in response, as it were, to the historical bankruptcy of ideological purism. More than a servile adaptation of Ostrovskii’s novel or a straightforward comingof-age story, Lu’s Growing Up functions as a social critique of the kind of postrevolutionary hooliganism that has been fictionalized by Wang Shuo but that could also be 40. Cheng, Wo de sheyingji bu sahuang, 79. 41. Jinhua Dai reaches the opposite conclusion, arguing that because the two never meet during the movie, the main character cannot “grow up,” negating the actual didacticism of Ostrovskii’s novel. Jinhua Dai, “Rewriting the ‘Red Classics,’” in Rethinking Chinese Popular Culture: Cannibalizations of the Canon, ed. Carlos Rojas (London: Routledge, 2011), 151–67. 42. Huang, Contemporary Chinese Literature, 69–72.


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observed in real life among young urban entrepreneurs in the 1980s and 1990s. Lu is careful not to glorify the revolutionary heroes of the past: Zhou Qing and Zhu Helai are portrayed as ordinary citizens who only try to articulate a sense of moral decency and humanism. While Pavel epitomizes high Stalinist culture that glorified such revolutionary virtues as an indomitable fighting spirit and acute class awareness, Zhou Qing is able to abstain from the kind of hooliganism that characterizes many of his friends. He draws inspiration from a literary work that had in fact, as Liu Xiaofeng argued, the potential for that very hooliganism but that also taught the reader a lesson in humanism, albeit indirectly. If Lu Xuechang’s Growing Up can be understood as a critical investigation of Ostrovskii’s novel and a social commentary on Chinese society at a turning point in its modern history, the airing of a twenty-part TV series titled Steel on CCTV in 1999 should be regarded instead as symptomatic of today’s popular consumption patterns vis-à-vis China’s revolutionary past. Adapted by Liang Xiaosheng 梁曉聲, directed by Han Gang 韓剛, and jointly produced by CCTV and the Propaganda Section of the Shenzhen City Party Committee, the Steel TV serial was a remarkable production in many ways. Heralded by CCTV as the first production in which a Chinese director worked with a foreign cast—the filming was done in Ukraine with more than sixty Ukrainian actors—and a Chinese screenwriter rewrote a foreign work, CCTV claimed that it signaled “Chinese TV drama’s entry onto the world stage.”43 While the plot is largely based on Ostrovskii’s novel, several important revisions stand out. Most obvious was the centrality given to Pavel and Tonya, whose ill-fated love always fascinated Chinese audiences, even at the time when the puritan political climate strictly proscribed indulgence in romance. In a heart-wrenching scene at the end of the last episode, Pavel, now blind and on the verge of death, meets Tonya, whom he clearly has never stopped loving. Tonya reciprocates his feelings and reveals how much she always admired his larger-than-life resolve and ambition. As the two take leave of each other, she calls out to her little son, whom she has named Pavel. The TV show does not follow the strict chronology of the novel but proceeds in a series of flashbacks attributable to Pavel, who is staying in a sanatorium.44 Each of his reminiscences is tinged by soft sepia hues, evoking the bygone revolutionary era. Partisans bonding around campfires, dance parties in period dress, steam engines at full steam. In its romanticized depiction of a bygone era, Han Gang’s TV drama responded to a popular fascination with revolutionary nostalgia, which around the

43. CCTV, “China and Ukraine Remake Soviet-Era Classic How the Steel Was Tempered,” accessed on September 27, 2014. 44. Note that this is in principle the same narrative technique that Alov employed. However, while Alov’s movie is presented as one continuous flashback that ends where it started, emphasizing the perpetual nature of class struggle, Han Gang’s TV series not only distorts the original novel’s chronology but the shifts between past and present create an almost unbridgeable temporal distance.

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end of the millennium had become in Dai Jinhua’s words, “one of the most marketable cultural commodities” in China.45 Nostalgia here has little in common with the restorative or reflective potential that Svetlana Boym describes in her seminal study of nostalgia in post-Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe.46 What distinguishes China from Russia and Eastern Europe is, of course, the fact that in postsocialist China the revolutionary and socialist past has not been completely eroded or replaced. Instead, as Yu Haiqing argues, the postsocialist condition implicates the residual forces of the past (socialism) in the emerging forces of the present (capitalism) as China’s reinvents itself under new historical conditions.47 Yet while the Chinese state no longer exclusively asserts its discursive hegemony through doctrinal orthodoxy, the celebration of state myths is still an important part of officially sponsored cinema and TV in postsocialist China. The way statesponsored productions, such as Han Gang’s adaptation of Steel, differ from statesponsored propaganda of the prereform era, however, is that in a partly deregulated and increasingly competitive marketplace, new productions are expected to succeed at the box office or with TV audiences, even at the expense of doctrinal orthodoxy or historical accuracy. As a result, officially sanctioned TV series or feature films, usually referred to as leitmotif films (zhuxuanlü dianying 主旋律電影), tend to combine political didacticism and a celebration of state myths with Hollywood-style entertainment. These productions then tend to be front-runners for the major national film awards, such as the Huabiao Awards, Golden Rooster Awards, or Hundred Flowers Awards. Nomination not only results in monetary awards but also guaranteed boxoffice revenues: not only does the resulting media coverage increase these productions’ visibility in the marketplace, but work units or school classes are often taken to see these films for the purpose of political education.48 In both 2000 and 2001, Han Gang’s TV series won the Flying Goddess Award and the Golden Eagle Award, the two main national awards of the Chinese television industry. Even if, as Miin-Ling Yu has illustrated, Han’s TV series was mostly consumed by middle-aged audiences and largely failed to excite young viewers,49 it continues to elicit public debate on social media sites like Douban 豆瓣, the popular Chinese network service that allows users to rank and comment on movies and other forms

45. Jinhua Dai, “Imagined Nostalgia,” in Postmodernism and China, ed. Arif Dirlik and Xudong Zhang (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 206. 46. Restorative nostalgia, which proposes to rebuild a lost home and to patch up memory gaps, is described by Boym as a desire for a return to the prelapsarian moment and mingles with nationalism, while reflective nostalgia problematizes individual and cultural memory and the imperfect process of remembrance. Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001), chapters 4, 5, and 6. 47. Haiqing Yu, Media and Cultural Transformation in China (London: Routledge, 2011), 6. 48. Frederik Green, “The Sky Is the Limit: Feng Xiaoning’s Leitmotif Cinema, Chinese Soft Power and Ideological Fantasy,” Journal of East Asian Popular Culture 1, no. 3 (2015): 341–58. 49. Yu, “A Soviet Hero, Pavel Korchagin, Comes to China,” 352.


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of entertainment.50 Furthermore, the figure of Pavel Korchagin lives on in contemporary Chinese book publishing. In 2014, well over fifty different editions were available on Amazon’s Chinese site. They included the two original translations and half a dozen new renderings. There were editions with illustrations in different styles: comic book style, propaganda poster style, lithography style like the 1959 picture book, and realist painting style. There were primary school editions, a middle school edition, and young adult editions, as well as editions with added pinyin romanization for preschoolers. Different degrees of editing are evident in different versions, some leaving out passages that might seem unfit for certain audiences, such as Pavel and Tonya’s embrace, while others emphasize precisely this aspect through evocative cover illustrations. In addition, new prefaces by editors, educators, and writers highlight different merits of the book in its multiple reincarnations. Pavel’s famous monologue on the struggle for the freedom of mankind quoted earlier is, however, invariably included in all editions. Over a period of almost eighty years, the figure of Pavel Korchagin has been thoroughly absorbed into modern Chinese culture, turning into a potent signifier of immense complexity. Pavel’s reception in China is an intriguing example of “cultural indigenization,” a process by which a cultural product is rearticulated in a local setting.51 Heralding the arrival of the Communist world order, Steel was first celebrated for the promise it held out that a revolution in China, like the one in Russia, was a real possibility. It created the illusion of a strong and lasting bond between the Chinese and the Soviets.52 After the Sino-Soviet split, continued promotion of the Pavel Spirit served to emphasize China’s adherence to the precepts of “true” Marxism. After the Cultural Revolution, the novel gave Chinese intellectuals an opportunity to reevaluate their revolutionary fervor. In the reform era, Pavel has provided them with tools to formulate a critique of urban hooliganism and to renegotiate China’s unique postsocialist reality. Adapted and edited, reinvented and reinterpreted, copied 50. Boasting a total of 53 million registered users in 2011, Douban’s movie forums function as what Aynne Kokas has termed a “blended public sphere,” a space that, while not altogether beyond the reach of government censorship, functions as a makeshift public sphere where users aggregate personal opinions and exhibit individual preferences in user-generated forums. Aynne Kokas, “American Media and China’s Blended Public Sphere,” in Connected Viewing: Selling, Streaming, & Sharing Media in the Digital Age, ed. Jennifer Holt and Kevin Sanso (New York: Routledge, 2014), 150–52. 51. I am using the term in the way first suggested by Arjun Appadurai, who illustrated how the indigenization of cricket in India led to a multiplicity of cultural discourses: Promising at first access to Victorian elite culture, cricket was adopted by Indian elites. It then became a unifying force of a multiethnic state, functioned as vehicle for Indian nationalism, and finally has been celebrated as the very enactment of modern Indianness. In an intriguing way, this kind of cultural indigenization finds its parallel in China’s embrace of Ostrovskii’s novel. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 27–47. 52. Ostrovskii’s widow Raisa Ostrovskaya, in a letter to Chinese readers, wrote that her late husband had followed the revolutionary movement in China with great interest and would, if health had permitted, have “galloped to China to offer assistance.” Ostrovskii, Gangtie shi zenyang lianchengde (1972), 3.

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and reproduced, Ostrovskii’s novel in China has come to resemble a simulacrum in Jean Baudrillard’s sense, a text that has been reproduced and reinvented so often that it has become difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between true and false or orthodox and heterodox.53 As Mei Yi once predicted in the preface to a new edition published in the 1980s, Pavel Korchagin would remain with the Chinese throughout the reform era.54 To all appearances, he might persist in the popular imagination much longer than that.

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53. Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995). 54. He, “Coming of Age in the Brave New World,” 414.


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from the Soviet Union, 1949–Present, edited by Hua-Yu Li, 393–421. New York: Lexington Books, 2010. Hirasawa Yoshihiro 平澤是曠. Ekkyō: Okada Yoshiko, Sugimoto Ryōkichi no dasubitānya 越境:岡田嘉子・杉本良吉のダスビターニャ [Crossing the border: Okada Yoshiko and Sugimoto Ryōkichi’s Dosvedanya]. Sapporo: Hokkaidō shimbunsha, 2000. Hu Yaobang 胡耀邦. “Wei woguo qingnian geminghua er douzheng” 為我國青年革命化而 鬥爭 [Struggling to revolutionize the youth of our country]. Renmin ribao, July 7, 1964, 2. Huang, Yibing. Contemporary Chinese Literature: From the Cultural Revolution to the Future. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Kaganovsky, Lilya. “How the Soviet Man Was (Un)Made.” Slavic Review 63, no. 3 (2004): 577–96. King, Richard. Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism, 1945–80. Toronto: University of British Columbia Press, 2013. Kokas, Aynne. “American Media and China’s Blended Public Sphere.” In Connected Viewing: Selling, Streaming, & Sharing Media in the Digital Age, edited by Jennifer Holt and Kevin Sanso, 144–57. New York: Routledge. 2014. Laughlin, Charles. Chinese Reportage: The Aesthetics of Historical Experience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002. Liang Xiaosheng 梁曉聲. Chongsu Baoer Kechajin 重塑保爾•柯察金 [Remaking Pavel Korchagin]. Beijing: Tongxin chuban, 2000. Liu Xiaofeng 劉小楓. “Jilian Dongniya” 記戀冬妮婭 [Recalling loving Tonya]. Dushu 讀書 6 (1994): 84–99. Lu, Sheldon H. Chinese Modernity and Global Biopolitics: Studies in Literature and Visual Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007. Lu Zhi 魯直. “Baoer jiaoyule women: Yige gongchandangyuan yinggai shi zenyang de ren” 保爾教育了我們:一個共產黨員應該是怎樣的人 [Pavel has educated us: What kind of person a Communist should be]. Zhongguo qingnian 20, no. 9 (1949): 7–8. McGrath, Jason. Postsocialist Modernity: Chinese Cinema, Literature, and Criticism in the Market Age. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2008. McVay, Gordon. “Meierkhol’d’s Last Production: Two Letters from Zinaida Raikh to Nikolai Ostrovskii.” Slavonic and East European Review 68, no. 3 (1990): 502–6. Mu Qing 木青. “Chongdu Gangtie shi zenyang liancheng de yinqide lianxiang 重讀《鋼鐵 是怎樣煉成的》引起的聯想 [Associations evoked after rereading How the Steel Was Made]. Mingzuo xinshang 名作欣賞 3 (1983): 115–17. Ng, Mau-sang. The Russian Hero in Modern Chinese Fiction. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1988. Ostrovskii, Nicolai. Gangtie shi zenyang lianchengde 鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的 [The making of steel]. Translated by Mei Yi 梅益. Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2008. ———. Gangtie shi zenyang lianchengde 鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的 [The making of steel]. Translated by Mei Yi 梅益. Xianggang: San lian shu dian, 1972. ———. Gangtie shi zenyang lianchengde, shang & xia 鋼鐵是怎樣煉成的, 上 & 下 [The making of steel, vols. 1 & 2]. Illustrated by Yi Jin 毅進 and edited by Wang Su 王素. Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1972. ———. The Making of a Hero. Translated by Alec Brown. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1937. ———. Wie der Stahl gehärtet wurde. Translated by Nelly Drechsler. Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben, 1956.

The Cultural Indigenization of a Soviet “Red Classic” Hero 155 Renmin ribao 人民日報 [People’s Daily]. “Aositeluofusiji de furen tong Beijing qingnian jianmian” 奧斯特洛夫斯基的夫人同北京青年見面 [Ostrovskii’s wife meeting with Beijing youths]. January 21, 1957. Reynaud, Bérénice. Nouvelles Chines, Nouveaux Cinemas. Paris: Editions Cahiers du cinéma, 1999. Wagner, Rudolf. “Life as a Quote from a Foreign Book: Love, Pavel, and Rita.” In Das andere China, edited by Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer and Wolfgang Bauer, 463–76. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1995. Xian Jihua 冼濟華 and Zhao Yunsheng 趙雲聲. Huaju huangdi: Jin Shan zhuan 話劇皇帝: 金山傳 [King of drama: Jin Shan’s biography]. Beijing: Xinhuan shudian, 1987. Yu, Haiqing. Media and Cultural Transformation in China. London: Routledge, 2011. Yu, Miin-ling. “A Soviet Hero, Pavel Korchagin, Comes to China.” Russian History/Histoire Russe 29, nos. 2–4 (2002): 329–55. Zhang, Yingjin. “Directors, Aesthetics, Genres: Chinese Postsocialist Cinema, 1979–2010.” In A Companion to Chinese Cinema, edited by Yingjin Zhang, 57–74. Chichester: WileyBlackwell, 2012. ———. “My Camera Doesn’t Lie? Truth, Subjectivity, and Audience in Chinese Independent Film and Video.” In From Underground to Independent: Alternative Film Culture in Contemporary China, edited by Paul Pickowicz and Yingjin Zhang, 23–46. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Zhdanov, Andreĭ Aleksandrovich. Soviet Writers’ Congress, 1934: The Debate on Socialist Realism and Modernism. Translated and edited by H. G. Scott. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1977.

