Scarlet Memorial: Tales of Cannibalism in Modern China

Scarlet Memorial: Tales of Cannibalism in Modern China

Scarlet Memorial: Tales of Cannibalism in Modern China

Scarlet Memorial: Tales of Cannibalism in Modern China


This is a meticulously documented account of officially sanctioned cannibalism in the southwestern province of Guangxi during the Cultural Revolution. It paints a disturbing picture of systematic killing in the name of political revolution.


Scarlet Memorial is one of the saddest books ever written about the People's Republic of China and also one of the most important. In the following pages Zheng Yi pieces together and reflects upon fearsome cruelties of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, in particular the practice of cannibalism against class enemies in the autonomous region (really a province) of Guangxi. If verified and extended by further research, as I believe it is likely to be, this work will be a landmark in the history of totalitarianism.

The author carried out his investigation as a journey and the reader feels a sense of a shared adventure with Zheng Yi as he collects facts and seeks to put them in historical, anthropological, and political context. Zheng Yi is a writer, not a political scientist, and his book is at once subjective and broad-reaching. In clear and simple prose (extremely well translated) the book presents candid and daring thoughts and wrestles with the most difficult issues of Chinese culture's interaction with dictatorial politics.

In the late 1960s China experienced an internal political fight that in scope, intensity, violence, and dislocation is without parallel in the life of major nations in our time. The convulsion began from above, and to the degree that it comprised "rebellion," this was mostly the fake variety of rebellion-on-instructions. Supreme power did not change hands in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution; it had been Mao Zedong's beforehand, and it was still Mao's when the storm subsided, so there was no "revolution." All the cruelty and suffering in the pretty hills of Guangxi, as in a score of other provinces, was at once politically triggered yet without any tangible, sustained political outcome.

A full explanation of the Cultural Revolution must combine traits of dictatorship, Chinese political culture, and the cumulative effect of Communist organization and propaganda on the Chinese people from 1949. Between the supreme leader's views and those of the grass roots, there were few intermediate levels on which ideas were tested, debated, or . . .

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