Happy Anniversary, Cultural Revolution. Never forget the horrors.

A thread in the forum on the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution includes some excellent lnks, one of which led me to an article that has been haunting me this afternoon. We all know the stories, but it’s so easy to forget. And it was a mere forty years ago. It’s absolutely mind-numbing, to think that some of the graying people we pass on the street in Beijing were committing these atrocities so recently, spurred on by the most deranged and irrational regime of the 20th century.

On August 22, 1966, Sha Ping, the principal of Beijing Third Girls Middle School, was beaten to death. After she died, some Red Guard students forced teachers to slap her corpse. Li Peiying, the dean of this school, hanged herself.

On August 22, 1966, Hua Jin, the head of Beijing Eighth Middle School died in the room where she was imprisoned and tortured. After a serious beating, vice principal Han Jiufang developed a bad case of septicemia. The beating left her permanently handicapped. Shen Xianzhe, a teacher of Chinese, committed suicide after a beating.

On August 25, 1966, the students of the Second Middle School attached to Beijing Teachers University beat three people to death on their campus: Jin Zhengyu, a literature teacher; Jiang Peiliang, the secretary of the Communist Party, the highest-ranking cadre at this school; and Fan Ximan, a student’s mother. The principal, Gao Yun, was ordered to stand under the hot sun, while boiling water was poured on him and thumbtacks were stuck in his forehead. Gao came close to dying several times that summer.

Li Jingpo, a custodian in the receptionist office of Beijing Jingshan School who allegedly had “historical problems” was beaten to death by students at this school in August 1966.

At the Middle School attached to Beijing Foreign Language College the Red guard students beat two educators, Chinese teacher Zhang Furen and an administative staff Zhang Fuzhen, to death in the same day

At the Middle School attached to Beijing Teacher’s College, Yu Ruifen, a female biology teacher, was knocked to the ground and beaten in her office. In broad daylight, she was dragged by her legs through the front door and down the steps, her head bumping against the cement; a barrel of boiling water was poured on her. Though she died after approximately two hours of torture, it did not satisfy the students. All other teachers in the “ox-ghost and snake-demon team” were forced to stand around Yu’s corpse and take turns beating her.

In general, the brutality of students in college and in elementary schools was not as severe as in middle schools, but it was nevertheless serious. At Beijing University, hundreds of people in the “labor reform team of ox ghosts and snake demons” were forced to clean the campus with irregularly shaved heads, while wearing boards with their name and title, such as “member of the black gang” or “reactionary academic authority,” around their necks and receiving gratuitous insults from many students who came to “learn revolutionary experiences from Beijing University.” For example, Zhu Guaqian, professor of aesthetics, had his head shaved and then was forced everyday to pick up garbage with other “enemies” in front of the convenience store near the student dormitories. On August 4, when Professor Wu Xinghua of the English Department was cleaning the lawn, some students forced him to drink polluted water from a ditch ontaining waste from a chemical factory near the University. Immediately, he became very sick. That night, at age 44, he died. On August 24, students from the Department of Biology used a copper-buckled leather belt to whip one of their lecturers, Hu Shouwen, at his home. His bloody shirt stuck to his skin, so that his wife had to use warm water to soften the shirt before he could remove it. Hu’s neighbor Chen Xiance, the secretary of the Party for the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, was beaten beside him that day. On September 2, Chen Xiance committed suicide by drinking two bottles of insecticide after suffering a long period of torture, which included being beaten and having an X-shape shaved on his head. On October 9, Shen Naizhang, professor of psychology, committed suicide after suffering humiliations.

All in a day’s work.

I tried to put myself in the minds of the tormentors to see if I could understand how/why they could have done it. This was a futile exercise, and I admit I failed miserably. 70 percent good. Why can’t I see that 70 percent that was so good?

The Discussion: 21 Comments

These horror stories are a fen a dozen, and in the past, so some would lead us to believe, and thus trivial and not relevant to the present.

Ever question how many of the Red Guard and their co-horts are still walking around in China, still leading the party in various sectors; I happen to know a few who saw what they did as,how shall I say, pragmatic?

