It is 1978. Mao has been dead for two years, and you have passed the examination to become a member of an elite university class in Historical Documentation. Your first assignment is to collect two oral histories that provide different angles on the topic: “What is your understanding of the Chinese revolution and how has it changed your life? Which national events and campaigns from 1949 to 1976 affected you the most? What are the main achievements and problems of the Mao years?”
You pick TWO of the following three people to interview (your choice):
Li (b. 1925), a Beijing writer. Labeled a Rightist in late 1957 for publishing critical stories and essays. Sent to labor with the peasants from 1958-1961. He spent much of the 1960s and 1970s under a political cloud. His Rightist “hat” has just been removed in 1978 and his position in the Writer’s Union restored.
Zhang (b. 1934), a villager from Shaanxi. Activist. Broke off her arranged engagement at 17. Later married a fellow Peasant Association member. Became a champion cotton grower and labor model in the late 1950s. Five children.
Chen (b. 1952), a former Shanghai middle school Red Guard. Spent nine years (1968-1977) in Anhui, in an area where the Great Leap Forward had caused a famine in 1959. Now at university, where some classmates have spent years in the countryside, while others were Shanghai factory workers before testing into university.
Note: this is not an interview about Mao. Each of the interviewees thinks of Mao as an integral part of the background and environment. The questions is how Maoist initiatives affected or did not affect the interviewees, and how the interviewees reacted to and even changed the course of those initiatives. In thinking about their experiences, consider how locality, class background, age, gender, profession, family background and personal experience might have shaped each of them.
Your Historical Documentation report may take the form of a transcript of the two interviews with an analytical introduction by you, or you may write it in the form of a report in your own voice. You should use as many of the names and terms on the list below as you can in your essay as appropriate. Random use of names and terms is not encouraged.
It should be 3-4 pages double-spaced, 12-pt. font. Choose your words carefully
Names and terms to use in your essay as appropriate:
Chinese Communist Party
class labels: landlord, sublandlord,
rich peasant, middle peasant,
poor peasant, hired laborer
Marriage Law, May 1950
collectivization: mutual aid teams,
lower producers’ cooperatives,
advanced producer’s cooperatives
danwei (work unit)
First Five-year Plan
hukou (household registration system)
Hundred Flowers campaign
Stalin and Khrushchev
strike wave of 1957
Great Leap Forward (1958-59)
communal dining halls
Sino-Soviet split (1960)
Three Hard Years (1959-61)
Lei Feng (1940-1962)
“people in positions of authority within the Party who take the capitalist road”
Mao Zedong Thought/ Little Red Book
“Bombard the Headquarters”
chuanlian (exchanging revolutionary experiences)
Five Red Categories:
poor and lower-middle class peasants; workers; rev soldiers; rev
cadres; dependents of rev martyrs
Seven Black Categories:
landlords; rich peasants;
reactionaries; bad elements; rightists;
traitors; spies; “capitalist roaders in
positions of authority”; and the
“stinking ninth category,”
three great differences:
mental/manual labor, city/ countryside, workers/farmers
Revolutionary Committee (army, party,
communes, brigades, teams
sent-down youth (“up to the mountains and
down to the villages”)
Gang of Four:
Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao,
Yao Wenyuan, Wang Hongwen
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