Tuesday, November 26, 2019


[...Outside, he {MAO} was also fulfilling his long-held goal of erasing China’s past from the minds of his subjects...]

In June [1966], Mao intensified the terrorization of society. He picked as his first instrument of terror young people in schools and universities, the natural hotbeds for activists. These students were told to condemn their teachers and those in charge of education for poisoning their heads with “bourgeois ideas”—and for persecuting them with exams, which henceforth were abolished. The message was splashed in outsize characters on the front page of People’s Daily , and declaimed in strident voices on the radio, carried by loudspeakers that had been rigged up everywhere, creating an atmosphere that was both blood-boiling and blood-curdling.  
Teachers and administrators in education were selected as the first victims because they were the people instilling culture, and because they were the group most conveniently placed to offer up to the youthful mobs, being right there to hand. The young were told that their role was to “safeguard” Mao, although how their teachers could possibly harm “the great Helmsman,” or what perils might beset him, was not disclosed. Nevertheless, many responded enthusiastically. Taking part in politics was something no one had been allowed to do under Mao, and the country was seething with frustrated activists who had been denied the normal outlets available in most societies, even to sit around and argue issues.  
Now, suddenly, there seemed to be a chance to get involved. To those interested in politics, the prospect was tremendously exciting. Young people began to form groups. On 2 June, a group from a middle school in Peking put up a wall poster, which they signed with the snappy name of “Red Guards,” to show that they wanted to safeguard Mao. Their writing was full of remarks like: “Stuff ‘human feelings!’ ” “We will be brutal!” “We will strike you [Mao’s enemies] to the ground and trample you!” The seeds of hate that Mao had sown were ready for reaping. Now he was able to unleash the thuggery of these infected teenagers, the most malleable and violent element of society….

….IN SUMMER 1966 Red Guards ravaged every city and town, and some areas in the countryside. “Home,” with books and anything associated with culture, became a dangerous place. Fearing that the Red Guards might burst in and torture them if “culture” was found in their possession, frightened citizens burned their own books or sold them as scrap paper, and destroyed their own art objects. Mao thus succeeded in wiping out culture from Chinese homes. Outside, he was also fulfilling his long-held goal of erasing China’s past from the minds of his subjects. A large number of historical monuments, the most visible manifestation of the nation’s civilization, which had so far survived Mao’s loathing, was demolished.  

In Peking, of 6,843 monuments still standing in 1958, 4,922 were now obliterated. Like the list of people to be spared, the list of monuments to be preserved was a short one. Mao did want to keep some monuments, like Tiananmen Gate, where he could stand to be hailed by “the masses.” The Forbidden City and a number of other historical sites were put under protection and many were closed down, thus depriving the population of access even to the fraction of their cultural inheritance that survived. Not spared was China’s leading architect, Liang Si-cheng, who had described Mao’s wish to see “chimneys everywhere” in Peking as “too horrifying a picture to bear thinking about.” Now he was subjected to public humiliation and abuse, and brutal house raids. His collection of books was destroyed, and his family expelled to one small room, with broken windows and ice-covered floor and walls. Chronically ill, Liang died in 1972…. 

Jung Chang, Jon Halliday, MAO:The Unknown Story [2005] 
(Kindle Locations 10092-10244). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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