The 70/30 percent argument doesn’t hold water because the ship itself sunk a long time ago, leaving nothing but scavengers attempting to say, “All in all, it was a good ship.”

The only problem with that, the sea is filled with the refuse and it keeps washing ashore, and it still stinks!

June 1, 2006 @ 11:04 am | Comment

It is good that someone is documenting these personal experiences. On another blog, I argued with other Korea expats about the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea. All Koreans say that the Japanese were brutal – raping, plundering, and killing- but there isn’t even one book that documents these experiences, except for the failed March 1, 1919 movement.

June 1, 2006 @ 11:43 am | Comment

“In order to make an omlette, you have to break some eggs.” – Trotsky

The Cultural Revolution was all worthwhile, just part of the sacrifices we sometimes have to make on the correct path of Marxist-Leninist-Maozedong thought! The Communist Party learned from its mistakes of the Cultural Revolution! How can the Communist Party improve unless it makes some mistakes and learns from them? So we can see – if we use the correct perspective and the correct thinking about history – the Cultural Revolution was an INEVITABLE part of the correct path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Enjoy your happy life, under the Correct Leadership of the Communist Party!

June 1, 2006 @ 6:26 pm | Comment

Sometimes I really do think that some chinese are beast when i read the stories about culture revolutionary. I dare not to regard them as mankind and be shame to share the term “chinese” with them. They have done a lot of evil wrongdoings and never repent. The portrait of the murderer is still hanging on that bloody square, and no activities have been held to memorize/alert people. The person involved view that history as if it never happend.

June 1, 2006 @ 7:01 pm | Comment

Very interesting… never forget the scar Communism and specifically Maoism has left on the world.

June 1, 2006 @ 9:45 pm | Comment

“…And as our vineyards, fallows, meads,
and hedges,

Defective in their natures, grow to wildness,

Even so our houses and ourselves and our children

Have lost, or do not learn for want of time

The sciences which should become our country,

But grow like savages – as soldiers will

That nothing do but meditate on blood

To swearing and stern looks, diffused attire

And every thing that seems unnatural.”

– Henry V, Act V, scene ii

June 1, 2006 @ 10:13 pm | Comment

Let’s be realistic, shall we? There are two main reasons why the only people punished for the Cultural Revolution were the members of the Gang of Four.

First, to state the obvious, the CCP wants to clew to the idea that only a few bad apples in the party were at fault, rather than admit the fact that a one party system allows such extremes, which would bring their continued rule into question. And that also means that Mao is not included in the Gang of Four, even though a common joke among Chinese at the time was to hold up five fingers when speaking of the Gang of Four.

The second reason should be obvious but it doesn’t seem anyone here will admit it. In cases of mob hysteria, in how many cases is the whole mob punished? In reality, a few ringleaders are selected and we all pretend that justice is served when they are dealt with.

Americans all like to imagine their parents or grandparents as on the side of the Civil Rights Movement. No one likes to acknowledge that their ancesters took part in a racist system. How many people were ever tried for lynchings in the Deep South? Christ, look at the Medgar Evers case. Even after the Civil Rights Movement, the old crimes went unpunished — because far too many people were complicit.

The posts on this topic are an example of why I don’t participate in any forums here. The hatred not just for the CCP but for all things Chinese seems to drown out any rational discussion. Do you think the Chinese are the only people who engaged in this sort of mob vengeance? If you look at the other Communist regimes, there are many examples just as egregious as the Cultural Revolution, where a large number of the citizenry joined in persecuting or even murdering others — but I think you’d all recognize it would be racist to condemn Cambodians as an evil race because of the Killing Fields.

Are Russians an evil race because for decades they didn’t stand up to Stalinist atrocities? That they engaged in anti-Jewish pogroms? There are plenty of Russians now who actually long for the days of communism.

Now that they’re a “democracy”, why don’t the Russians put their old Communist leaders on trial? Why the hell is an ex-KGB man like Putin in charge?

I still hold out some hope that the June 4 movement will be rehabilitated after Li Peng’s generation is dead. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that anyone else will be punished for their actions during the Cultural Revolution — for the same reasons that mobs don’t get punished in other countries.