9 The Red Sister-in-Law Remakes1 Redefining the “Fish-and-Water” Relationship for the Era of Reform and Opening Qian Gong

Ode to the Yimeng Mountains (Yimeng song 沂蒙頌), a ballet based on Liu Zhixia’s 劉 知俠 short story “Hong Sao” 紅嫂 (Red sister-in-law), gained “red classic” status after it was produced in May 1974.2 The story is set in one of the “revolutionary base areas” (laoqu 老區), and tells how the Communist Party won the support of the peasantry, the backbone of Chinese society, at a tipping point in modern Chinese history—the point at which the Communist army triumphed over the Nationalist army. The heroine of the story, Red Sister-in-Law 紅嫂, saves a seriously wounded Communist soldier with her breast milk and nurses him back to health; in the story, she represents the symbiotic relationship between the army and the people, an imaginary “oneness” between the Communist Party and the masses. The ballet also created the concept of a “Yimeng” spirit: the Yimeng area had nurtured the revolution with its unwavering support, and this in turn served as a key to local identity over the next few decades. In the post-Mao era, when the party no longer claims its legitimacy in the name of the subaltern, however, the story of the bonding of the oppressed and their vanguard party became open to contestation and retelling. One manifestation of this discursive shift around the revolutionary legacy is the 2011 television drama adaptation of the “red classic” story, now renamed Yimeng. This chapter examines the changing narratives of Red Sister-in-Law and the local identity of Yimeng, and situates these narratives in the context of post-Mao mainstream cultural production. In this chapter, I 1. The “fish-and-water” relationship is a metaphor commonly incited to describe the close ties between the Communist Red Army and the Chinese masses. It first appeared in Mao Zedong’s work “On Guerrilla Warfare.” The paragraph reads, “Many people think it impossible for guerrillas to exist for long in the enemy’s rear. Such a belief reveals lack of comprehension of the relationship that should exist between the people and the troops. The former may be likened to water the latter to the fish who inhabit it. How may it be said that these two cannot exist together? It is only undisciplined troops who make the people their enemies and who, like the fish out of its native element cannot live.” Full text available through The author would like to thank Wei Benquan for assisting with data collection during her field trip to Linyi in January 2014. 2. The Yi River and Meng Mountain are the two landmarks of Linyi. Yimeng, taking the names of both the river and mountain, is often used to refer to the area as a whole.

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propose to unravel the complex issues at play in the reinvention of the revolutionary legacy through a close reading of the narrative strategies and characterization. I will also investigate how history has been creatively deployed to refashion a cultural identity for the people in the local area. Two questions are central to this reading: How is a story about the close relationship between the party and the masses to be retold when this relationship has been changed and challenged in the post-Mao era? And what kind of local identity is defined by these narratives? This chapter goes beyond the “nostalgia” thesis,3 which frames the surging interest in revolutionary heritage as a nostalgic feeling toward the past, and unravels the different layers of meaning within “official culture.” It argues that the post-Mao remake has significantly redefined the essence of the “fish-and-water” relationship in the spirit of traditional Chinese values and, in particular, Confucian values. From this new perspective, the support of the masses for the party is portrayed as derived from a kind of “humanity” as well as ethical principles of the local people, rather than the class relationships that were previously given prominence.

The Fish-and-Water Relationship Resought Linyi is a medium-sized city in eastern China’s Shandong Peninsula. A prefecturelevel city with three districts and nine counties under its jurisdiction, it is referred to as the Yimeng Mountainous Area (沂蒙山區). As a commercial hub that connects North and South China, the city is going through another phase of expansion, evident in numerous construction sites and a continuous smog that shrouds the city. Among the most conspicuous of the newly constructed buildings is the grand Yimeng Revolutionary Exhibition Hall, devoted to commemorating and propagating the revolutionary history in the area. The hall covers an area of 8,000 square meters, and was commissioned in 2012 by the local government, with a mammoth budget. Half of the space is dedicated to repeating the theoretical foundation and the development of the party’s “mass line” and to highlighting the practices of the revolutionary “mass line” in various stages of history.4 The Revolutionary Exhibition Hall was built partly in response to President Xi Jinping’s 2012 call to restore the Communist Party’s authority with the public, 3. See, for example, Geremie R. Barmé, In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Wang Jin 王瑾, “Hongse jingdian shengchan zhong de changyu fenxi” 紅色經典生 產中的場域分析 [An analysis of the production process of “red classic” through Bourdieu’s field theory], Hainan shifan daxue xuekan (Sheke ban) 20, no. 3 (2007): 27–31; and Hu Tieqiang, “Huaijiu qingjie yu hongse jingdian de gaibian 懷舊情結與紅色經典的改編 [Nostalgia complex and the adaptation of “red classics”], Changsha daxue xuekan 1 (2010): 82–84. 4. The “mass line” is a Maoist theory that argues effective political action must be based on the “ideas of the masses.” See Marc Blecher, “Consensual Politics in Rural Chinese Communities: The Mass Line in Theory and Practice,” Modern China 5, no. 1 (1979): 105–26. This theory is behind a series of campaigns by the CCP to mobilize the grass roots to take part in political activities and decision making.


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especially at the grass roots. The campaign, summarized in “eight rules of Xi” 習八條, aims at controlling the behavior of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadres.5 Xi’s rules require local officials to reduce ostentation and to listen closely to the masses. These recent initiatives represent a concerted effort to restore the relationship between the party and the masses, which has been seriously undermined in recent decades. The party-masses link has been deteriorating since China launched its market reform. Following former leader Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of “letting some people get rich first,” the party put aside any ideological debate about the nature of the regime; during the presidency of Jiang Zemin, it also gave up its “worker-peasant-soldier” base and proclaimed itself the representative of the “advanced forces” of society. Since then, the path of development has seen the polarization of society, with the workers and peasants increasingly disenfranchised. The Linyi authorities have ambitions to use the Mass-Line Exhibition Hall at Linyi as a mass-line educational training center for cadres from the whole of Shandong Province, or even the whole nation. This initiative by a third-line city to ramp up in scale is hardly surprising. The Linyi government attaches a high importance to the reassertion of the party mass line. As a former revolutionary heartland, Linyi seeks to provide an example of how the CCP is “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” as it has claimed itself to be. The party’s mass-line strategy was pivotal in securing the support of the Shandong Revolutionary Base Area: during the SinoJapanese War (1937–1945) and the Civil War (1946–1949), 1.4 million out of the total 4.2 million population of the Yimeng area either joined the Communist army or worked to support the frontline troops. This close relationship between the masses, the party, and its army was epitomized by Red Sister-in-Law, in the story and ballet that brought national fame to the Yimeng area. As outlined in Chapter 8, the story is set in the Civil War period and revolves around the brave local woman Hong Sao (Red Sister-in-Law) who, while on her way home, finds a wounded People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier dying from dehydration. Unable to find water, she saves the soldier with milk from her own breast. All this occurs while a group of thugs is close on the trail of the soldier. Hong Sao defies threats, torture, and interrogation and shelters the soldier in a cave until he fully recovers. In 1961, the author Liu Zhixia expressed interest in writing a story about the unwavering support for the PLA in the Yimeng area, and a friend shared with him the anecdote that forms the basis of the Hong Sao story. The incident was not publicized at the time, because the woman involved was worried that unfounded rumors might bring trouble for her as a married woman. Liu sensed the story could serve as an inspiring example of the relations between the army and the masses and was 5. “Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee holds meeting, presided by Xi Jinping.” Accessed April 3, 2014.

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proved right when the story was very well received. A Beijing Opera version staged in 1964 was viewed and applauded by top leaders including Mao Zedong and Zhu De. In 1974, the Central Ballet adapted it into a ballet production. A film version of the ballet entitled Ode to the Yimeng Mountains was produced in 1975, and the film of the Beijing Opera performance was produced by the August 1 Studio in 1976 under the name Red Cloud Ridge (Hong yun gang 紅雲崗). The popularization of the story led to a frenzied search for the actual protagonist. Finally, a deaf and dumb woman named Ming Deying was identified as the “real” Hong Sao. So the story came full circle from its dubious origins as possible “hearsay,” to an artistic representation, and back to a real life “incarnation” and confirmation. The story did not end there. It has had other major remakes, including the forty-two-episode television drama series, Yimeng (Yimeng 沂蒙, 2009); a feature film, Six Yimeng Sisters (Yimeng liu jiemei 沂 蒙六姐妹, 2009); and a musical live outdoor performance called Meng Mountain and Yi River (Yimeng shanshui 沂蒙山水, 2006). The television series and film were fairly successful both in terms of ratings and box office as well as critical review. Ever since 1992, when the remixing of revolutionary songs in the cassette Red Sun (Hong taiyang 紅太陽) achieved commercial success, revolutionary-themed products have featured prominently in the cultural market. There is no question that cultural products from the socialist period continue to be useful for governance and national identity in contemporary China. It is, however, not clearly understood what these cultural products signify and what functions they serve. How does a historical narrative like Red Sister-in-Law continue to be relevant and useful in today’s commercialized popular culture environment? How does a story like Red Sister-in-Law need to be reworked to secure official approval as well as receive high ratings? This chapter aims to explicate these complicated questions using the television remake of Ode to the Yimeng Mountains. In the first section, I reexamine the evolution of the various versions of the Red Sister-in-Law story. The second section discusses the post-Mao cultural politics of representing the revolutionary legacy. I also analyze and compare the changing cultural milieu that led to the production of the television drama series Yimeng. In the final section, I analyze some of the local responses to key issues such as the role of class in the drama series and the ways that the narratives have been appropriated by the people of Linyi to reconstruct their local identity in a less overtly political environment.

“Red Sister-in-Law” in the Maoist Era Liu Zhixia’s short story “Hong Sao” (“Red sister-in-law”), published in Shandong Literature (Shandong wenxue 山東文學) represented the first artistic effort to interpret the story of how a young woman saves a dying soldier with her own milk. In the fictional version, Red Sister-in-Law is portrayed as a class-conscious heroic figure


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with a revolutionary notion of morality that transcends traditional ethics. Before marrying her husband Wu Er, Red Sister-in-Law had acquired her revolutionary consciousness through participating in literacy classes (shiziban 識字班)6 and land reform (tu gai 土改). Wu Er, however, was a middle-peasant (zhongnong 中農), a status that implied that he was not a steadfast supporter of the revolutionary cause but could possibly be won over. This particular class status gave the author some freedom to build complexity into Wu’s character. He is portrayed as a “docile subject” who is neither revolutionary nor antirevolutionary. He often prevents Red Sister-in-Law from attending village meetings organized by the CCP and is thus often criticized by Red Sister-in-Law as being a “backward element.” He holds a grudge against the landlord’s thugs for the plundering and killing of fellow villagers, yet feels lucky that he and his family are safe. He refuses to join the ranks of landlords yet, when forced, does some laboring for them. His only hope is for the war to end so he can “work hard on his land” and “build a better life day by day.” In addition to his ambivalent ideological stand, Wu is described as selfish and timid, “scared of being hit by a falling leaf.” Wu Er is also “feudal minded,” and flies into a rage when he finds that Red Sister-in-Law is looking after a young man in the woods. While the main theme of the story revolves around Red Sister-in-Law’s devotion to the army, it does not explain much about how the army actually won the hearts and minds of common people like Red Sister-in-Law. Her status as a poor peasant and her early contact with the CCP is presented as sufficient reason for her to save the injured soldier, and the symbiotic relationship between the army and the poor peasants is taken as given. Her single moment of doubt about the appropriateness of breastfeeding a young man is immediately overcome because the most important thing was to “save a revolutionary comrade’s life.” What makes the 1961 story interesting and drives the plotline forward is the conflict between Red Sister-in-Law and Wu Er. When Wu Er notices that Red Sisterin-Law seems to be getting thinner and their baby is starving from lack of milk, he decides to kill the only two chickens in the house to cook some chicken soup to nourish her. However, he becomes suspicious as Red Sister-in-Law continues to look exhausted and seems to be preoccupied with something. He secretly follows her on one of her trips to deliver food for the soldier. Seeing Red Sister-in-Law with a young man, he is overcome with anger and shock, but Red Sister-in-Law confronts him with the truth and the consequences if he should inform the enemy: “We are then no longer husband and wife. There’s a line separating you and me, a revolutionary and 6. The literacy class was an informal form of schooling organized by the Communist Party during the SinoJapanese War. It was the most common form of CCP education for women in the Yimeng Area. For details, see Wang Kexia 王克霞, Geming yu bianqian: Yimeng hongse quyu funü shenghuo zhuangkuang yanjiu (1938– 1949) 革命與變遷:沂蒙紅色區域婦女生活狀況研究 [Revolution and evolution: A study on women’s living conditions in Yimeng red area] (Jinan: Shandong daxue chubanshe, 2012), 166–69.

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a counter-revolutionary.” Not daring to risk everybody’s life, Wu Er keeps the secret. Anxious and fearful, he tries to talk Red Sister-in-Law out of caring for the soldier but with no success. It is only when the landlord’s henchman Diao Gui, who has long coveted the beauty of Red Sister-in-Law, tries to take advantage of her, that Wu Er realizes there is no way to appease the class enemy. He kills Diao Gui with the help of Red Sister-in-Law. The story “Red Sister-in-Law” is renowned for showcasing the close bond between the army and the masses. However, the story also dwells on the complex inner struggle of Wu Er and the tensions between him and Red Sister-in-Law. While Red Sisterin-Law is a perfect hero whose actions are highly symbolic of the total support of the masses for the CCP army, Wu Er’s is the more credible character. His hesitations, his jealousy, and his cowardice create the tension in the story, and ordinary readers could probably identify with his inner struggle. The fierce struggle between landlord and poor peasants over issues such as land reform and reduction of rent for land and interest on loans (jian zu jian xi 減租減息) is only briefly mentioned as a catalyst to Red Sister-in-Law’s political consciousness, so that ultimately the legitimacy of class struggle derives substantially from the traditional ethics governing human relations. For example, Diao Gui’s act of insulting a decent, married woman directly leads to Wu Er’s outrage against him, while Red Sister-in-Law’s first reaction to the dying soldier is to “save a life.” Written in 1961 when the party-masses tie was still assumed to be natural and class struggle had not yet taken over as the main theme of socialist literary creation, the “invisible folk structure,” as Chen Sihe pointed out, could still be easily discerned.7 In autumn 1963, a Beijing Opera adaptation of Red Sister-in-Law was commissioned by the Cultural Bureau of Shandong Province, in preparation for the Festival of Beijing Opera on Contemporary Themes in Beijing the following year. The six-act opera was created by six writers on commission and put into rehearsal on a tight schedule. The opera was well received at a provincial gala performance and won the opportunity to be showcased in the national festival in May 1964. In Beijing the opera was given the nod by Premier Zhou Enlai, who provided feedback for revisions and closely monitored each revised version. The revised version was staged for Mao Zedong and other top leaders in their compound at Zhongnanhai.8 After the staging of the Beijing Opera version, an article by Dan Ding appeared in the People’s Daily, outlining instructions for major revisions and the rationale behind these changes: In terms of the main theme, the emphasis was now to be laid on the

7. Chen Sihe 陳思和, Zhongguo dangdai wenxue guanjianci shi jiang 中國當代文學關鍵詞十講 [Ten lectures on key words in contemporary Chinese literature] (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 2002). 8. Yuan Chengliang 袁成亮, “Geming xiandai Jingju Hong Sao dansheng ji” 革命現代京劇《紅嫂》誕生記 [The birth of revolutionary modern Peking opera Hong Sao], in Collections of Party History 2 (2007): 43–44.


