|The Chinese Cultural Revolution
Introduction: The Cultural Revolution in China, occurred between 1966 and 1976. In particular, we’re going to look at a group of youth called the Red Guards who were responsible for much of the violence and abuse of the Cultural Revolution.
Look at the first slide on the PowerPoint.
What do you see?
Who looks like they are being targeted?
What is the punishment?
Where are they?
As you view PowerPoint, take notes on everything in RED (write below)
Look at the following timeline and answer the questions below:
What were Mao’s goals for the Cultural Revolution?
What were some of the outcomes of the Cultural Revolution?
Based on the timeline, why might teenagers have supported the
In an effort to return China to its communist roots, Chairman Mao Tse-tung
turned to the youth of the country to help start the “Cultural Revolution.”
Mao called on young people to take down leading intellectuals, party
leaders, and their own parents. These teenagers came together to form the
Cultural Revolution Timeline
October 1949: Mao declared victory in the Communist revolution and
established the People’s Republic of China.
May 1966: Articles in the state controlled papers introduced the idea of a “Cultural Revolution.” Red Guard groups, made up of Chinese youth, emerged throughout China.
Aug. 1966: Mao officially launched the “Cultural Revolution” with a
speech at the Chinese Communist Party.
Oct. 1966: Mao called for the Red Guards to destroy the “Four
Olds”: old customs, old culture, old habits, and old
Jan. 1967: Red Guards achieved the overthrow of provincial party
committee officials and replaced them with radicals.
Feb. 1967: Top-level Communist Party officials called for an end of
the Cultural Revolution, but Mao continued to support it.
Summer 1967: Mao replaced pre-Cultural Revolution party officials with
radicals who supported the revolution.
1968: On Mao’s orders, the Red Guards were broken up in the
“rustification movement,” where individual teenagers
were “sent down” to villages throughout China to “learn
from the peasants.”
April 1969: Mao declared “victory” of the Cultural Revolution and
supported Lin Biao as his new successor.
Read Documents A and B and answer the questions that follow
Document A: Mao’s “Little Red Book”
Mao’s “Little Red Book” is a collection of Mao Tse-tung’s quotations that were
used as a source of inspiration and guidance for members of the Red Guard
during the Cultural Revolution. These are two excerpts from the book.
The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours.
You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life,
like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed in you.
The world belongs to you. China’s future belongs to you. Mao, 1957.
We must help all our young people to understand that ours is still a very
poor country, that we cannot change this situation radically in a short time,
and that only through the united efforts of our younger generation and all
our people, working with their own hands, can China be made strong and
prosperous within a period of several decades. The establishment of our
socialist system has opened the road leading to the ideal society of the
future, but to translate this ideal into reality needs hard work.
Source: Mao Tse-Tung, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. 1964
Document B: Red Guard Song
Patriotic songs and slogans were common characteristics of the Cultural Revolution.
This song was written by the People’s Liberation Army Songs Editorial Department
sometime around 1967.
Red Guards, Red Guards.
Burning with revolutionary zeal,
Tested by the storm of class struggle,
Tempered for battle our hearts are red,
Standing firm, direction clear, our vigor for revolution strong,
We follow the party with full devotion,
We are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards.
Red Guards, Red Guards.
We want to be the successors to Communism.
The revolutionary red banner passes on from generation to generation,
We want to try on the glorious tradition.
Loving the country, loving the people, loving the collective, loving to work.
Connecting with the workers and the peasants,
We are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards.
Why did Chinese youth support the Cultural Revolution?
Document A – Mao’s Little Red Book
What was the purpose of Mao’s Little Red Book?
(Close Reading) What are two reasons that Mao thought young people were important
to China’s future?
3. How might a young person living in 1964 have felt upon reading these quotes?
Document B – Red Guard Song
Who wrote the song? Why do you think the song was written?
What is the main message of the song?
Why might a young person in 1966 want to sing this song?
Documents C and D are both excerpts from memoirs written long after the
Cultural Revolution. How might the fact that these are memoirs produced long
after the event shape how we read them?
Read Documents C and D and answer the questions that follow.