June 2, 2006 @ 3:18 am | Comment

The posts on this topic are an example of why I don’t participate in any forums here.

What are you doing now? ๐Ÿ™‚

Listen, there is no where on this site where I blame the Chinese people for the CR. I blame Mao, 101 percent. I have never, ever advocated punishment of anyone aside from the ringleaders. I have no idea where you are coming from, implying that I or anyone else has ever said or even implied the Chinese are “an evil race.” If we did, where did we say it? Put up or shut up.

June 2, 2006 @ 4:06 am | Comment

Eh what the hell. I’ll nibble on this part of Danfried’s screed, a bit:

Q: “Are Russians an evil race because they didn’t stand up to Stalinist atrocities?”

A: First of all, as Richard said, nobody in this thread has accused the Chinese of being an “evil race.” However, sorry to break this to you, but Stalin’s atrocities never included anything remotely like Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Millions of dead and unjustly imprisoned? Yep. Schools shut down and teachers beaten to death by students and the wholesale destruction of Art and Literature and Beauty? No, quite the opposite. Censorship was rife in Stalin’s Russia, but wholesale destruction of culture and of teachers and of education just didn’t happen.
Sorry but you just can’t draw that false parallel between Stalin’s atrocities and the Cultural Revolution. Does that make Mao’s China seem somehow less civilised that Stalin’s Russia? Sorry but the answer is a categorical yes.

Q: “That they engaged in anti-Jewish pogroms?”

A: Well, first of all, the Jewish victims of Russian pogroms WERE Russians. Second of all, most of the Russian people were too busy trying to get the plant the next potato harvest to bother with bashing Jews. Third of all, if you’re comparing the occasional Jewish pogroms with the Cultural Revolution, again you’re making a dishonest, false parallel.

“There are plenty of Russians who long for the days of Communism.”

A: Danfried, how many have you ever met personally? Yes I did encounter a few Russians who longed for the good old days of Communism. All of them – ALL of them – were sad, poor old people who were just as sad in Communist times, but you know, chronic alcoholism can make the good old days seem rosier.

Q: “Now that they’re a ‘democracy’ why don’t the leaders put their old Communist leaders on trial?”

A: Many Russians think this should have happened. However – see above – Russia never had a Cultural Revolution, and as far as the surviving former Communists go, you’re talking about a very different kind of government than the one China had under Mao. Or even under Deng. Gorbachev earned a Nobel Peace Prize, and Moscow never had a T-Square massacre.
Actually in 1991 the attempted coup in Moscow ended with almost no bloodshed, and the Communist regime ended peacefully.

Q: “Why the hell is a former KGB man like Putin in charge?”

A: Because he won the majority of votes in two open elections in a row. Also, although I’m no great fan of the KGB (or FSB), they do know a few things about politics and protecting national security. Oh and just to repeat: Again you’re drawing a false parallel. The KGB of, well of the time from Stalin’s death until 1991, never created
a Cultural Revolution like the CCP of those decaded did. The Cultural Revolution was sui generis in the history of the 20th century.

June 2, 2006 @ 4:41 am | Comment

Richard: First, by “forums” I meant the Duckpond Forums. So far I’ve haven’t posted in any of them.

Second, I wasn’t talking about you. I know you’ve repeated time and again that you don’t hate the Chinese. I was responding in this thread to Jeffery’s post, but looking at it again I’m embarassed to say I glossed right over the SOME in “some Chinese are beast”. Yes, I’m never going to live that down.

After reading your challenge, I briefly tried to find which threads had previously upset me, but couldn’t. (I didn’t realize that many threads have been recently been erased.) Randomly sampling the existing ones, though, I have to admit that you are right and I was wrong. I didn’t see any overtly racist posts.

I think what has been bothering me is the recurring theme that the Chinese are fools or worse because the majority don’t oppose their government or start a revolution. It bothers me to read Americans expecting your average citizen to rebel in China, when in the U.S. they can’t get even the most basic and obviously necessary reforms passed in their own country — a democracy which gives them a voice and a chance to choose their government.