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relationships between the army and the people.9 The dramatic conflict in the opera version would now revolve around the struggle between enemy and the people, not the “internal contradictions” between Red Sister-in-Law and her husband, which were now to be downplayed. Any negative allusion to a positive character was to be deleted. The descriptions of negative characters were to be significantly reduced. Meng Yue’s analysis of the White-Haired Girl (Baimao nü 白毛女) shows how the image of the central character, Xi’er, in successive adaptations of that drama went through a process of transformation in which gender oppression gave way to class struggle.10 In this process, Xi’er’s body and sexuality were displaced by her “class.” A similar process can be identified in the adaptation of the story “Red Sister-in-Law” to Beijing Opera form. The basic framework of the original Red Sister-in-Law story is the underlying tension of sexual rivalry among the three men: Diao Gui, Wu Er, and the PLA soldier. Wu Er’s suspicion about a possible extramarital affair, Diao Gui’s desire for Red Sister-in-Law’s body, and even Red Sister-in-Law’s moment of selfconsciousness about her body before feeding the soldier are all private spheres that were thought to interfere with the theme of class struggle and had to be deleted. The purpose of the revisions was to “build and strengthen the heroic image of Red Sister-in-Law.”11 In the revised version, Red Sister-in-Law’s political consciousness is strengthened: To nurture the solider, she, rather than her husband, kills the family’s only remaining chicken to make soup for him; and then, when Diao Gui follows the trail of the wounded soldier to her house, instead of forcing a smile to distract him, she goes on the offensive herself. Diao Gui’s identity is also changed from the landlord’s hired thug to an actual landlord himself to highlight the class opposition. An incident where Diao Gui threatens to kill Red Sister-in-Law’s baby has also been added to the plot to remove any potential reading of their encounter as one of sexual violence. Concomitantly, the sexual rivalry between the two male characters was largely removed from this stage version: Wu Er kills Diao Gui to protect the injured soldier, not to save his wife from rape, while his concern with Red Sister-in-Law’s chastity is completely erased to shift the tension from that between a woman and patriarchal morality to one between political antagonists. The ballet version Ode to the Yimeng Mountains, created in 1973 as part of the effort to expand the “model works,” led to even more standardization and polarization

9. Dan Ding 丹丁, “Cong suzao zhengmian yingxiong xingxiang chufa: Ping Hong Sao cong xiaoshuo dao jingju” 從塑造正面英雄形象出發:評《紅嫂》從小說到京劇 [Starting with the depiction of a positive heroic image: A review of Hong Sao’s adaptation from story to Beijing opera], Shandong wenxue 12 (1964): 48–52. 10. Meng Yue, “Female Images and National Myth,” in Gender Politics in Modern China, ed. Tani E. Barlow (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1993), 118–36. 11. Dan Ding, “Cong suzao zhengmian yingxiong,” 50.

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of good and evil in story line and characters.12 The incorporation of Shandong folk elements into the choreography, music, and costumes, however, was retained, giving the production unique aesthetic features and a charming vitality.

TV Drama Series Yimeng The main task in rewriting the “Red Sister-in-Law” story in the post-Mao period is to present a rationale for fish-and-water relationships in an era when the bond between the CCP and the subaltern groups is no longer readily accepted. What is offered as a substitute for the previous solidarity between class members is Confucian ethics. The revival of Confucianism increased in the 1990s as a result of a “return to conservatism” after the political upheaval of 1989 produced a backlash against “radicalism.”13 The state-led campaign to institutionalize Confucianism was a conscious act of the CCP designed to consolidate its leadership and ideological control.14 With the loss of faith in Maoism, the revival of Confucianism also filled the moral vacuum created by three decades of unchecked economic and social changes. The promotion of Confucianism manifested in a number of ways: a dramatic elevation of the political status of Confucianism, the vast number of state-sponsored events and activities, the spread of the Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms, and the rise of academic attention to Confucianism as a research topic.15 In addition, Confucian values were co-opted by the party in its policies that frame the national code of conduct such as Hu Jintao’s “Eight Virtues and the Eight Shames” (ba rong ba chi 八榮八恥).16 Some believe that Confucianism has become one of the most influential ideologies alongside liberalism and socialism,17 and others even call China a “Confucian socialist republic.”18 Upheld as the orthodox political philosophy, Confucianism has remained a strong influence in the Chinese belief 12. Hong Zicheng, A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007), 224; Paul Clark, The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). 13. He Guimei 賀桂梅, Renwenxue de Xiangxiangli: Dangdai Zhongguo sixiang yu wenxue wenti 人文學的想像 力:當代中國思想與文學問題 (Kaifeng: Henan University Press, 2005). 14. Wu Shufang, “‘Modernizing’ Confucianism in China: A Repackaging of Institutionalization to Consolidate Party Leadership,” Asian Perspective 39 (2015): 301–24; Pang Qin, “The ‘Two Lines Control Model’ in China’s State and Society Relations: Central States’ Management of Confucian Revival in the New Century,” International Journal of China Studies 5, no. 3 (2014): 627–55. 15. Wu, “‘Modernizing’ Confucianism in China,” 303. 16. Wu, “‘Modernizing’ Confucianism in China”; Pang, “Two Lines Control Model.” The “Eight Virtues and Shames” encompass the following list of ethical values of virtues: (1) love the country; (2) serve the people; (3) follow science; (4) be diligent; (5) help each other and make no gains at others’ expense; (6) be honest and trustworthy; (7) be disciplined and law-abiding; (8) live plainly, and do not wallow in luxuries and pleasures. 17. Gan Yang 甘陽, “Zhongguo daolu: Sanshi nian he liushi nian” 中國道路:三十年和六十年 [China’s road: Thirty years and sixty years], Dushu 讀書 6 (2007): 1–13. 18. Tu Weiming, “Confucian Spirituality in Contemporary China,” in Confucianism and Spiritual Traditions in Modern China and Beyond, ed. Yang Fenggang and Joseph Tamney (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 75–96.


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system, providing a code of conduct in social and everyday life.19 During the Cultural Revolution, Confucianism was severely criticized, but ironically the campaign to condemn Confucian thought led to widespread reading of the Confucian classics, allowing the general population an unexpected chance to familiarize themselves with Confucianism.20 In post-Mao China, the revival of Confucianism as both an official endeavor and a populist interest encountered few obstacles. The popular scholar Yu Dan 于丹 became a nationwide celebrity with her contemporary interpretations of The Analects on TV, while in arenas such as the TV drama, Confucian values such as fate, faith, favor, face, filial piety, patriarchy, and frugality have underpinned the themes of various subgenres, replacing or even subverting the revolutionary or socialist values that previously dominated cultural products.21 As a conscious act to make the revolutionary past more accessible, relevant, and effective, beginning in 1990 the Propaganda Department of the Shandong Provincial Party Committee shifted its emphasis from class solidarity to a Confucian-style kindness and decency. This shift is strategic in that it serves the CCP’s need to promote “Confucian ethics” as the core values of society and the new basis for their ruling legitimacy, on the one hand, and satisfies a thirst among the Chinese public for Confucian ethics, on the other. The television drama Yimeng was commissioned by the Municipal Propaganda Department as one of the thirteen projects designed to repackage and promote the Yimeng Spirit. Following the successful Yimeng Spirit Exhibition22 in Beijing in 2005 delineating the concept and reinforcing the area’s political centrality in history, this TV drama production was an effort to propagate the Yimeng Spirit at a popular level to restore local pride. The production process of the TV drama saw the various factors discussed above at play, with the promotion of Confucianism as an important factor. Adjacent to Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, Linyi is a stronghold of Confucian ethics. Among the seventy-two best-known disciples of Confucius, twenty-four were from the Linyi area. It is not uncommon in Linyi to see a street vendor’s kiosk

19. Daniel Bell, China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2008). 20. Li Ling 李零, Niao’er gechang 鳥兒歌唱 (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2015). 21. Chen Yanru, “Fate, Faith, Family: Communication and Harmony in Chinese TV Drama The Gobi Mother,” China Media Research 4, no. 4 (2008): 50–58. Janice Hua Xu, “Building a Chinese ‘Middle Class’: Consumer Education and Identity Construction in Television Land,” in TV China, ed. Y. Zhu and C. Berry (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2009), 150–67. He, Renwenxue de Xiangxiangli. Cai Rong, “Make the Present Serve the Past: Restaging On Guard beneath the Neon Lights in Contemporary China,” in Chinese Television in the Twenty-First Century: Entertaining the Nation, ed. R. Bai and G. Song (London: Routledge 2015), 149–57. 22. The exhibition was curated by the Linyi Municipal Party Committee by as part of the nation’s commemoration event series celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of victory of Anti-Fascist War in 2005.

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decorated with Confucian maxims such as “Of all that a filial son can achieve, there is nothing greater than honoring his parents” (孝子之至,莫大乎尊親).23 Through referencing the Confucian discourse, the former emphasis on class nature as the inspiration for local support for the revolution was successfully transformed into an agency more productive and congruent with the popular cry for a return to traditional Confucian values. This narrative stresses a depoliticized essential local identity of human love and compassion based on Confucian ethics. Almost in a reverse process to the previous politicization, the story went through a depoliticizing makeover. The narrative strategy of this makeover involves telling a story based on human nature (renxing 人性), which is heavily inflected by the Confucian ethics of “righteousness,’’ “benevolence,” “loyalty,” and even “faithfulness” between spouses. These are invoked as popular customs (minfeng 民風), local qualities (diyuxing 地域 性), and human nature (renxing 人性). When the Linyi Propaganda Department approached the much-sought-after script writer Zhao Dongling 趙冬苓 during a panel meeting, the idea did not appeal to her at all. “I took it as another ‘mainstream’ TV drama and did my best to suggest somebody else to take it on,” Zhao recalled later.24 She was convinced that it was not going to be a good script because, as a revolutionary base area, Yimeng lacked significance compared with Yan’an or Jinggangshan. However, after a long field trip in Linyi, Zhao changed her mind. What moved Zhao was not class consciousness or solidarity between the locals and the CCP but the “extremely pure and true humanity” of the people of the region. In poetic language, Zhao describes this as a renaissance for the Yimeng people: The lonely and vulnerable individual suddenly had a goal. Those souls that for generations scavenged the earth for things to sustain themselves in the way crickets and ants do, suddenly rose up together and stood with pride. It was a time when they lived so full of energy, so confidently and passionately.25

In the same way that Zhao Dongling was won over by the Yimeng people’s humanity and so decided to do a story about ordinary Yimeng people, director Guan Hu 管虎 was also said to be moved by the enduring characters of Linyi when Zhao Dongling gave him the script to read. Zhao’s decision to secure Guan Hu as director for the drama series signaled a departure from the original thematic orientation. Guan earned his reputation as a Sixth Generation director who has “a natural revulsion for so-called mainstream subject matter,” according to Zhao. Concurring with Zhao,

23. “The greatest thing a dutiful son can do is to honor his parents,” from “Wan Zhang I”, trans. D. C. Lau, in Mencius (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1970), 142. 24. Zhao Dongling Blog,, Accessed April 3, 2014. 25. Ibid.


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Guan said that the most prominent feature of the series was that it did not generalize the concept of Yimeng Spirit but embodied it through an ordinary peasant family: There is no excessive extolling or eulogising [in this drama series]. It highlights the brightest part of the Yimeng people’s humanity through chronicling how a peasant family stubbornly survived multiple hardships.26

Zhao and Guan’s common intention to focus on “the people” and their characters— their kindness, simplicity, and sense of justice—became a strategy for transcending the notion of class struggle and class solidarity in the TV drama, their approach working against the “outdated” socialist style, which often resorted to “generalising” or using “excessive extolling or eulogising” language.27 The TV drama Yimeng portrays a peasant family in a village in Linyi whose lives are deeply affected and transformed by the Sino-Japanese War, the Civil War, and the Korean War. Its main plotline is based on the collection of local “legends” about characters like Red Sister-in-Law, but it is fleshed out to suit the genre of a TV drama series. The protagonist, Yu Baozhen 于寶珍, is a headstrong and capable middle-aged Yimeng woman. She is married to a poor peasant Li Zhonghou 李忠厚, and they have three sons and three daughters. Like the husband in the original Red Sister-inLaw story, Li is selfish, cowardly, and short sighted. Yu is depicted as the real head of the household, which predominantly consists of females: elder daughter Li Yue 李 月, second daughter Li Yang 李陽, elder daughter-in-law Xin’ai 心愛, and second daughter-in-law Xintian 心甜. The different Red-Sister-in-Law-like figures in history and literature are personified in the women in this house. Several strategies were adopted in the TV drama series to reorient the theme away from class struggle and class solidarity. First, the TV drama deliberately collapsed the official demarcation of classes and focused instead on the comradeship between the privileged and the subordinate, the landlord and the peasant, at a time of national crisis. Despite the fact that the Yimeng area was best known for its popular support for the Communist army during the Civil War, with the story of Red Sister-in-Law set against the background of the fierce showdown between the CCP and the Nationalists, fully three-quarters of the TV drama series narrates events from the Sino-Japanese War. This is almost certainly a deliberate act on the part of the scriptwriter: by focusing on the Sino-Japanese War, the drama does not dwell on the issues that lie at the heart of class conflicts, such as land reform, but on the United Front that gathered all classes under its banner.

26. Ibid. 27. Gong Qian, “Living Red: Production, Consumption and Local Memory of Revolutionary Culture in Linyi,” in Mapping Media in China: Region, Province, Locality, ed. Wanning Sun and Jenny Chio (London: Routledge, 2012), 172–96.