Document C: At the Center of the Storm
Rae Yang was a young girl in the spring of 1966, when she became a part of the Red
Guards during the Cultural Revolution. In 1997, she published a memoir retelling the
story of her life and her family in China throughout the political turmoil of the 1950s
through the 1980s. In this excerpt she writes about her early experience in the Red
When the Cultural Revolution broke out in late May 1966, I felt like the legendary
monkey Sun Wukong, freed from the dungeon that had held him under a huge mountain
for five hundred years. It was Chairman Mao who set us free by allowing us to rebel
against authorities. As a student, the first authority I wanted to rebel against was
Teacher Lin, our homeroom teacher. A big part of her duty was to make sure that we
behaved and thought correctly. Now the time had come for the underdogs to speak up, to seek justice! Immediately I took up a brush pen, dipped it in black ink and wrote a long dazibao. Using some of the rhetorical devices Teacher Lin had taught us, I accused her of lacking proletarian feeling toward her students, of treating them as her enemies, of being high-handed, and of suppressing different opinions. My classmates supported me by signing their names to it. Next, we took the dazibao to Teacher Lin’s home nearby and pasted it on the wall of her bedroom for her to read carefully day and night. This, of course, was not personal revenge. It was answering Chairman Mao’s call to combat the revisionist educational line.
Within a few days, dazibao written by students, teachers, administrators, workers, and
librarians, were popping up everywhere like bamboo shoots after a spring rain. Secrets
dark and dirty were exposed. Every day we made shocking discoveries. The sacred
halo around the teachers’ heads that dated back two thousand five hundred years to the
time of Confucius disappeared. Now teachers must learn a few things from their
students. Parents would be taught by their kids instead of vice versa, as Chairman Mao
pointed out. Government officials would have to wash their ears to listen to the ordinary
Source: Rae Young, Spider Eaters: A Memoir, 1997.
dazibao –propaganda posters written to denounce counter-revolutionaries
proletarian –working class
revisionist—in this case, someone opposing Mao’s position
Document D: Under the Red Sun Memoir
Under the Red Sun is a memoir written by Fan Cao about her experiences during the
Cultural Revolution published in 2005. Here is an excerpt from the memoir.
I was a 7th grader when the Great Cultural Revolution broke out.
Growing up in the “New China” we were fed with revolutionary ideas bathed
in the red sunlight of Mao. We worshiped Mao the same way pious
Christians worship their God, and we were completely devoted to him. I,
myself, really believed that we were working for a paradise on earth, and
we were going to save the entire world. How glorious it was to have the
great destiny of liberating all humanity! In fact, we did not even understand
what revolution was and how other people in the world really lived…
I was not allowed to join the Red Guards simply because my
grandparents were rich before the communists took away their land, and
my parents were considered “intellectuals,” which automatically made them
anti-revolutionists regardless of the fact that they had been following Mao’s
idealism since their early adulthood. As members of the university faculty,
my parents were obviously in trouble. I, of course, was guilty by
association. Only a 13-year-old girl, I became a target of the revolution.
After that, I lost all my friends and lived in perpetual fear for several years.
Despite this unbearable life, I did not dare challenge my belief in the
revolution. Instead, I wondered if it might be my parents who had done
something wrong. I wrote a dazibao denouncing them to show my loyalty to
Mao. My naivety deeply wounded the feelings between my parents and me.
As I grew up, I slowly learned the truth behind the so-called
“revolution.” I also realized that my family and I were relatively lucky
compared with hundreds and thousands of innocent people who died in the
endless political movements. I am very remorseful, and I still feel shaken as
I think back on what happened during the Cultural Revolution.
Source: Fan Cao, Under the Red Sun, 2005
Memoirs: Documents C and D
(Sourcing) How are Documents C and D similar types of sources?
(Sourcing) Do you find these accounts reliable? Why or why not? Explain using evidence from the documents.
3. (Close reading) Rae Yang (Doc. C) and Fan Cau (Doc. D) both wrote dazibao. Yang
denounced her teacher and Fan denounced her parents. Explain one way that their
actions were similar and one way that their actions differed.
4. (Context) According to these two documents, what are some reasons why young people
joined the Red Guards?
Use evidence from the documents and the timeline to answer the overall question:
Why did Chinese youth get swept up in the Cultural Revolution?
Writing should be a minimum of 3 paragraphs. For each paragraph, use one source (either from PowerPoint, Timeline, or Primary Source documents). Underline your sources.