More on The Cultural Revolution in Pictures

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1980: Soldiers prepare party official Wang Shouxin for a public execution by dislocating her jaw so she can’t proclaim her innocence. Charming.

This is a remarkable review of a book I wrote about earlier, Red-Color News Soldier by Li Zhengsheng, full of previously unpublished photographs of the Cultural Revolution and the years following

What makes this review special is that the reporter and his wife actually lived in Beijing throughout the Cultural Revolution and the review is infused with the passion of an eyewitness.

You had to be there – and, 30-odd years ago, we were, a Canadian foreign correspondent and family living in Beijing, bullied by the loudspeakers that poured forth Mao worship, day and night, to hundreds of millions of Chinese. It was laughable, and it almost drove us crazy.

Those mad times came flooding back the other day when leafing through Red-Color News Soldier, an extraordinary book of images by Li Zhengsheng (Phaidon Press).
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The photos can be startling. Monks stand in embarrassment, forced to hold up a banner reading: “To hell with the Buddhist scriptures. They are full of dog farts.” Softcover books litter the floor of a ransacked library; Li notes all the hardcover books had been taken by rival groups for use as projectiles.

One which brings back memories shows a parade in which wax mangoes are carried reverently in glass cases behind a statue of Mao. This commemorated the great man’s gift of real mangoes to worker-peasant propaganda teams. I saw one of the originals when I visited a factory in Beijing; it was preserved in formaldehyde and exhibited like a sliver of the true cross.

This is one book I want to own. Maybe I can pick up a copy when I’m in Beijing next week…?

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 10 Comments

I flipped through it in a bookstore this afternoon and must say that it is a book really worth the buying, not just for the images, but also for the words that the photograher wrote.

I doubted it will be available in Beijing. Perhaps you best bet is Hong Kong or any on-line bookstores.

November 30, 2003 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

Richard. Email me, and I can send you a copy. As a gift.

November 30, 2003 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

d’fresh, that is really great of you! I appreciate it, but I can probably buy it here in Singapore, without your needing to go to any trouble. Have you read it yet?

November 30, 2003 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

its a great book. I browsed through a copy recently in Kansas City. I second Andrea. I seriously doubt you’ll find it for sale in the Mainland. Maybe through the underground though.

December 1, 2003 @ 12:51 am | Comment

Richard, you have to get it; i got
my copy
as soon as it became available by Amazon.

December 1, 2003 @ 1:12 am | Comment

Thanks, I am going to buy it in Singapore, probably today. It sounds quite amazing.

December 1, 2003 @ 10:07 am | Comment

You’ve got a spelling mistake there … presumably the woman’s name is Wang Shouxin (add an ‘h’), since “Sou” is not a possible form in Chinese pinyin. It’s also interesting to note that the date is 1980! That’s 4 years after the death of Mao, the event usually accepted to mark the end of the Cultural Revolution. I wonder what was going on in this photo … I haven’t read the book in question … anyone out there who has it: does the book explain the circumstances of her execution? Is it related to the trial of the Gang of Four in late 1980?

I did some internet searching for her name, and found a bit of information, but none of it told me why it was she got executed … by 1980 we’re well past the time of mass denunciation rallies by red guards etc….

December 1, 2003 @ 12:05 pm | Comment

- It could be ‘sou;’ the syllable’s possible, just not common.

I’m fairly sure that this isn’t coming out in the Mainland any time soon too, which is a bummer, since it sounds like an amazing book.

December 1, 2003 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

Oops. You’re right Brendan … that is, about ‘sou’ being possible … as in sou(1) = urinate. :-P However, I think you’ll still find that her name isn’t Souxin.

December 1, 2003 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

Li En, thanks — it was a typo in the caption from the article I linked to. I’ll fix it now.

December 1, 2003 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

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