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The comradeship that transcends class boundaries in times of national crisis is clearly evidenced in the characterization of the village landlord Li Zhongfeng 李忠奉. The village that the Li family inhabits is portrayed as having been a traditional agrarian community prior to the Japanese invasion—desolate and poor yet not without order and harmony. The peasants are rooted firmly in their land and observe the codes and customs passed down for generations. The village head, Li Zhongfeng, is presented as typical of the rural country gentry. The villagers address him as “master” (dongjia 東家), and he seems wealthier than the peasants. However, there is no reference to exploitative behavior on his part, and the villagers do not hold any grudge against him; instead, he seems to enjoy high social status and commands considerable respect among the common people. When the occasion demands, Li Zhongfeng is entrusted with the task of negotiating with the military or bandits on behalf of the villagers. He is shown always to have the collective interest of his village in mind and protects his fellow villagers with courage and wisdom. At one time his bond with the villagers is threatened by his son, Li Jizhou 李繼 周, who is a Kuomintang army officer. By sheer chance Jizhou captures Yu Baozhen’s eldest son and daughter-in-law, both Communist soldiers. Following his ideological beliefs, he decides to turn both in to the Kuomintang. On the road the two captives fall into the hands of the Japanese and are killed after being tortured. Devastated by his son’s behavior, landlord Li Zhongfeng renounces him in public. When the bodies are returned to the village, Li Zhongfeng puts on mourning apparel for the dead to express his sorrow as well as guilt over his son. In Episode 28, he and his wife refuse to tell a Japanese invader where CCP army supplies are hidden, and finally mix poison into the gruel provided to the Japanese, killing a dozen Japanese soldiers and themselves. A solemn funeral is held by the villagers. The essence of Yimeng Spirit, this “righteousness” and “benevolence” that transcends class structure, pervades the drama series. As a result, political identities are complicated and obscured, and the tension between the exploiter and exploited is suppressed in the narrative. Another character who embodies the acts against class stereotypes is the bandit Liu Heiqi 劉黑七. Liu abducts the protagonist Yu Baozhen and Li Zhonghou’s orphan grandson Ningning 寧寧 from the Japanese army and demands a big sum of money to release him. The villagers pool together all they have but still cannot raise the sum demanded. Liu threatens to kill Ningning. In desperation, the landlord Li Zhongfeng tells Liu that when the Japanese were seizing the children of Eighth Route Army soldiers, villagers substituted their own children to protect these children and Ningning was one of them. Bandit Liu not only releases Ningning but also praises Li for his “righteousness,” a true heir of “Confucius.” The “fish-and-water” relationship between the CCP and the masses that is the essence of the Red Sister-in-Law story is also the focus of the drama series. But the narrative does not dwell too much on the army’s mobilization in the base area. During


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the Sino-Japanese War, the invasion of the Japanese produced a sudden disruption to the normal course of everyday life as well as violations of moral principles. The CCP’s active involvement in “fighting the Japanese Devils” provides enough reason for local support it receives. However, when the Civil War period is portrayed, the motivation is only vaguely expressed as a need to finish the war and live a good life. Other than this, the army-masses bonding is naturalized and largely displaced by the kinship or blood ties between the key characters—the Li family’s three sons and two daughters who have joined the Communist army, and their two sons-in-law. What lies at the center of the sacrifice of the locals in the series is an “authentic core” of values and local traits. The villagers are not categorized by class but more by their character. While some are a bit more selfish or cowardly than others, most are shown as ready to donate their last piece of food and clothing to the Communist troops, and this is based on their own moral bottom line. The traditional ethics that underscore the major plotlines and characterizations in the drama series are discussed below:

Benevolence and Compassion Villagers are shown as exemplifying the Confucian virtues of benevolence and compassion throughout the drama series. Compassion for a dying man drives Xintian to put aside the feudal notions guiding the rules of physical contact between men and women and feed the soldier with her breast milk. Sometimes this supraclass humanity is portrayed as being so compelling that it extends to fraternity with enemies. The heroine Yu Baozhen’s mentally disabled daughter is raped and killed by the Japanese. In the subsequent battle, the villagers kill a dozen Japanese soldiers. However, when the locals debate what to do with the dead bodies, Yu tells others she feels sad, because after all, these Japanese youths are sons of mothers just like herself, and “which mother doesn’t cherish her son?” In contrast to the bestiality of the Japanese, the villagers collect the ashes of the soldiers and return them to the Japanese headquarters. Similarly, when the landlord’s son is found seriously wounded in a battle, the Li family takes him home despite the fact that he is responsible for the death of their son and daughter-in-law, because it is not in their nature to leave a man to die.

Gratitude and Return of Favor In the early Red Sister-in-Law stories, much of the narrative on how the CCP won the hearts of the masses hinges on depicting the transformation of backward elements of the village peasantry. However, in the drama series, the transformation is often achieved not through the CCP’s ideological tutelage to turn them into proletarian class subjects but through personal exchanges of favor and gratitude. For example, the villager Li Jicun’s 李繼存 family at first refuses to get involved with the Communist

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Eighth Route Army. After a CCP nurse Zhong Hui saves their only offspring from grave illness, however, a special bond is formed between Jicun and the CCP army. Later, Zhong Hui 鍾慧 is captured by the Japanese and, before execution, entrusts Jicun with a love letter to a doctor she secretly admires. Illiterate and thus unable to understand the content of the letter, Jicun’s family guards their benefactor’s secret with their lives. This mission eventually costs them everything, with Jicun and his son taken to Japan as laborers and the rest of the family living for years as vagrants while tracking down the addressee of the letter. It is notable that speech acts such as “speaking bitterness”28 or “denouncing the landlord,” so commonly utilized in mobilizing the peasants in the Mao era, are rarely featured in the drama series. Instead, class solidarity relies on the construction of a common humanity.

Filial Piety and Chastity The TV drama gives a convincing portrayal of the party’s mobilization of women. Women’s active interaction with the party is offered as a reaction to gender oppression rather than class oppression: Revolution provides women in the revolutionary base area with an opportunity to be socially and politically active, as the CCP army brings new ideas and role models that challenge the traditional patriarchy. Women are shown to acquire a sense of dignity as human beings. In Episode 6, as Li Zhonghou’s wife takes her oath to join the party, she is given a name, Yu Baozhen, for the first time in her life. The party representative explains to her that it means she is not only a human being but also cherished as a “treasure.” Later she acquires a political vocabulary, which she uses to take the moral high ground and criticize her husband as “a backward element.” She also runs for the position of village head and only loses to a fellow male villager by one vote. However, in this series, the CCP’s commitment to deliver equality and emancipation is shown to be selective, utilitarian, incomplete, and fraught with contradictions. The alliance between the party and women is based on an uneasy relationship with Confucian ethical concepts such as “filial piety” and “chastity.” Yu Baozhen’s eldest son disobeys his parents over an arranged marriage and marries a fellow CCP officer. The girl the son was originally engaged to, Xin’ai, observes the rule of Confucian propriety that a woman may marry only one man and still wants to honor the nominal marriage. The son’s behavior in seeking “free love” very much interferes with his filial duty to obey “parental orders.” The Li family acquiesces to Xin’ai’s wishes and allows her to stay with the family. When the disobedient eldest son and daughter-in-law die, 28. “Speaking bitterness” (su ku 訴苦) is a discursive practice that emerged in the revolutionary period. The peasants, under the coaching of the CCP, employed this strategy to talk about the oppression and exploitation they suffered under old class system and denounce exploiters and oppressors in public. See William Hinton, Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (New York: Vintage, 1966).


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Xin’ai looks after their two orphaned children as well as helping to take care of the martyrs’ parents, thus fulfilling her duty as a filial daughter-in-law. However, her role as an unmarried mother marginalizes her within the traditional social order. Her sacrifice does not earn her the respect normally due to her, and after the war she is forced to give up the children she has cared for (having also adopted another CCP officer’s child in the meantime). She is forced to return the adopted child to its biological parents as well as give up the other two “for their own good,” to the same family, as the CCP officer is now an official living in the city and thus could give all three children a better education and life. The Li family’s second son divorces his village wife after the war and marries a girl from the city. This causes great strife with his mother, who is so morally disturbed that she virtually disowns him. In the last episode, the second son is denounced in political campaigns and deserted by his city wife. Dying from cancer, he pleads with his mother to let him come home. At the urging of her mother-in-law, Xintian takes him back. In both cases, traditional ethics play a paradoxical role: on the one hand, the CCP draws women to its ranks by promising to emancipate them from their shackles, yet, on the other hand, traditional ethics paves the way for the success of the revolution. In Xin’ai’s case, this success is the continuity of a revolutionary bloodline, and in Xintian’s case, the ultimate reunion and reconciliation of the family and kinship. Overall, Confucian ethics rather than class interests are central in navigating “fish-and-water” relations. The centrality of Confucian ethics as the basis for the mass support of the party is affirmed through the words of the protagonist Yu Baozhen. Xintian is resentful at her husband’s desertion and ends up holding a grudge against other CCP army officials, whom she sees as “ungrateful.” In the final episode, she is called in to substantiate an official’s claim that he took shelter in the Li family’s house to recuperate from an injury during the Sino-Japanese War period. Xintian remembers the man, but, secretly blaming him for not keeping his word and coming back to visit after the war, she lies to the investigator. When she makes a confession to her mother-in-law, Yu Baozhen explodes with anger: “You know where you got it wrong? Whatever we did for the soldiers we did out of benevolence only. You should never take benevolence as a debt.” “Doing favors without expecting benefits” seems to provide the ultimate explanation for the sacrifices the Yimeng people made for the party. The last scene shows Yu Baozhen sitting at sunset in her run-down courtyard, lonely and old, all the figures, campaigns, and events flashing by in her memory. Revolutionary promises seem to have been an unfulfilled dream. The revolution provided a window of opportunity for Red Sister-in-Law to shine but denied her full citizenship. When history moves on, the Red Sisters-in-Law of this world are left behind.

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The Viewers’ Response As some scholars have proposed, the CCP has been pursuing a contradictory policy that on the one hand confirms the socialist legacy to verify its own legitimacy, while on the other hand repudiating it as political radicalism and effectively rendering it as the opposite of modernity.29 This practice results in a change in the “hierarchy of identity”: A class identity based on an alliance with the CCP that is a natural corollary of their poverty and backwardness will no longer appeal to ordinary people. Instead, both my interviews with viewers and media reports indicate a concerted enthusiasm in embracing the construction of a new local identity as the “honest and sincere people of Linyi” (chunpu de Yimeng ren 淳樸的沂濛人). Yimeng was shown during the prime-time slot on CCTV Channel 8 in November 2009. Within weeks, it ranked second in CCTV’s prime-time drama ratings.30 The series’s portrayal of local character, rather than party-imposed ideals as the source of local support for the revolution, was welcomed by viewers: The village head’s last words before death—“I cannot disgrace my ancestors,” was so overwhelming and so full of moral integrity. I was moved to tears at that point.”31 . . . “Yimeng is becoming more and more captivating. Because they hid the grain of the Eighth Route Army, Li Zhonghou’s mother was killed by the Japanese while Zhongfeng and his wife committed suicide by eating poisoned porridge. Yimeng people’s dedication is awe-inspiring.32

Interestingly, it is the landlord figure who seems to have drawn the most positive responses from viewers. His death is counted by interviewees as one of the most 29. Wang Hui, China’s New Order: Society, Politics, and Economy in Transition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003); Arif Dirlik, “Looking Backward in the Age of Global Capital: Thoughts on History in Third World Cultural Criticism,” in In Pursuit of Contemporary East Asian Culture, ed. Xiaobing Tang and Stephen Snyder (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 183–215. Zhao Yuezhi, “Neoliberal Strategies, Socialist Legacies: Communication and State Transformation in China,” in Global Communications: Towards a Transcultural Political Economy, ed. Paula Chakravarty and Yuezhi Zhao, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 23–50; “Rethinking Chinese Media Studies: History, Political Economy and Culture,” in Internationalizing Media Studies, ed. Daya Kishan Thussu (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 175–95; “Sustaining and Contesting Revolutionary Legacies in Media and Ideology,” in Mao’s Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China, ed. Elizabeth Perry and Sebastian Heilmann (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 201–36. 30. Zhu Wei 朱偉 and Zhang Jizhen 張紀珍, “Yimeng shoushilu yueju di’er: You wang rongying 2009 nian Yangshi huangjindang dianshiju shoushi guanjun” 《沂蒙》收視率躍居第二:有望榮膺2009年央視黃金 檔電視劇收視冠軍 [Yimeng jumped to second place in CCTV’s ratings: Possible number one in CCTV’s 2009 overall primetime drama rating], Qilu Evening News, December 8, 2009, C02. display.asp?id=466395. 31. Wang Jian 王健, “Renwu beixi mingyun, qiandong shimin xinxian: Xuduo guanzhong bei gandong de liulei” 人物悲喜命運,牽動市民心弦:許多觀眾被感動得流淚 [Viewers anxious about the vicissitudes of characters: Many moved to tears], Qilu Evening News, December 9, 2009, C02. 32. Zhang Jizhen 張紀珍, “Yimeng duan ping kuai” 《沂蒙》短評快 [Short comments on Yimeng], Qilu Evening News, December 8, 2009, C02.


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moving parts of the drama series. My interviews have shown that the discourse that “landlords are just peasants who worked harder and became rich earlier than others” has become so pervasive that it is nearly taken as a given. Viewers also responded positively to the TV series’s highly localized style (local actors, a hint of local accent, sets and filming locations, and costumes) and its depiction of simple, good-natured local people. I’ve been watching Yimeng for the past few days. This TV drama is very “unrefined” (tu 土), but it’s unrefined for the purpose of being realistic. It is so much better than those sentimental reality shows such as “Chinese idol.”33

Lao Song, a retired medical officer who lived in Linyi for nearly five decades, closely followed the drama series Yimeng every evening. “I like the ‘earthy taste’ of this TV drama. The actors look like the locals I met when I first moved to the Yimeng area 50 years ago.”34 Xiao Liu, a public service officer, said she also loved the show because of its simple, unadorned representational style, which presents a realistic account of the poor in the mountainous region at that time.35 The locals’ response to the TV series partly comes from the dislike of the “stifling holy aura” or the ideological indoctrination36 of the Mao era. Characters in Yimeng, with their genuine humanity, simple minds, and human failings, seem to restore the “perfect” revolutionary heroes to their authentic state. Equally important, this practice serves the purpose of self-affirmation for the locals in revolutionary base areas such as Linyi. As discussed earlier in this chapter, many local people had participated in the Sino-Japanese War and the Civil War because of the Chinese Communist Party’s promise to deliver equality and a good life. However, in a new social environment where class and other socialist concerns are losing currency, the locals desperately need to search for a new identity that provides coherence and meaning. This practice is not only creative but also productive in that it generates a new subject position for the locals in the global capitalist milieu. In the Yimeng Spirit Exhibition, the good character of the local people is promoted as the driving force that is transforming Linyi from a poverty-stricken, backward rural town into a vibrant, commercial hub. A “base area” subjectivity, which stands for “trustworthiness,” “self-sacrifice,” or “commitment and competitiveness,” is taking the place of class as the central organizing ideology for model citizenry. These good qualities are used to explain Linyi’s outstanding economic performance in the reform era. Celebrating individual success while reaffirming socialist virtues such as self-sacrifice and collectivism, these cultural traits endow the locals with an identity compatible 33. Ibid. 34. The interview was conducted over the phone in Chinese on April 9, 2010. 35. The interview was conducted in Chinese over the phone on March 20, 2010. 36. See Barmé, In the Red.

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with the post-Mao ethos. Television entertainment in post-Mao China thus takes on the task of suturing two distinctly different discourses.37

Conclusion The “red classics” TV drama adaptation craze results from the TV industry’s attempt to cash in on a revolutionary nostalgia market niche. The story of “fish-and-water” solidarity between the party and the masses, however, has become very hard to narrate when the basis of this alliance is now suppressed in official discourse and losing its currency in a consumer-oriented society. The representation of Red Sisterin-Law is caught in the conundrum created by the party’s contradictory approach to its revolutionary past: at once claiming its commitment to the socialist legacy yet in practice pursuing a neoliberal strategy.38 This chapter outlines a new strategy crafted by one local government to make its region’s historical legacy more accessible. Resorting to cultural revivalism, the TV drama narrates the party-masses relationship as a unique local humanity rooted in traditional Confucian ethics. The recourse to essentialized local traits adeptly gets around the use of class as the basis of the local support for the party and helps to deliver a story that pleases all: by maintaining the continuity of a party-mass alliance story on the surface, it does not question the nature of the party-mass relationship in today’s context, while at the same time displacing the ideological underpinning of the narrative with a subject position sustained by Confucian ethics. This strategy satisfies both the official push to utilize Confucianism for moral guidance for the masses and the local desire to resort to Confucianism as the legitimized source for identity construction. The story of Hong Sao has gone through a double displacement: the first process involved the purging of Confucian elements such as filial piety, chastity, and humanity in order to limit alternative readings of the story as something other than one of class struggle; the second is very nearly a reversal of the first process, displacing revolutionary ethics with Confucian ethics such as gratitude and return of favors, benevolence, filial piety, and chastity, to endow it with more complex, rounded dimensions for depiction in a TV drama. The saga of the Red Sister-in-Law stories offers an opportunity to observe how the two ideologies, contradictory in many ways, are exploited by the CCP to serve its political culture. The return of Confucianism represents the most significant cultural reactionary trend since the May Fourth Movement in the early twentieth century. The restoration 37. Sun Wanning and Yuezhi Zhao, “Television with Chinese Characteristics: The Politics of Compassion and Education,” in Television in the Post-Broadcasting Era, ed. Graeme Turner and Jinna Tay (London: Routledge, 2009). 38. Zhao, “Neoliberal Strategies, Socialist Legacies,” 23–50.