I had wanted to avoid giving a specific example, but Ivan is pretty much the biggest source of my negative impression. I find his continual belittling of Chinese civilization not just an insult to Mainlanders but also offensive to ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and around the world — which has given me a totally distorted view of this site. To me, his comments are not that different from those who would say that Muslims are barbarians.

BTW, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but his discriminatory comments and ad hominem attacks haven’t just been directed at people like Panzi. For example, in his thread about Chang and Holliday’s book, when a German poster dared to question him, Ivan said he was suffering from “German thinking,” whatever the hell that is. I wonder what Ivan’s opinion on Wagner is…

Ivan: You have totally, utterly missed my point. I am not trying to say that any two particular atrocities are morally equivalent. My point is that when too many people are responsible — as in mob hysteria — in the end the majority typically escape punishment.

I guess I wasn’t very clear, because Richard got the wrong idea too. I actually believe that huge numbers of Chinese WERE responsible asides from Mao, just as Stalin didn’t kill twenty million people with his bare hands. Just as the majority of Americans are partly responsible for the war in Iraq — for either not voting, for voting for the wrong idiot, or for not caring enough that the whole voting process was corrupted.

At this point, would it make sense to try punishing those responsible? (I’m talking only about China and Russia now — in the U.S., fat chance.) I’m afraid I don’t think so — I think it would tear the country apart, when the persecutors are spread throughout society.

I hope too that there is more of an honest examination of the CR in the future. But I’m not expecting it any time soon.

June 2, 2006 @ 9:05 am | Comment

That’s a good, fair and courteous explanation.
Thanks. (And it isn’t often that anyone hears such a response from Ivan the Terrible of TPD… ๐Ÿ™‚
Seriously, Danfried, your follow up explanation made a lot of sense to me.
Except to add, that I think it is right to confront China – and all Chinese people – with the utter barbarity of what China became under Mao, UNLESS AND UNTIL the PRC allows full, open discussion and acknowledgement of what happened under Mao, and how it really did turn China into a barbarian country.
China will not really progress, until that day comes. So that’s where I’m coming from.
And the main reason why I accuse China so much, so often, of having become a barbarian country under Mao, is because I hate to see any great civilisation ruined like Mao and the Communists ruined the glorious civilisation of China – which will not begin to be truly great again, unless and until it confronts the truth of its history.

June 2, 2006 @ 10:37 am | Comment


from what I read in your posts, you don’t regard the Chinese civilization as ever been “glorious”. In fact, you called it barbaric, primitive for thousands of years. So for you to come here to tell me and others that your criticisms of China is for the “good” of China is quite incredible. Only a naive person who is totally gullible would even succumb to your thinking.

Ivan, as for your obsession with Mao, I can tell you it’s quite irrelevant. China has apparently quite substantially transformed into a capitalist nation-state. Whether the CCP wants to admit it or not, Maoism has already gone out the window. So thank you, Ivan, your “badly needed” help and advice on “liberating” China from Maoism is no longer needed.

June 2, 2006 @ 4:34 pm | Comment


Since you have put it to me that way, I’ll just say:

Yes China is a savage, barbarian country, and the Cultural Revolution proved it.

How’s that?

If you want to press the issue, then yes, I say China is, and has been, a savage and barbarian country ever since Mao took over China in 1949.

How’s that?

99.9999 percent of Russians agree with me about this.

You want to press the issue? Fine. If you press the issue, then the answer is that CHINA IS A BARBARIAN COUNTRY, and has been ever since Mao – or more realistically, China has been a barbarian country ever since the First Emperor of the year 221 BC.

OK? Are we clear now?

If you want to get into a pissing contest, then I will say – with NO reservatiions – that China is a barbarian country, and has ALWAYS been one.

And Russia’s civilisation is at least 1000 years more advanced than China’s, because RUSSIA NEVER HAD A FUCKING CULTURAL REVOLUTION like the HORRIFYING BARBARIANS of CHINA DID!

Does that make it more clear?

China is a barbarian country. China had a Cultural Revolution. Russia never did. QED, the Chinese are savaqes and the Russians are far more civilised than China.

Clear enough for you?

