The Red Mirror: Children of China's Cultural Revolution

The Red Mirror: Children of China's Cultural Revolution

The Red Mirror: Children of China's Cultural Revolution

The Red Mirror: Children of China's Cultural Revolution

Synopsis

These evocative stories bring to life the tragic personal impact of the Cultural Revolution on the families of China's intellectuals. Now adults, survivors recall their childhood during the tumultuous years between 1965 and 1976, when Mao's death finally drew a curtain on a bitterly failed social and political experiment. A series of first-person narratives eloquently describes the life-long influence of this seminal period on China's children. Those who were teenagers in the late 1960s joined the Red Guards and the revolutionary rebel groups, following Mao's directives to make revolution, often to their own undoing. Those who were too young to participate directly were even more vulnerable. Although they had little understanding of the political firestorm that engulfed their parents, they were old enough to understand and feel the terror it brought. Vividly capturing the emotional intensity of the time, these stories explore what it was like to be caught up in revolutionary fervor, to be sent to the countryside, to be separated- either ideologically or physically- from one's parents, often forever. By undermining families and family structure, the Cultural Revolution created a generation of Chinese who view politics, the Communist Party, and life itself with deep cynicism. Presenting a spectrum of individual stories of people who saw the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a child, The Red Mirror offers rare insights for understanding the crippling legacy of the Cultural Revolution.

Excerpt

In primary school, our teachers taught us that our Chinese motherland was a huge garden and that children like ourselves were flowers in that garden. I took that metaphor to heart and thought that I, along with all my brothers and sisters, would become something bright-- flowers or trees--in the garden, testaments to the glory of China. We never planned on the horrible storm that would howl through every corner of the country and sweep the garden bare. That storm was the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution started the summer I turned eight years old. As a child, I saw young people die in the streets. When I first saw someone die from gunfire in the streets, I was terrified. When I saw a second, third, or fourth death, I got used to it. Talking with my friends about the street fighting and death became like talking about food. While bread is a necessary part of life, violent death in the streets should not be. During the Cultural Revolution, death was a part of nearly every child's life.

In 1966, I was in a second-grade class in the most prestigious elementary school in Chengdu, the capital city of China's Sichuan Province. Children in China are taught to obey authority from the first day they walk into school. As in all classrooms in China, above the chalkboard in our room was a portrait of Mao Zedong. My second-grade teacher used to tell us, "Chairman Mao is watching every day to see who is a Red child and who is not." Whenever a child acted naughtily in the class-

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