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of “hierarchy” and “chastity,” which had previously been condemned as “feudal” ideas, to replace hierarchies of “class” constitutes a huge backlash against the enlightenment efforts undertaken throughout the twentieth century. The conception of the TV drama Yimeng happened to coincide with this encounter between the two discourses, at a moment when Confucianism promised social harmony and the efficacy of class distinction was denied by the new middle class. Since the premiere of the TV drama Yimeng, campaigns to reenact the mass line strategy have been in full swing in Linyi. Government officials at various levels have been dispatched to local communities to gather public opinion or to investigate policy implementation. But just as Yimeng has replaced the source of party-mass bonding with essentialized Confucian ethics, these campaigns have been “divested of ideological and political content and purged of references to the Mao-era class struggle that preceded and helped to shape [them].”39 The remaking of the Red Sister-in-Law stories capture the moment of the revival of Confucian discourse and embodies the limits and the dilemmas of that discourse in contemporary China.

Bibliography Barmé, Geremie R. In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. Bell, Daniel. China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2008. Blecher, Marc. “Consensual Politics in Rural Chinese Communities: The Mass Line in Theory and Practice.” Modern China 5, no. 1 (1979): 105–26. Cai Rong. “Make the Present Serve the Past: Restaging On Guard beneath the Neon Lights in Contemporary China.” In Chinese Television in the Twenty-First Century: Entertaining the Nation, edited by R. Bai and G. Song, 149–57. London: Routledge, 2015. Chen Sihe 陳思和. Zhongguo dangdai wenxue guanjianci shi jiang 中國當代文學關鍵詞十 講 [Ten lectures on key words in contemporary Chinese literature]. Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 2002. Chen Yanru. “Fate, Faith, Family: Communication and Harmony in Chinese TV Drama The Gobi Mother.” China Media Research 4, no. 4 (2008): 50–58. Clark, Paul. The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Dan Ding 丹丁. “Cong suzao zhengmian yingxiong xingxiang chufa: Ping Hong Sao cong xiaoshuo dao jingju” 從塑造正面英雄形象出發:評《紅嫂》從小說到京劇 [Starting with the depiction of a positive heroic image: A review of Hong Sao’s adaptation from story to Peking opera: A review on Hong Sao’s adaptation from novel to Peking opera]. Shandong wenxue 2 (1964): 48–52.

39. Patricia M. Thornton, “Retrofitting the Steel Frame: From Mobilizing the Masses to Surveying the Public,” in Perry and Heilmann, Mao’s Invisible Hand, 201–36.

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Dirlik, Arif. “Looking Backward in the Age of Global Capital: Thoughts on History in Third World Cultural Criticism.” In In Pursuit of Contemporary East Asian Culture, edited by Xiaobing Tang and Stephen Snyder, 183–215. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996. Gan Yang 甘陽. “Zhongguo daolu: Sanshi nian he liushi nian” 中國道路:三十年和六十年 [China’s road: Thirty years and sixty years]. Dushu 讀書 6 (2007): 1–13. Gong Qian. “Living Red: Production, Consumption and Local Memory of Revolutionary Culture in Linyi.” In Mapping Media in China: Region, Province, Locality, edited by Wanning Sun and Jenny Chio, 172–96. London: Routledge, 2012. He Guimei 賀桂梅. Renwenxue de Xiangxiangli: Dangdai Zhongguo sixiang yu wenxue wenti 人文學的想像力:當代中國思想與文學問題 [The imagination of humanities: Issues on contemporary Chinese thought and literature]. Kaifeng: Henan University Press, 2005. Hinton, William. Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village. New York: Vintage, 1966. Hong Zicheng. A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007. Hu Tieqiang 胡鐵強. “Huaijiu qingjie yu hongse jingdian de gaibian” 懷舊情結與紅色經典 的改編 [Nostalgia complex and the adaptation of “red classics”]. Changsha daxue xuekan 1 (2010): 82–84. Li Ling 李零. Niao’er gechang 鳥兒歌唱. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2015. Meng Yue. “Female Images and National Myth.” In Gender Politics in Modern China, edited by Tani E. Barlow, 118–36. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 1993. Pang Qin. “The ‘Two Lines Control Model’ in China’s State and Society Relations: Central States’ Management of Confucian Revival in the New Century.” International Journal of China Studies 5, no. 3 (2014): 627–55. Sun Wanning, and Yuezhi Zhao. “Television with Chinese Characteristics: The Politics of Compassion and Education.” In Television in the Post-Broadcasting Era, edited by Graeme Turner and Jinna Tay, 96–104. London: Routledge, 2009. Thornton, Patricia M. “Retrofitting the Steel Frame: From Mobilizing the Masses to Surveying the Public.” In Mao’s Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China, edited by Sebastian Heilmann and Elizabeth J. Perry, 201–36. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Asia Center, 2002. Tu Weiming. “Confucian Spirituality in Contemporary China.” In Confucianism and Spiritual Traditions in Modern China and Beyond, edited by Yang Fenggang and Joseph Tamney, 75–96. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Wang Hui. China’s New Order: Society, Politics, and Economy in Transition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. Wang Jian 王健. 2009. “Renwu beixi mingyun, qiandong shimin xinxian: Xuduo guanzhong bei gandong de liulei” 人物悲喜命運,牽動市民心弦:許多觀眾被感動得流淚 [Viewers anxious about the vicissitudes of characters: Many moved to tears]. Qilu Evening News, December 9, 2009, C02. Wang Jin 王瑾. “Hongse jingdian shengchan zhong de changyu fenxi” 紅色經典生產中的場 域分析 [An analysis of the production process of “red classic” through Bourdieu’s field theory]. Hainan shifan daxue xuekan (Sheke ban) 20, no. 3 (2007): 27–31. Wang Kexia 王克霞. Geming yu bianqian: Yimeng hongse quyu funü shenghuo zhuangkuang yanjiu (1938–1949) 革命與變遷:沂蒙紅色區域婦女生活狀況研究1938–1949 [Revolution and evolution: A study on women’s living conditions in Yimeng red area]. Jinan: Shandong University Press, 2012.


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Wu Shufang, “‘Modernizing’ Confucianism in China: A Repackaging of Institutionalization to Consolidate Party Leadership.” Asian Perspective 39 (2015): 301–24. Xu, Janice Hua. “Building a Chinese ‘Middle Class’: Consumer Education and Identity Construction in Television Land.” In TV China, edited by Y. Zhu and C. Berry, 150–67. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2009. Yuan Chengliang 袁成亮. “Geming xiandai Jingju Hong Sao dansheng ji” 革命現代京劇 《紅嫂》誕生記 [The birth of the revolutionary Peking opera Hong Sao]. In Collections of Party History 2 (2007): 43–44. Zhang Jizhen 張紀珍. “Yimeng duan ping kuai” 《沂蒙》短平快 [Short comments on Yimeng]. Qilu Evening News, December 8, 2009, C02. Zhao Dongling Blog 趙冬苓博客, html. Zhao Yuezhi. “Neoliberal Strategies, Socialist Legacies: Communication and State Transformation in China.” In Global Communications: Towards a Transcultural Political Economy, edited by Paula Chakravarty and Yuezhi Zhao, 23–50. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. ———. “Rethinking Chinese Media Studies: History, Political Economy and Culture.” In Internationalizing Media Studies, edited by Daya Kishan Thussu, 175–195. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. ———. “Sustaining and Contesting Revolutionary Legacies in Media and Ideology.” In Mao’s Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China, edited by Elizabeth Perry and Sebastian Heilmann, 201–36. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. Zhu Wei 朱偉, and Zhang Jizhen 張紀珍. “Yimeng shoushilü yueju di’er: You wang rongying 2009 nian Yangshi huangjindang dianshiju shoushi guanjun” 《沂蒙》收視率躍居第 二:有望榮膺央視黃金檔電視劇收視冠軍 [Yimeng jumped to second place in CCTV’s ratings: Possible number one in CCTV’s 2009 overall primetime drama rating]. Qilu Evening News, December 8, 2009, 2.

10 Families, Intellectuals, and Enemies in the “Red Classic” Remake New Tunnel Warfare Lara Vanderstaay

Introduction In the introduction to this book, Roberts and Li write that whereas reprints of “red classic” novels and remastered digital versions of “red classic” films chiefly function to evoke a memory of the past, adaptations and remakes tend to speak to the present. This observation is no more clearly evidenced than in the adaptation of the 1965 “red classic” live action adults film Tunnel Warfare (Didao zhan 地道戰) into a children’s animated film, New Tunnel Warfare (Xin didao zhan 新地道戰) in 2009. Since the target audience of the new cartoon version has no personal memory of events of the Maoist era, and the remake is therefore not primarily intended to satisfy nostalgic longing for the past, this chapter seeks to investigate the key changes that have been made in the process of adaptation and understand their significance. It argues that the animated film functions primarily to reshape the founding mythology of the CCP to fit the party’s current social and political agenda while bolstering the relationship between the regime and contemporary youth. In analyzing the remake, this chapter will consider three predominant elements of New Tunnel Warfare: the reemergence of the biological family, the valorization of the intellectual, and the representation of the enemy and of violence in general.

The Narratives of Tunnel Warfare and New Tunnel Warfare The “red classic” live-action film Tunnel Warfare is set in a northern Chinese village in 1942 during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). As the story begins, invading Japanese soldiers approach Gao Village, led by the villainous General Yamada 山 田將官. The elderly village head, Lao Zhang, is shot dead by the Japanese as he rings the village bell to alert people to the enemy’s arrival. The villagers quickly hide in underground tunnels dug beneath their homes and successfully avoid detection. The villagers then utilize this series of underground tunnels to engage in guerrilla warfare


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against the Japanese under the direction of the local party and people’s militia leaders as well as the new female village head. The villagers are initially duped by a group of collaborators claiming to be soldiers from the Eighth Route Army, but the collaborators’ plot to extract information from the villagers soon fails, and the villagers are successful in defeating the Japanese with the aid of studying Mao Zedong’s On Protracted Warfare and the real Eighth Route Army soldiers. By extending their tunnels to join villages across the plains, the people’s militia are able to counterattack the Japanese local headquarters. The Japanese army is routed, and General Yamada is killed. New Tunnel Warfare reframes this story by making children the main characters. The setting and time frame remain the same, but the plot is changed to center on Yamada’s attempts to locate and recover a cache of weapons stolen from the Japanese army by the Eighth Route Army and concealed somewhere in the vicinity of Gao Village. The film’s protagonist is a young schoolboy, Maibao 麥包, who is assisted by his classmates and some adults in the village, including his grandfather and his schoolteacher (who pretends to be a collaborator but is secretly a Communist), to ultimately defeat the Japanese invaders through the use of tunnel warfare. This victory is, however, achieved at the cost of some of the villagers’ lives, notably the schoolteacher’s, after his deception in pretending to help the Japanese is uncovered and he is brutally tortured before being executed.

Children and the Return of Traditional Family Structures in New Tunnel Warfare One of the most striking differences between Tunnel Warfare and New Tunnel Warfare is the return of the traditional biological family to central place in the film. In “red classic” theater and film, it is a common trope for the (proletarian) central characters, both adults and children, to lose their biological families at the hands of evil members of the ruling classes or Japanese invaders. In these works working-class people substitute in to become a pseudofamily. The yangbanxi The Red Lantern is the most famous example of this phenomenon, in which the central “family” of daughter, father, and grandmother turn out to be unrelated to one another by blood but were forged into a family unit when all of them lost all the other members of their families in the bloody suppression of a workers strike. In “red classic” films with children as central characters, the child is typically orphaned in cruel circumstances in the opening scenes and is saved by kindly Communist soldiers who take him into the army as a giant extended family (Little Soldier Zhang Ga, and Sparkling Red Star) or by the CCP taking power and taking care of the war orphans in the new society (for example, Lei Feng). In Tunnel Warfare, village head Lao Zhang, shot by the Japanese at the beginning of the film, leaves behind his granddaughter, apparently already an orphan, who is then looked after by the militia, the village head, and the army.

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Although the girl’s brother is one of the central heroic characters, there is no more than comradely interaction between them, and it is not he who comforts her after the death of their grandfather. In these works, the central message transmitted to audiences through such politically based small or large “family” groups was that class was more important than actual blood ties and that revolutionary characters should unite as one family, irrespective of blood relationships. In contrast to this absence of biological family in Tunnel Warfare, blood family relationships are a prominent feature of the narrative in New Tunnel Warfare. The child hero, Maibao (aged eight to ten), has a living biological family, represented by his younger sister (aged two or three) and grandfather. The bell-ringer shot at the beginning of the story is no longer the grandfather but now an unidentified elderly peasant, and the grandfather remains alive throughout the story, enabling the loving and caring relationships among the grandfather, Maibao, and his sister to be highlighted in many of the minor plot elements of the film. The party / Communist army no longer steps in to become substitute family as in the “red classic” films, but it does retain the old role of wise guardian and savior of the people in the broader context of the plot. The retention of Maibao’s grandfather in the plot allows traditional family values to be reasserted in the “red classic” remake. Toward the end of the film, Maibao prepares to trick the Japanese into following him to the weapons cache, and his sister insists on going with him. In order to get her to stay in the safety of the tunnels, Maibao tells her, “Grandfather is old, he’ll only be alright if you stay here and look after him.” Little sister then goes to Grandfather and says, “You are old and it’s only right that I protect you” (ni nianji dale, wo baohu ni cai dui). He responds, “Yes, you’re right, good girl.” In place of the class-based love and altruism that were promoted in the original “red classics,” what is presented here for emulation by today’s children is an example of the traditional concept of filial piety. Traditional filial piety had been under attack by reformers and revolutionaries since the time of the May Fourth Movement because of its perceived stultifying effect on youthful innovation and initiative, so its insertion into the remake of a “red classic” film is particularly symbolic. In this respect the children’s cartoon has been adapted to the needs of current society where the regime has found it necessary to once again promote filial piety and elder care because the state cannot afford to support the disproportionately large elderly population created by decades of the one-child policy.1 Throughout the film there are many instances of family members endangering themselves to protect another of the family members in a show of selflessness and family loyalty. The reinstatement of traditional family values can also be seen as an attempt to fill the ideological vacuum left by the collapse 1. Zhenmei Zhang, Danan Gu, and Ye Luo, “Coresidence with Elderly Parents in Contemporary China: The Role of Filial Piety, Reciprocity, Socioeconomic Resources and Parental Needs,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 29 (2014): 259–76.


