THE GREAT PROLETARIAN CULTURAL REVOLUTION, a cataclysmic phenomenon in the Communist era in China, by its very nomenclature defies to this day an informed general understanding of its historical scope, political and cultural complexity, and depth of human tragedy. It happened as a second "revolution" in the second decade after Mao Zedong and his comrades staged the revolution that had brought them to power in 1949. To many, the 1949 event was a cresting of a revolutionary saga that had riveted the twentieth century. Once again, in the mid-1960s, China was engulfed in revolution. Few if any Chinese escaped it, and all lives touched by it were profoundly changed. The history of the Chinese revolution has had to be reassessed and reinterpreted in its wake. The work translated here recognizes the seriousness of the event for Chinese history.
Since its beginning in 1966 and cessation in 1976, numerous studies of its political, psychological, and civil ramifications, its events, and its aftermath have appeared in the form of scholarly analyses, journalistic reports, memoirs, and autobiographical accounts of anguish, heroism, and survival. Yet, until this work, our knowledge had yet to be served by an account reaching beyond the fragments to a comprehensive and straightforward treatment of many of the dimensions of the Cultural Revolution.
Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution (Wenhuadageming shinian shi), a narrative history of this colossal event, appeared in 1986. Authors Yan Jiaqi and Gao Gao, husband and wife (he a physicist converted to political scientist and she a physician, now a sociologist), spent six years writing the first edition. Accomplished under often trying circumstances, the work became an instant best-seller in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The authorship and subsequent publicity also invited official attention and censorial measures from the Chinese government and Communist Party. The book's distribution was subsequently curtailed, and its spasmodic proscription made