Cultural Revolution - personal narratives
March 29, 2011 6:20 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for first-person narratives about every day life during the Cultural Revolution. I would prefer material that can be read on-line. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.
posted by pavi to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Not entirely everyday.. but I can never recommend Nien Cheng's autobiography, Life and Death in Shanghai, hard enough. Amazing woman, great story.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:36 PM on March 29, 2011

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is a family memoir.
posted by scrambles at 6:37 PM on March 29, 2011

Beijing's Bloody August, " two first person accounts of the beginning of the decade of chaos in the Cultural Revolution, recorded by Sang Ye and translated by Geremie Barmé."

I'd recommend Mobo Gao's The Battle for China's Past for an interesting left take on the positive aspects (you'll not be short of negative accounts) of the CR in Gao's own rural hometown and more generally. This post by him at China Study Group ought to be of interest too.
posted by Abiezer at 6:47 PM on March 29, 2011

There's a section on the Cultural Revolution in the linked essay at a site presenting an ethnography of Xiakou, a village in the remoter western part of Sichuan.
posted by Abiezer at 7:15 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe not exactly what you are looking for, but The Spiral Road: Change in a Chinese Village Through the Eyes of a Communist Party Leader by Huang Shu-min is a interesting and informative read.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 7:19 PM on March 29, 2011

The book Son of the Revolution was assigned reading in an Asian Studies class I took once. It's an older title, but I still remember it -- very powerful.
posted by lillygog at 7:39 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scar literature would be the search term.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:52 PM on March 29, 2011

Seconding the Nien Cheng book. One of my favorites of all time.
posted by letahl at 8:46 PM on March 29, 2011

Red China Blues by Jan Wong. You should be able to get it as an ebook. (Try if you are unable to find it in your country.) Wong was one of the few foreigners permitted to study at Beijing U.
posted by acoutu at 8:48 PM on March 29, 2011

"Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now" by Jan Wong is an interesting perspective from a well-known Canadian journalist who was there, although not as a journalist at the time.
posted by GuyZero at 8:48 PM on March 29, 2011

Most of the scar literature will be from an urban perspective, as the cities were much more affected by the Cultural Revolution, and writers are more likely to be urban (and middle class/intellectual). The scar literature is very important, but I found the account of Chen village during the CR to be fascinating because it presents the experiences of poorer rural Chinese as well. One of the authors also wrote Education Under Mao, which follows the CR in high schools in Canton. Both are based on interviews with people from "Chen" village (a psuedonym) and Canton which were conducted in Hong Kong at a time when few western academics could research in China; Chen village has been updated.
posted by jb at 10:25 PM on March 29, 2011

Flower Terror is a book by Pu Ning focused on the lives of intellectuals during the CR, but maybe not general enough for your needs. "To Live," the movie by Zhang Yimou, is an excellent film covering the period ( as well as the preceding 40 years).
posted by perfectlylegal at 10:30 PM on March 29, 2011

"Red Azalea" by Anchee Minn

(she was from Shanghai and the book details her childhood in during the Cultural Revolution and her experience in a labor camp)

"The Man Who Stayed Behind" by Sidney Rittenberg

(detailed and fascinating account of an American who came to Chine before the communist revolution, joined the communist party and met and knew Mao and Zhou Enlai, and was imprisoned twice in China).

"Red China Blues" is good, but it takes place right after the cultural revolution, if I remember, and is from the point of view of a Canadian studying in not necessarily most relevant, in my opinion.
posted by bearette at 11:38 PM on March 29, 2011

I'm sorry, "Red China Blues" does indeed take place during the Cultural Revolution.
posted by bearette at 11:40 PM on March 29, 2011

Another good one i s "The Private Life of Chairmen Mao". A long and detailed account written by his personal physician. More about the daily life of Mao than the average citizen, though.
posted by bearette at 11:45 PM on March 29, 2011

Red China Blues is by a Chinese Canadian who whole-heartedly took on Mao's beliefs, perhaps with more fervour than her fellow students. She writes about turning in her friend's mother, who, I think, may have died as a result. So it's not quite the same as someone just taking courses at the university. She was a True Believer.
posted by acoutu at 1:53 PM on March 30, 2011

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