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of Communist values at the end of the Maoist era and the moral void of the market economy that replaced it. One of the consequences of children becoming the central characters in New Tunnel Warfare is that children become the carriers of Communist Party ideology to the contemporary generations of youth. While far less overt than the way Communist ideology is propagated in Tunnel Warfare, it is still a palpable presence throughout the remake. The shaping of children’s attitudes toward the current regime is fostered through subtle details such as the wounded Communist guerilla fighter being introduced to the children as “Uncle Eighth Route Army” (Balujun shushu), a figure who is to be revered and nurtured back to health, even at the risk of the teacher’s and children’s lives. When Uncle Eighth Route Army recovers consciousness, he is affectionate and avuncular toward the children and when news arrives that the villagers are to be massacred, he calmly organizes the children with a plan to save them. Although the Communist army does not appear in the film in the way that it does in the many battle scenes of Tunnel Warfare, its implicit referencing through the kindly “uncle” in New Tunnel Warfare reinforces the message that the Communist Party and army are the protectors of the people and saviors of the nation. The overt propaganda messages of the original film have thus been diluted and adapted into a format more palatable for contemporary Chinese audiences, a phenomenon that has also been identified in other remakes of “red classics” and animations.2 Another point of difference between the representation of children in the “red classic” and its remake is the freedom that Maibao and the other children in New Tunnel Warfare have to display emotion. In contrast to a scene in Tunnel Warfare in which two girls, one a teenager and the other around ten years old, calmly collect weapons from dead Japanese soldiers, kicking their bodies to see if they are still alive, and the younger girl beats a collaborator around the head with a shoe, the children in New Tunnel Warfare are frequently depicted expressing quite extreme and excessive emotions over either actual violent events (the shooting of the bell ringer, finding their teacher’s corpse after he was executed by the Japanese) or anticipated violent events.3 Particularly telling is a scene in which Maibao is trapped by a Japanese soldier in the tunnel but saved by two friends, one of whom hits the soldier with a cudgel. All three children are shown gasping and crying in shock after the experience, with one boy repeating in horror, “Did I kill him? Did I kill him?” As the children cry, their emotion is represented visually by broad waterfalls of water streaming from their 2. Kenichi Isshi, “Nationalism and Preferences for Domestic and Foreign Animation Programmes in China,” International Communication Gazette 75, no. 2 (2013): 225–45; Luke Robinson, “Animating the Chinese Child Consumer,” Journal of Children and Media 5, no. 4 (2011): 426–41; and Xu Xu, “Chairman Mao’s Child: Sparkling Red Star and the Construction of Children in the Chinese Cultural Revolution,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 36, no. 4 (2011): 381–409. 3. This is also illustrative of McCrea’s idea of excess in animated film, which he sees as incorporating “a range” of different forms of excess, including emotional excess.

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eyes in anime style while they sob and wail loudly. The adults, in particular the Eighth Route Army soldier and the teacher, do urge the children not to cry, and the children do then control themselves, but it is significant that they are allowed to express emotion so frequently during the film. As Naftali noted, the character of Pan Dongzi in the 2007 remake of Sparkling Red Star was allowed to express extreme sadness at the death of his mother and fear at the thought of being involved in war, whereas the same character in the original film was expressly forbidden from showing emotion in order to become an “infallible, hardened little warrior.”4 Expressing emotion in twenty-first-century Chinese popular culture is no longer seen as a negative attribute indicating weakness (provided it does not prevent people from doing their duty) but shows that characters who cry, such as Maibao and the 2007 Pan Dongzi, are “more well-rounded protagonist[s].”5

Reinscribing the Intellectual into Communist Discourse One of the most intriguing characters in New Tunnel Warfare is the teacher, who is never identified by family name but referred to by all the villagers as Teacher (Laoshi 老師). He is immediately identified through his Sun Yat-sen jacket (or “Mao suit”) with the Communist Party; however, while this subtext is immediately obvious to the contemporary viewer, it is unknown to the villagers. The teacher is initially seen to be critical of the Japanese soldiers, referring to them in front of the school children as “devils” as well as assisting the wounded Communist soldier and caring for the children. However, later he appears to agree to collaborate with Yamada and his men, offering to help them find the weapons cache in order to save his own life. The villagers label him a traitor, but it turns out that he had prearranged this with Uncle Eighth Route Army as a strategy to prevent the villagers being shot one by one. The teacher then leads the Japanese to a booby-trapped bridge, where he will send them to their death, but he is betrayed by a Chinese traitor at the last minute. He is captured and then cruelly tortured by Yamada and his henchman before being executed. The children, having realized that the teacher is a hero and not a collaborator, secretly remove his body from the execution ground and take him back to the hidden tunnels. The teacher’s role is laden with symbolism. He serves to restore the position of the intellectual as a social leader and moral exemplar after years of being treated with suspicion by the regime. One of the ways in which the teacher is tortured by Yamada is by having his tongue cut out. Apart from bearing witness to the brutality of the Japanese, this act could also be read as a protest against the fate of intellectuals during events such as the Anti-Rightist Movement, when those who were perceived to have 4. Orna Naftali, “Marketing War and the Military to Children and Youth in China: Little Red Soldiers in the Digital Age.” China Information 28, no. 1 (2014): 12. 5. Ibid.


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criticized the party during the Hundred Flowers Movement were silenced through imprisonment, exile, or death.6 In New Tunnel Warfare, the reputation of the teacher is restored when it is understood and acknowledged that he was in fact a supporter of and martyr for the revolution. Following on from the analogy above, this can be seen as reflecting how in contemporary Chinese society intellectuals are once again respected, and their previously unacknowledged contributions to society and the nation are or should be given recognition. As in the TV series remake of The Red Detachment of Women, the teacher in New Tunnel Warfare symbolizes the incorporation of the intellectual into the pantheon of revolutionary heroes.7

The Changing Representation of Villains and Violence The representation of villains in New Tunnel Warfare is significantly different from that in its “red classic” predecessor. The treatment of the Japanese villains is more nuanced in the remake than in the original film, whereas the real collaborator character (rather than the teacher who feigns collaboration) is still heavily demonized. Interestingly, the portrayal of the enemy soldiers makes identifiable class distinctions: General Yamada and his senior officer are depicted as vicious and sadistic with no redeeming qualities, and thus demonized, while the two young, junior soldiers who appear throughout the film are treated much more generously. As scholars have argued, it is important to study demonization in animation and other forms of children’s popular culture.8 Fouts, Callan, Piasentin, and Lawson note that “the attribution of ‘evil’ onto a person engaging in harm doing or ‘bad’ behavior is called demonizing regardless of whether the harm doers are, in fact, truly ‘evil.’”9 They argue that this demonization can significantly affect how children think about the world. Demonization has both metaphorical and literal forms in New Tunnel Warfare. The literal demonization of the Japanese begins early in the film with the teacher writing on the blackboard “The devils are coming!” (guizi lai le 鬼子來了). The reference to “devils” is instantly understood by viewers of the film as referring to the Japanese, although in the past it could have connotations of other non-Chinese ethnicities as in the term yang guizi 洋鬼子, or “foreign devil.” The more metaphorical demonization of the Japanese characters occurs in the regular scenarios where they are outsmarted by the village children, led by Maibao. 6. June Teufel Dreyer, China’s Political System: Modernization and Tradition (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1996), 93. 7. For discussion of this phenomenon in Red Detachment of Women, see Rosemary Roberts, “Reconfiguring Red: Class Discourses in the New Millennium TV Adaptation of The Red Detachment of Women,” China Perspectives 2 (2015): 25–31. 8. See for example, Gregory Fouts, Mitchell Callan, Kelly Piasentin, and Andrea Lawson, “Demonizing in Children’s Television Cartoons and Disney Animated Films,” Child Psychiatry Human Development 37 (2006): 15–23. 9. Ibid., 15.

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Two of the young, junior Japanese soldiers are humanized in the remake in a way that would never have been seen in a work from the Maoist era. These two soldiers, who are unnamed, look human in contrast to their senior officers, who more closely resemble animals. This could be seen as evidence of a class discourse in the film, whereby those who have lower social status, such as these soldiers, are more human and less culpable than their more highly ranked superiors. The soldiers are portrayed slightly sympathetically as capable of showing sensitive emotions, such as sorrow at missing their homes in Japan and love for their parents. The soldiers tell Maibao’s grandfather about their background, as they come from country farms and simply want to return home, rather than engage in, much less enjoy, the vicious brutality carried out by their superiors. At the same time, however, their naïveté is emphasized as Maibao’s grandfather, rather than harmlessly chatting with them, is actually distracting them while the children recover the teacher’s body. Other scenes also portray them as clumsy, incompetent, cowardly, and stupid. Thus, they are still demonized according to the conceptualization of demonization by Fouts, Callan, Piasentin and Lawson,10 and their representation would still negatively impact upon the way Chinese children would view Japan and the Japanese people. Merely by giving these characters some relatable qualities, however, New Tunnel Warfare is indicating its difference from Tunnel Warfare and the other original “red classic” films, where Japanese characters were never personalized and always unequivocally evil. The reviling of General Yamada continues unabated in New Tunnel Warfare. The opening scene of the film depicts him in a meeting with other senior members of the Japanese military. Yamada is seen sweating excessively from nerves as military officials who are clearly his senior outline the unfavorable military situation and give orders to locate the stolen weapons cache. He appears terrified and thus the immediate audience impression is of a cowardly, weak man. Yamada’s avarice is also revealed through exaggerated facial expression when the senior officials show him and his colleagues gold bars they will be rewarded with if their mission is successful. Most prominent, however, is Yamada’s cruel and brutal nature, repeatedly caricatured in his interactions with the villagers, particularly the teacher whose treatment horrifies even Yamada’s own men. New Tunnel Warfare retains only one collaborator character (with no Nationalist soldiers present), a man who represents feudal China, dressed as he is in a traditional long coat, and shown in his house with calligraphy scrolls and classical-style paintings decorating the walls, including a portrait of Confucius. The negative portrayal of this character, who could be seen to represent the traditional Chinese gentleman (junzi 君子), suggests that the feudal past is still problematic in twenty-first-century China. The character appears only in a few scenes; thus, his role is much less 10. Ibid., 15.


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significant than the collaborator roles in Tunnel Warfare in which the main collaborator accompanies Yamada throughout the story. This comparative lack of significance, it has been posited in scholarship on other “red classic” remakes, could be due to the sociopolitical climate of appeasement with Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as the rise of the middle class in contemporary China—the audience with sufficient financial resources to afford to view the film.11 The switch in the nature of the villains from a combination of Japanese military tyrants and Chinese collaborators to a focus primarily on the Japanese reflects the changed national and international political situation from the 1960s to the present. In 1965 when the original film was released, while the Japanese invasion was still prominent in the national psyche, counterinvasion by the exiled Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan was also a real contemporary threat. Domestic collaborators (hanjian 漢 奸) were thus seen as just as much of a problem as external threats for the Communist regime. Today’s China is a vastly different environment, where Hong Kong has returned to China, and there is improved communication between the Mainland and Taiwan, although their relationship is still tenuous. In contrast, the Sino-Japanese relationship continues to be a tense one, particularly in relation to issues of ownership of land such as the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and unresolved issues from the Japanese invasion exacerbated by the Japanese refusal to apologize for events such as the Nanjing Massacre of 1937. Thus, watching a film such as New Tunnel Warfare that repeatedly exposes the Japanese to ridicule and emphasizes the contrasting strength of the Chinese people enables the audience to have feelings of superiority against their common enemy. Enunciating the film’s positive characters’ unity against a common enemy—and this is one of the few overt propaganda messages that is delivered directly to the children in a speech by Uncle Eighth Route Army—also reinforces the political message that the Chinese people should be united and indeed must be, in order to succeed as a nation. This functions to promote the social and political stability of the current regime. New Tunnel Warfare is very different from its “red classic” source in its portrayal of brutality. The violence in the animated film is overtly sadistic, a point of difference from the original, which, despite being full of battle scenes, depicted death and violence without any portrayal of onscreen bloodshed or brutality. Research on animation has long argued that children’s attitudes to violence are particularly influenced by animated films and television series,12 so violence in New Tunnel Warfare can be regarded as fostering anti-Japanese sentiment in new generations of Chinese viewers. The most extreme form of sadistic activity evident in New Tunnel Warfare occurs 11. Amanda Weiss, “New Masculinities in Chinese and Japanese Combat Films,” Asian Cinema 25, no. 2 (2014): 165–82. 12. Hugh Klein and Kenneth Shiffman, “What Animated Cartoons Tell Viewers about Assault,” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma 16, no. 2 (2008): 184.

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when Yamada and his henchman boast about removing the intestines and tongue of the teacher. The act of violence itself occurs offscreen. The teacher’s corpse, however, marked with symbolic blood stains, is seen when the children make a secret nighttime mission to retrieve his body and bring it back to the tunnels. Yamada is also violent toward his own men, both physically and verbally, symbolized visually by the shape of his hand being imprinted on their faces after he has struck them. Comparing violence in the original and the remake, when heroic figures, such as the bell-ringer, die in Tunnel Warfare, the emphasis is on their stance as they stand straight and tall, indicating their strength and power. They serve to remind the villains (and the audience) that the Communist Party will endure even though they themselves are about to die. In contrast, in New Tunnel Warfare, the teacher is shown as a vulnerable body, first when being publicly beaten and later when his mutilated corpse is rescued by the children. This representation of Communist heroes as people who are not gods but human figures who endure extreme suffering and painful deaths shows how the hard, didactic nature of Communist propaganda has switched to a softer, more humanitarian style more in keeping with the sensibilities of twenty-first-century society.

Conclusions New Tunnel Warfare has revised Tunnel Warfare in important ways, and it is a striking example of how the remade “red classics” were adapted to meet the needs of the new sociopolitical environment of the twenty-first century. Reemergence of the family marks the transition from a political strategy in which the then new Communist regime sought to break the hold of the family or the clan on the individual and replace it with loyalty to the party and the nation to a strategy of reestablishing family values and responsibilities in a society that is fragmented and faced with a problem of caring for its growing cohort of elderly citizens. Rehabilitation of the intellectual marks a deliberate strategy of the party to include a broader range of social and economic classes in its party membership to bolster its support among the new elites that have emerged under the market economy and opening up to the outside. Finally, the switch in demonization of villains, from a combined focus on the KMT/domestic collaborators to a sole focus on the Japanese reflects the changes and continuities in China’s external politics. While few of its citizens living in 2009 would remember the Japanese invasion, China was (and continues to be) embroiled in a tense relationship with Japan over ownership of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and unresolved issues from the era of the Japanese invasion, such as the refusal of the Japanese to apologize for events such as the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. The focus on Japan as the brutal villain thus fosters anti-Japanese nationalist sentiment that, as the cartoon Uncle Eighth Route Army says, teaches that only when the Chinese people stand united will no one be able to bully them. In New Tunnel Warfare


Lara Vanderstaay

the remade “red classic” continues the call for society and the nation to unite under the leadership of the CCP in a soft power format designed for a new generation in the new millennium.