June 2, 2006 @ 4:52 pm | Comment

Ivan, you just responded to HELLFIRE’s comments as mine. But after seeing your reply to Hellfire, my suspicions are confirmed and I’m afraid there is no point in any further discussions with you.

June 2, 2006 @ 7:24 pm | Comment


Your calling China a barbarian country shows that you have no understanding of China, nor love for the Middle Kingdom.

I am sorry for your distasteful prejudices against us. There was long a Chinese civilization before there was a ever a Russian. Actually, the Russian state did not emerge until after the Mongols were overthrown. By that time, China has long existed as one of the major nexus in the world. The past 200 years is really an anomaly. China fell behind. But once again, China is re-emerging as a major world power center. And I can tell you, right now, Russia is the sick man of Asia, not China.

In any case, I have sympathies for Russia. The Russians were fooled into believing that Western style capitalism and democracy would quickly take root in post-USSR era. That did not happen. And your supposedly most trusted ally America is now turning against you. Actually, America has been turning against Russia as early as the mid-1990s.

I share your frustration. BUT cheer up.

The last thing Russia now needs is a hostile China on its southern Siberian flank.


June 3, 2006 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

Ten good Russians can outfight 1000 cowardly, craven Chinese. And they have proved it. Russia defeated Hitler almost single handedly, while the cowardly and incompetent Chinese had to be liberated from Japan, by the Americans AND by the Russians.

Russsia has proved that it is far, far stronger than China. That’s why the borders between Russia and China are where they are today.

And China is a Communist country today, because China was Russia’s bitch.

Suck on that, and be afraid, be very afraid of the
Russians. We’re not cowardly craven little people like the Chinese who destroyed their own culture while they bowed and kow-towed to Chairman Mao.

The Chinese have shit on their own country and destroyed whatever remained of their old civilisation. China is a dead country, a barbarian country full of little cowards who kow-tow.

Be afraid, be very afraid of your Russian neighbours, whose bodies AND spirits are far, far stronger than any miserable kow-towing Chinese slaves.

(eh, to my other friends here – hey, he asked for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

June 4, 2006 @ 9:23 am | Comment

STFU both of you. This is a thread devoted to the remembrance of CR. Take your pissing match to the pond.

June 4, 2006 @ 10:40 am | Comment

I have to agree with Nausicaa here.

I’ve already called Zero on his stuff on another thread. So Ivan, calling China a barbarian country is out of line and undermines the credibility of everything you’re trying to say. And all this stuff about how many Russians it takes to beat up whomever is just juvenile.

I’m tempted to use my site administrator priviledges and delete a bunch of these comments. I’ll wait for Richard to weigh in.

June 4, 2006 @ 1:12 pm | Comment

Lisa, I’m afraid I’ve been out of it this weekend and haven’t been reading all my comments (same with my emails). Ivan, you know how much I respect you, but you have gone way over the line here. We can’t say in one breath that we love the Chinese people and care about them, and in the other call them craven, cowards, barbarians. It makes this whole site look bad, and it does nothing for your own image either. Trolls can pick up on this and use it as proof that this is a “hate site.” So I have to officially say I can’t tolerate even the appearance of racism against the Chinese or anyone else (and I say “appearance” because I know you are not a racist, Ivan, but this leaves you wide open to such charges). So maybe you can clarify what you meant to say and apologize for any misperceptions, or else I may have to simply cut out this section of the thread. Thanks.

June 4, 2006 @ 6:10 pm | Comment

Hear, hear, Other Lisa and Richard. I enjoy your site, but I am turned off by the hateful language Ivan uses and the fact that you tolerate it. Please exercise more discretion as the administrators of an otherwise must-read site.

June 6, 2006 @ 9:43 am | Comment

Sonagi, this is Richard’s site, and I’ll always defer to his wishes. Both of us like to err on the side of tolerating comments that on a personal or intellectual level, we might disagree with. But some stuff is unacceptable.

Ivan, I hope you are reading this and considering what’s being said here. So much of what you write is smart and funny and really creative. But the above is an example of going off the rails.

June 6, 2006 @ 10:25 am | Comment

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