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A piece of Chinese history: 8 model dramas in Chinese Culture Revolution (1966–1976) [7] The Hymn of Long River

Posted by Grace Feng on September 3, 2012

The Chinese Culture Revolution is a very special period of Chinese history in which the Gang of Four dictated almost every aspect of people’s life. During the Revolution, nothing is allowed in theatres except 8 model dramas (样板戏 yàng bǎn xì ) that were personally approved by Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, also the leader of the Gang of Four.

It is hard to watch the 8 model dramas today since the roles in the play were depicted so “unreal and unnatural”. Good characters move between heroic poses that keep reminding me of a puppet, instead of a real person. Bad characters are purposely uglified to show how miserable and pathetic they are. The story itself might not be a bad one. But with all these deliberately set up “stereotype performance”, the play is full of weird taste.

History is history. 10 years of Culture Revolution was a tragedy of a nation that China can never forget. It has always been a heavy topic to talk about even after so many years.

In this series of post, I will collect the stories and images of all 8 model dramas and translate the story into English. They might can help my readers to have a peek into that period of Chinese history.

 

《龙江颂》The Hymn of Long River

This story happened in the spring of 1963, three years before Culture Revolution started. You’ll notice a pattern of internal war towards the “enemy of the people”, which became a major campaign during 1966 – 1976: finding the hidden enemy among the crowd and destroy them. The enemy is generally called “阶级敌人 – the enermy of the people”.

Long Jiang area was having a drought. Shuiying Jiang, a leader of the local Party, reported the situation to upper government. The upper government decided to build a dam on Jiulong River so that the water can be induced into the drought area. The cost of this solution was 300 acres of agricultural fields be flooded and destroyed.

A piece of Chinese history: 8 model dramas in Chinese Culture Revolution  (1966–1976) [7] The Hymn of Long River

Because of that, some villagers didn’t agree with the solution. At that moment, the “hidden enemy” Guozhong Huang started to spread rumors to hinder the implementation of the solution.

Shuiying pointed out that the rumor was just a rumor and persuaded people to move forward with the solution.

A piece of Chinese history: 8 model dramas in Chinese Culture Revolution  (1966–1976) [7] The Hymn of Long River

After his first failed attempt, “the hidden enemy” Huang kept making troubles while the dam was being build.

When the dam was finished, the 300 acres field started to get flooded. Huang took the chance to raise angers from the villagers by questioning their sacrifice for the solution. As a result, some villagers started to interfere and attempted to close the dam.

Right at that crucial moment, Shuiying arrived and publicly revealed the history of Huang. Huang was actually a thug of a landlord before China was liberated by Communist Party. After the liberation, he changed his real name and hided among the people of Long Jiang. Being denounced as “the enemy of the people”, Huang was under arrest and sent to prison.

A piece of Chinese history: 8 model dramas in Chinese Culture Revolution  (1966–1976) [7] The Hymn of Long River

After that, the solution was carried out with no more barriers.

-End-

阶级敌人 had become a dreadful nickname that no one wanted to have during Culture Revolution. However, a person with an “unlucky” descent (出身), or any kind of connections with the “undesired” groups of people (such as, KMT, foreigners, landlord, POW, business people etc.), was likely to be picked out as “the enemy of the people”. The following is a typical poster that would have been posted everywhere during Culture Revolution with a slogan went:

“向经济领域里的阶级敌人猛烈进攻!”

“Let’s wage a vigorous attack on the enemy of the people in the economy!”

A piece of Chinese history: 8 model dramas in Chinese Culture Revolution  (1966–1976) [7] The Hymn of Long River

 

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