Bibliography Asahi Shimbun. “China Embarks on Regulating Far-Fetched Anti-Japanese TV Dramas.” Published online at Accessed February 9, 2017. Blackledge, Olga. “Violence, Chases and the Construction of Bodies in American and Soviet Animated Series.” animation: an interdisciplinary journal 5, no. 1 (2010): 41–56. Farquhar, Mary. Children’s Literature in China: From Lu Xun to Mao Zedong. Armonk, NY: East Gate, 1999. Fouts, Gregory, Mitchell Callan, Kelly Piasentin, and Andrea Lawson. “Demonizing in Children’s Television Cartoons and Disney Animated Films.” Child Psychiatry Human Development 37 (2006): 15–23. Gan, Wenjin 甘文瑾. “You ‘Maibao’ dai dui de yi bang xiaohaizi zhidou Riben guizi Xin didao zhan: 7 yue 1 ri dailai donghuaban Didao zhan,” 由“麥包”帶隊的一幫小孩子智鬥日 本鬼子《新地道戰》:7月1日帶來動畫版《地道戰》, Zhongguo dianying bao 9, no. 2 (2009): 1. Giesen, Rolf. Chinese Animation: A History and Filmography 1922–2012. Jefferson: McFarland and Company, 2015. Isshi, Kenichi. “Nationalism and Preferences for Domestic and Foreign Animation Programmes in China.” International Communication Gazette 75, no. 2 (2013): 225–45. Klein, Hugh, and Kenneth Shiffman. “What Animated Cartoons Tell Viewers about Assault.” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma 16, no. 2 (2008): 181–201. McCrea, Christian. “Explosive, Expulsive, Extraordinary: The Dimensional Excess of Animated Bodies.” Animation: an interdisciplinary journal 3, no. 1 (2008): 19. Naftali, Orna. “Marketing War and the Military to Children and Youth in China: Little Red Soldiers in the Digital Age.” China Information 28, no.1 (2014): 3–25. Roberts, Rosemary. “Reconfiguring Red: Class Discourses in the New Millennium TV Adaptation of The Red Detachment of Women.” China Perspectives 2 (2015): 25–31. Robinson, Luke. “Animating the Chinese Child Consumer.” Journal of Children and Media 5, no. 4 (2011): 426–41. Teufel Dreyer, June. China’s Political System: Modernization and Tradition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1996. Weiss, Amanda. “New Masculinities in Chinese and Japanese Combat Films.” Asian Cinema 25, no. 2 (2014): 165–82. Xinwen wanbao 新聞晚報. “Zhui zong Mao Zedong tici ‘haohao xuexi tiantian xiangshang’: Xunfang dangnian xiao yingxiong.” 追蹤毛澤東題詞“好好學習天天向上":尋訪當 年小英雄. Published online at Accessed February 24, 2015. Xu, Xu. “Chairman Mao’s Child: Sparkling Red Star and the Construction of Children in the Chinese Cultural Revolution.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 36, no. 4 (2011): 381–409.

Families, Intellectuals, and Enemies in New Tunnel Warfare 187 Zhang, Zhenmei, Danan Gu, and Ye Luo. “Coresidence with Elderly Parents in Contemporary China: The Role of Filial Piety, Reciprocity, Socioeconomic Resources and Parental Needs.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 29 (2014): 259–76.


Qian Gong 宮倩 is a lecturer in the School of Education, Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University. She was a journalist at the China Daily for nine years, writing on culture, life and people, before joining the academy in Australia. Her research interests include socialist culture and contemporary culture in China, media studies, and gender. She completed her PhD on TV adaptation of the “red classics” in 2011 and has published a number of journal articles and book chapters. Frederik H. Green is assistant professor of Chinese language and literature at San Francisco State University. Originally from northern Germany, he received his BA in Chinese Studies from Cambridge University and a PhD in modern Chinese literature from Yale University. His research interests include Republican period literature and film, Sino-Japanese relations, and postsocialist Chinese cinema. His articles have appeared in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese, Frontiers of Literary Studies in China, East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, and the Rocky Mountain Review. Richard King is professor of Chinese studies, University of Victoria, Canada. His principal research is on modern Chinese literature and film, literary theory, and propaganda. Recent publications include Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism 1945–1980 (2013); edited volumes on the art of the Cultural Revolution and Sino-Japanese cultural relations; and entries for Words and Their Stories, edited by Ban Wang (2010), The Oxford Handbook on the History of Communism, edited by Stephen Smith (2014), and The Harvard New Literary History of China, edited by David Der-wei Wang and Ban Wang (forthcoming). He is the translator of several volumes of modern Chinese fiction and has contributed two entries to the Oxford Online Bibliographies.

190 Contributors

Li Li 李力 is associate professor of Chinese and Asian studies at the University of Denver. Her early publications include translation of English poetry and poetry criticism. Her recent research and publications are focused on modern and contemporary Chinese literature, popular culture, and media studies, especially on social and semiotic constructions of women in Chinese literary and visual culture. Her recent book Memory, Fluid Identity, and Politics of Remembering: The Representation of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in English-Speaking Countries (2016) investigates many complex cultural and sociopolitical issues involved in memory and representation in a cross-country, cross-cultural environment. Yang Li 李揚 is professor of contemporary Chinese literature and culture at Peking University. His publications include 兩種智慧:科學與中國政治文化 [Two forms of knowledge: Science and Chinese political culture] (1989); 抗爭宿命之路:社會 主義現實主義1942–1976研究 [The path of resisting destiny: A study of socialist realism 1949–1976] (1993); 1950–1970年代中國文學經典作品再解讀 [Rereading of canonical works in Chinese literature from the 1950s to the 1970s] (2003); 文學 史寫作中現代性問題 [Issues on modernity in literary historiography] (2005); 讀 電影之經典藝術電影 [Analyzing classic art films] (2014); and 《白毛女》七十年 [Seventy years of the White-Haired Girl] (2015). Currently, he is working on a project on visual, aural, and literary culture of Yan’an in the revolutionary period. Rosemary Roberts is an honorary senior research fellow in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Queensland. Her research focuses on cross-disciplinary work combining elements of Chinese cultural studies, gender studies, literary studies, and women’s studies. She has published extensively on Chinese women’s literature, gender in the Model Revolutionary Works (yangbanxi) of Cultural Revolution China, and more generally on Chinese socialist and revolutionary literature and culture. She is the author of Maoist Model Theatre: The Semiotics of Gender and Sexuality in the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–76) (2010) and has coedited five research anthologies. Her published translations include anthologies of short stories and Chinese folk songs, the memoirs of Confucius’s descendant Kong Demao, and contemporary Chinese plays for the Staging China Network based at Leeds University, of which she is a founding member. Kuiyi Shen 沈揆一 is professor of art history at University of California, San Diego. His current research focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese art and SinoJapanese cultural exchange. Among his numerous publications are A Century in Crisis (1998); Between the Thunder and the Rain (2000); Blooming in the Shadow— Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974–1985 (2011); and Arts of Modern China (2012), which was awarded the 2013 ICAS (International Convention of Asia Scholars) Book Prize

Contributors 191

in Humanities at China Institute in New York, 2011. He has also been the recipient of many international of fellowships and awards. Xiaofei Tian 田曉菲 is professor of Chinese literature at Harvard University. She is the author of Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture: The Record of a Dusty Table (2005); Beacon Fire and Shooting Star: The Literary Culture of the Liang (502–557) (2007); and Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and NineteenthCentury China (2011). Her translation of a nineteenth-century memoir, The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath, was awarded the inaugural Patrick D. Hanan Translation Prize (2016). Her new book, The Halberd at Red Cliff: Jian’an and the Three Kingdoms, is forthcoming from Harvard University Asia Center Press. She is a coeditor and contributing author of Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature (1000 BCE–900 CE) (forthcoming); and of A New Literary History of Modern China (forthcoming). She is currently working on a book tentatively entitled Writing Empire, Writing Self in Early Medieval China. Lara Vanderstaay lectures in Chinese studies at the University of Queensland, having previously taught at the University of Adelaide. She received her PhD in Chinese studies from the University of Queensland in 2011. She has published work in journals including Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in the Asia-Pacific. Lianfen Yang 楊聯芬 is professor of modern Chinese literature at Renmin University. Her research focuses on modern Chinese literature, especially ideological and cultural trends from the late Qing to the present time. She has published several books, including 晚清至五四:中國文學現代性的發生 [From the late Qing to the May Fourth: The occurrence of modernity in Chinese literature] (2003); 孫犁:革命文學 中的多餘人 [Sun Li: A solitary figure in modern Chinese Revolutionary Literature] (2004); 浪漫的中國:性別視角下激進主義思潮與文學 (1890–1940) [Romantic China: Trends of radicalism and literature from the perspective of gender 1890–1940] (2016). She is the first-place winner of the Tang Tao Literary Research Prize in 2003 and the second-place winner of Philosophy and Social Science Studies Prize in 2005.


5515 project, 126 agricultural co-op (nongye hezuoshe), 96, 99. See also collective farming Ai Qing, skepticism about old forms, 75 Aiding Korea Movement, 142 Alov, Aleksandr, 142, 146 Anti-Rightist Movement, 181 authenticity, xi, xiii, 11, 22, 24, 30, 36 ba rong ba chi. See Eight Virtues and the Eight Shames Bai Gonguan (Bai House), 43, 46, 54 Bai Ru, 70–72 Bai Yu’e, 5, 9 Baoer jingshen. See Pavel Spirit Baoer Kechajin, 137, 143. See also Korchagin, Pavel baogao wenxue. See reportage Baowei Yan’an. See Protect Yan’an “base area” subjectivity, 172 basic task, 33–34, 38 Battle hard against the flickering of the word si in one’s mind (hen dou si zi yi shannian), 93 Behind Enemy Lines, 59 Beijing school (fine art): style, 77–78 benevolence, 165, 167, 168, 170, 174 big, wide, and handsome (gao, da, quan), 15 Biography of Yue Fei, 61 bird and flower painting, 76, 78, 79, 88–89 black-line in the arts, 13, 23 body, 97, 102, 103, 108

Brown, Alec, 139 Builders, viii, 30 Bureau of Investigation and Statistics of the Military Affairs Commission (Juntong), 43 Butterfly Enticer, 62–64 capitalist roader (zouzipai), 107 CCP. See Chinese Communist Party CCTV, 150 Central Hebei Base Areas, 3, 13–14; also known as Central Hebei, 4, 8, 13–14 chastity, 169–70 Chatzetung. See Zhazidong Chekhov, Anton, 17 Chen Feihuang, 139 Chen Jialuo, 71–72 Chen Li, xvi Chen Qixia, 5, 6, 9 Chen Shunxin, 39 Chen Sihe, 26, 28 Chen Xianjin, 27, 36, 37 Cheng Kang, 45, 52; fictional character in Red Crag based on Chen Ran, 45 Children’s attitudes: shaping of, 180; to violence, 184 China Youth Press, 48 Chinese Communist Party, x, xvi, 46, 62, 158; coalition with KMT, 12, 17; and Confucian ethics, 164, 169; drive to protect cultural traditions, 75–76; as family, 68, 167, 178; foundation myth, ix, xi, xii, 42, 49, 51–53, 57, 120;

Index 193 re-legitimation through red classics, x, 42, 125, 134, 171, 177; and soft power, 134, 186; underground, 44; wartime strategy, 6–8, 13; and women, 169–70, 173 Chinese revolutionary literature, 3, 18, 191 chivalric novels, 65–67, 70 Chongqing (also spelled Chongch’ing), 43–44, 46, 57 Chuangye shi. See Builders Civil War, 51, 142–43, 158 class: characteristics of art, 89; consciousness, 165; determinism, 15 class struggle, 161–62; reorientation away from, 166; transcending of, 166, 173, 174 closure (in comics), 129 collective farming, 24, 36; portrayed in art, 82–83. See also agricultural co-op combination of revolutionary realism and revolutionary romanticism, xiii, 32 Communism, 143 Communist Youth League, 144 Confucianism, 163, 164, 173, 174, 163nn14– 15, 163n18, 164n19; centrality of, 170; Confucian ethics, 163; Confucian value, 165; content of, 164; co-optation of, 163; fish-and-water relationship and, 157; promotion of, 164; and subject position, 173; TV drama based on, 165; as unique local humanity, 173 Constitutional Guidelines for the JinCha-Ji Border Areas (Double Ten Constitution), 7 Cui Jian, 147 cultural indigenization, 152 Cultural Revolution, ix, xi, xiii, xv, 10, 11, 12; ban on works of 17 years, 13, 23, 144; brutality, 146; fight against si, 93–95, 99, 104; heirs of, 149; literary policy and conventions in, 23–24, 34, 117, 124; struggle sessions, 108; women characters in, 96–97; writers condemned during, 28, 33, 35, 38 Dachun, 27 December 9 Movement, 4, 16

Deng Xiaoping, 12, 107 Deng Xiumei, 26, 27, 29 Deng Yiting, 29, 39 Dengshiqiao County, 25, 37 demonization: of villains in New Tunnel Warfare, 183, 185; in animation, 183 Diao Gui, 123, 160–62 Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands: ownership of, 184–85 Didao zhan. See Tunnel Warfare. Diyuxing. See local qualities domestic collaborators (hanjian), 184 Dong Xiwen, xii, 81 Donskoy, Mark, 142, 146 Douban, 151, 152n50 double-dealing revolutionaries, 13 Du Pengcheng, viii, 11 Duan Luofu, 139 Dushu, 143 Eight Black Theories, 22, 31 Eight Immortals Cross the Sea, 14 Eight Virtues and the Eight Shames, 163 Eighth Route Army, 4, 6, 7, 13, 46, 167, 169, 171, 177–78, 180–81, 184–85 exposing the “true” face (jiefa/jielu/baolu), 108 Fang Zengxian, 79–80 Father (painting), 132, 133 fellow traveler, 16 Feng Zikai, 85 Fengyun chuji. See Stormy Years “Festival Day in Shaoshan” (Shaoshan de jieri), 35 figure painting, 76–78, 79, 80 filial piety, 164, 169–70, 173 fish-and-water, 156, 157, 163, 167, 170, 173; definition of, 156n1 Five Days and Nights on Flying Tiger Mountain (Feihushan shang wu zhouye), 121–22 Five Heroes of Mount Langya (painting), 129–30 Flour-paste Ting. See Sheng Youting folk characteristics, 59

194 Index “Foolish Old Man Moves the Mountain, The,” 97 Four Cleans, 30 Fu Baoshi, 82, 87 Fu Jiangeng, 26 Fudi. See Hinterland Gaining Immorality from Roaring Flames, 45 Gang of Four, 144 Gangtie shi zenyang liancheng de. See How the Steel Was Tempered Gao Jianfu, 87 Gao Village, 177–78 gaze, 104, 105 gender: and socialism, 94, 96–99, 105, 109 Genealogy of the Red Flag, viii Gogol, Nikolai, 17 Grandfather Liang the Third, 29 gratitude, 168–69, 173 Great Changes in a Mountain Village, viii, xiii, xiv, 24–31, 34, 38 Great Leap Forward, 100; in art, 83 Growing Up (Zhangda chengren), 137, 147–48, 149 Guan Hu, 165 Guan Shanyue, 87–88 Gujin de shijie, 46 Guo Jing, 69 Guohua, xi, xv, 74–78, 80–84, 86–89 Hairy Mole, 62 Hangzhou (Zhe) school (fine art), 77; style, 78 Hao Ran, ix, xv, 34, 93–110; memoir 97, 99, 101–2, 103; real name (Liang Jinguang), 94; works: Apples Are about to Ripen (Pingguo yao shu le, story and story collection), 94, 96, 102–3, 109; Bright Sunny Sky (Yanyang tian), 94; “By the Arrow-Shaft River” (“Jian’gan he bian”), 99–100; “The Control Commissioner” (“Jiancha zhuren”), 96; “Crossing the River” (“Guohe ji”), 103; “DoubleBloomed Lotus” (“Bing di lian”), 97; “A Girl and the Blacksmith” (“Guniang he tiejiang”), 96; The Great Road of Golden Light (Jinguang dadao), 94;

Magpies on the Branch (Xique dengzhi), 94, 109; “Morning Clouds Red as Fire” (“Zhaoxia hong si huo”), 100; “Shuisheng,” 96; Song of New Spring (Xinchun qu), 94; Songs of Spring (Chunge ji), 98, 109; “Spring Silkworms Spin Cocoons” (“Chuncan jiejian”), 99; “Spring Snow” (“Chun xue”), 104–9; “Wind and Rain” (“Feng yu”), 96, 103 Hanjian. See domestic collaborators Heroes of Luliang, 3 heroic archetypes, 34 heroic characters, 34 Hinterland, 18, xi, xii, xv, 3–13, 15, 17–20 historical materialism, 10 historical truth, xi, 11, 47–48, 57 Hongqi piaopiao. See Red Flag Waving Hongqi pu. See Genealogy of the Red Flag Hong ri. See Red Sun Hong Sao. See Red Sister-in-Law Hong yan. See Red Crag Horse Cudgel Xu, 62–63 Hou Jinjing, 6 How the Steel Was Tempered (Kak zakalialas’ stal’), xiii, 136; Chinese translation, 136; as key book, 149; movie, 142; picture book, 143,144; as simulacrum, 153; TV series, 150 Hsia, T. A., 28 Hsu Peng-fei. See Xu Pengfei Hsu Yun-feng. See Xu Yunfeng Hu Feng, 31, 32 Hu Jintao, 163 Huang Binhong, 76 Huang Jing, 5, 16 Huang, Joe C., 28 Huang Qiuyun, 27, 29 human nature, 165 humanity, 157; of Yimeng people, 165, 168, 169, 172, 173, Hunan ribao (Hunan daily), 36, 37, 39 Hundred Flowers Movement, 182; effect on art world, 84, 88 Hurricane, xiii, 25, 26, 33, 38 Hyperrealism, 127, 132. See also photo-realism

Index 195 Immortality amid Roaring Flames, 45 indigenization, 152 individualism, 19, 138, 143–44 Japanese army, 178 Jialing River, 46 jian zu jian xi. See reduction of rent for land and interest on loans Jiang Feng, 74, 75; expelled from CCP after 100 Flowers Campaign, 88 Jiang Qing, 23, 24, 31, 34, 35, 38 Jiang Zhaohe: and Beijing style, 77, 78 Jianghu, 65 Jin Shan, 140 Jin Yong, 70–72 Journey to the West, 61 Kak zakalialas’ stal’. See How the Steel Was Tempered knights-errant, 64–65, 69–70; also known as xia, 67 Korchagin, Pavel, xvi, 136, 137, 141, 142, 144–46, 152–53. See also Pavel Korchagin (for works using this name) Korean War, xvi, 121, 166 Korolenko, 17 Khrushchev, Nikita, 143 Kuomintang (KMT). See Nationalist Party land reform, 160, 161 landscape painting: reappearance in late 1950s, 81, 80; in traditional art, 82 lao qu. See revolutionary base areas Lei Feng, 178 leitmotif films (zhuxuanlü dianying), 151 Lenin, 144 Li Chen: on artistic freedom, 127; on drawing old heroes, 121, 126 Li Keran, 83–84, 85 Li Qi, 77 Li Shangyin, 99 Li Yu’an, xvi, 118, 121, 131–34 Li Yuehui, 26, 28, 30 Liang Bin, xiii, 9 Liang Jinguang (Hao Ran), 94 Liang Shengbao, 29 Liang Shiqiu, 16

Liang Xiaosheng, 150 lianhuanhua: aesthetic experimentation, 129, 131; double speech bubbles, 121, 123; early socialist drawing conventions for, 124; efficacy as propaganda, 122, 127, 130–32, 133–34; history, 115–16, 122–23; influence of Western comic art, 125, 128, 131; 128; readership, switch in, 133; space and time in, 127 Lin Biao, 31 Lin Lan, 26, 28 Linhai xueyuan. See Tracks in the Snowy Forest literary class, 160 Literary Journal, 5 Little Soldier Zhang Ga, 178 Little Turnip, 45 Liu Debin, 44, 48 Liu Qing, viii, 29 Liu Shaoqi, 36, 37, 39, 93, 97; “On the Self-Cultivation of a Communist” (“Lun gongchandangyuan de xiuyang”), 93, 97 Liu Wenxi, 80–81 Liu Yusheng, 26 Liu Zhixia, 116, 156, 158, 159 Lo Kuang-pin. See Luo Guangbin local identity, 156, 157, 159, 165, 171 local qualities, 165 Long River, 9 Lu Xuechang, 137, 147 Lu Xun, 76, 139, 141 Lu Xun Academy (Yan’an), 38 Lü Zhengcao, 4 Luan Ping, 62 Lüliang yingxiong zhuan. See Heroes of Luliang Luo Guangbin, viii, 44, 44–45, 47–49, 57 Luo Zhongli, 132, 133 Ma Shitu, 47, 48 Maibao, 178–81, 183; grandfather of, 178–79, 183; younger sister of, 178. Making of a Hero, 139 Maksim Gorky, 17 manga, 126, 128, 131

196 Index Mao Zedong, 25, 28, 30, 33, 141, 143, 159, 161; Mao craze, xi; at Shaoshan, 35; in socialist art, 77–78, 81, 86 Marxist dialectics, 142, 143 mass line, 157; definition of, 157n4; education of in Linyi, 158, 174 May Fourth Movement, xiv, 173, 179 Mei Yi, 139, 140, 143, 144, 153 Meng Yue, 162 Meyerhold, Vsevolod, 139n6 middle characters, xiv, 30, 38 minfeng. See popular custom Ming Deying, 117, 159 Mo Pu, 88 model performance. See yangbanxi model works. See yangbanxi Molière, 17 Morning in Shanghai, viii, xiii Mountain Vulture, 62

People’s Commune Dining Hall: use of Western vanishing point and regional style, 82–83 People’s Liberation Army (PLA), 31, 43, 60, 62, 64, 158, 162; image in lianhuanhua, 118, 120–21, 131, 134. See also fish-and-water photo-realism, 129, 132. See also hyperrealism picture storybooks. See Lianhuanhua pop art: adoption of “red classic” art, 90 popular custom (minfeng), 165 positive character, 15 PRC, vii, 6, 13, 16, 77–78, 88, 136, 141, 146–47 Princess Fragrance, 71 Protect Yan’an, viii, 11 prototype, 18 Pushkin, Aleksandr, 17

Nanjing Massacre, 184–85 Nationalist Party (KMT), xiv, 12, 43, 46–47, 49–51, 53, 60, 62, 117, 119, 122, 167, 184, 185 naturalism, xii, 10, 12, 19, 77, 95 negative characters, 15 New Culture Movement, 94 new school martial arts novels, 64, 72 New Tale of Heroic Sons and Daughters, A, 3, 59 New Tunnel Warfare, xvi, 177–85 new wine in old bottles, xv, 75

Qi Baishi, 85 Qiao Feng, 69 Qin Zhaoyang, 32 Qingchun zhi ge. See Song of Youth Qingxi Village, 25 Qu Bo, xiii, 9, 61

Ode to the Yimeng Mountains, 156, 159, 162 On Protracted Warfare (Mao), 178 Opium War, 51 Orchard Town, 9 Ostrovskii, Nicholai, xiii, xvi, 136–39, 141–43, 145, 147–50, 153 Pan Dongzi, 181 Pan Tianshou, 76, 78, 85, 88–89 party-mass bonding, 174 Pavel Korchagin (Baoer Kechajin): play, 140; movie, 141 Pavel Spirit (Baoer jingshen), 137, 144, 145, 146, 152

Railroad Guerillas, viii, xiii real, xii, xiii, xvi, 84, 131, 159 real people and real events, 24, 33, 35, 38 Realism, xiii, xiv, 23, 28, 30–32, 38, 77, 80, 84, 132, 145 Red Crag, viii, xii, xiv, 11, 18, 28, 42–47, 49–57 Red Crag Village (Hong yan cun), 46, 47 Red Detachment of Women, The, 182n7 Red Flag Waving, 45, 49 Red Lantern, The, 178 Red Sister-in-Law, xvi; artwork in 1990s version, 128, 131; artwork in early version, 123–25; origins and development, 116–17, 158–59; 162–63; plot 117, 160–61; as propaganda, 120, 173; villagers as “other,” 133. Red Sun, viii reduction of rent for land and interest on loans, 161

Index 197 Reform and Opening Up, 12 Ren Baige, 46, 48 Ren Yi, 77, 80 reportage, 143 research institutes for culture and history, 75 restore order out of chaos, 6 return of favor, 167, 173 revision and excision, 94–95, 97–100, 103, 109 revolution plus romance, 9 revolution touching the soul (chuji linghun de geming), 93 revolutionary base areas, 156 revolutionary historical novel, 18, 42, 44, 52–53, 57 revolutionary narrative, 11, 145 revolutionary popular novels, 59 revolutionary realism, xiii, 18, 32 revolutionary romanticism, xiii, 32, 141 Romance of Book and Sword, The, 71–72 Romance of the Three Kingdoms, 61 romantic love, 99–104 Sacred Blood-flowers, 44–45 “Serve the People” (Wei renmin fuwu), 97 Seventeen Years, xiii, ix, x, xi, xiii, xv, 10, 13, 23–24, 31–33, 38, 42, 44, 57, 95 sexuality, 94, 95, 97–99, 102 Sha Ting, 47, 48 Shakespeare, 17 Shan-Gan-Ning Base Areas, 7 Shanghai de zaochen. See Morning in Shanghai Shanxiang jubian. See Great Changes in a Mountain Village Shao Jianbo, 60, 66, 68, 70–72 Shao Quanlin, 30, 32, 42 Shen Congwen, 3, 10 Sheng Youting, 26–28, 33 shenru shenghuo (go deeply into real life), xi, 76, 78 Shi Lu, 86 Shi Tuo, 9–10 Shisanling Reservoir, 97 shiziban. See literary class Sholokhov, M. A., xiii, 16 Sholokhov, Mikhail, 25, 33

Shui shi zui ke’ai de ren? See Who Are the Most Beloved People?: Shujun, 27 si (selfishness, self-interest, personal, private), 93, 94, 95, 99 Sienkiewicz, Henryk, 17 Sima Guang, 93 Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO), 43, 52, 56 Sino-Japanese relationship, 184, 185 Sino-Japanese War, xi, 4, 5, 8, 10, 15–16, 18, 97, 122, 158, 166, 168, 170, 172, 177 Sino-Soviet relations, 143–44, 152; effect of the split on art, 89 Sister Chiang, 45, 49, 54–55; fictional character in Red Crag based on Jiang Zhuyun, 45 six even mores, 33 Socialist Realism, xiii, ix, xiii, 18, 25, 32, 130, 140–42, 147; influence on Chinese art, 74, 77–78, 80–81, 87, 89; influence on lianhuanhua, 123, 124, 129, 130 Song of Youth, viii, xiii, 9 Soviet Socialist Realist novel, xiii Soviet Union, xiii, 142, 144 Sparkling Red Star, 178, 181 speak bitterness, 169 Steel Meets Fire, 59 Stormy Years, 9, 97 strategy for transcending the notion of class struggle and class solidarity, 166 strike against the rightist deviationist wind to overthrow correct verdicts (fanji youqing fan’an feng), 107 su ku. See speak bitterness Sugimoto, Ryokichi, 139 summary, 23, 31–34, 38 Sun Li, 9, 97 Sun Weishi, 140 Tales of Hulan River, 9 This Land So Rich in Beauty, 87–88 Three Prominences (Santuchu), xiii, 15, 34, 123 “Three-Three administrative structure,” 7; also known as “Three-Three Policy,” 14 Tiedao youjidui. See Railroad Guerillas

198 Index Tolstoy, 17 Tracks in the Snowy Forest, viii, xv, 9, 53, 59–62, 64, 66–67, 69–70 transparency, quest for, 93–95, 108–9 truth, xii, 152 tu gai. See land reform Tunnel Warfare, xvi, 177–80, 183–85; role of Teacher in, 178, 180–83, 185; Uncle Eighth Route Army, 180, 181, 185 Two-pistol Granny, 49 typical, xii, 5, 10, 30, 78 typical character in typical circumstances, xiii typical circumstances, xiii, 5, 14 typified readership: in 1990s lianhuanhua, 121; in early lianhuanhua, 119 vernacular novel, 59 violence, 93, 95, 98, 109 Virgin Soil Upturned, 25, 33 Wang Dulu, 70 Wang Jusheng, 26 Wang Lin, xi, xii, xiv, xv, 3, 12, 15, 19 Wang Shenglie, 126, 129 Wang Shuo, 149 Wang Su, 142 Wang Xiaohe, 49 Wei Wei, 118, 126, 134 Wenyibao (Arts journal), 30 White-Haired Girl, 162 Who Are the Most Beloved People?, 118, 120 women, in socialist fiction, 96–99, 106, 109 Wu Changshi, 88–89 Wu Er, 123, 160–62 Wu Hufan, 85; painting China’s atomic bomb explosion, 85–86 Wu Qiang, xiii Xi Jinping, 157; “eight rules of,” 158 Xi’an Incident, 4, 16, 20 Xia Yan, 32 Xiao Hong, 9–10 Xiao Luobotou. See Little Turnip Xin Dagang, 4, 5, 9 Xin didao zhan. See New Tunnel Warfare

Xin ernü yingxiong zhuan. See New Tale of Heroic Sons and Daughters Xu Beihong: and Beijing style, 76–77 Xu Pengfei, 48, 54 Xu Yunfeng, 49, 54 Yamada, General, 178, 179, 182, 183, 185 Yan Han, 88 Yan’an Talks, ix, xiv, 12, 19, 33, 89, 123; also known as Yan’an Forum, xi, xiii, 77, 141; Mao’s Talks at the Yan’an Forum, xiii; Talks at Yan’an Forum, xiii Yang Dezhi, 134 Yang Kaihui, 35 Yang Mo, viii, 9 Yang Yiyan, viii, 44, 46, 48–49, 53, 57 Yang Yi-yen. See Yang Yiyan Yang Zhiguang, 81 Yang Zirong, 63, 68, 70 yangbanxi, iv, 34, 162, 178 Yao Wenyuan, 24, 32 Ye Gongchuo, 75, 85 Yi Jin, 143 Yimeng, xvi, xvii, 121 Yimeng song. See Ode to the Yimeng Mountains Yimeng spirit: concept of, 156, 164, 166, 167; exhibition, 172 Yiyang [City], 24, 29 Yokoyama Taikan, 88 You Will Always Be the Most Beloved: aesthetics, 129–32; plot, 118 Young China (Zhongguo qingnian), 140 Young Guard (Molodaya gvardiya), 136 Yu Dan, 164 “Yugong yi shan.” See “Foolish Old Man Moves the Mountain, The” Zai liehuo zhong yongsheng. See Immortality amid Roaring Flames Zhan Jianjun, 129 Zhang Guangnian, 32 Zhang Ruifang, 140 Zhang Yu, 49–50 Zhang Yuanji, 75 Zhangda chengren. See Growing Up

Index 199 Zhao Dongling, 120, 165 Zhao Shuli, ix Zhao Yulin, 33 Zhazidong, 43, 46, 56 Zhi Xia, viii Zhou Changgu, 78; Two Lambs (painting), 78–79 Zhou Enlai, 118, 161

Zhou Erfu, viii Zhou Libo, viii, xii, xiii, xiv, 24–28, 33–39 Zhou Yang, 5, 24, 32, 35–36, 75, 141 Zhou Zuoren, 139 Zhu De, 118, 159 Zhu Guangqian, 16 Zhushanwan Village, 29, 39 zhuxuanlü dianying. See leitmotif films