Chinese Cultural Revolution
An intriguing study of cultural life during a turbulent and formative decade in contemporary China, this book seeks to explode several myths about the Cultural Revolution (officially 1966-1976). Through national and local examination of the full range of cultural forms (film, operas, dance, other stage arts, music, fine arts, literature, and even architecture), Clark argues against characterizing this decade as one of chaos and destruction. Rather, he finds that innovation and creativity, promotion of participation in cultural production, and a vigorous promotion of the modern were all typical of the Cultural Revolution. Using a range of previously little-used materials, Clark forces us to fundamentally reassess our understanding of the Cultural Revolution, a period which he sees as the product of innovation in conflict with the effort by political leaders to enforce a top-down modernity.
"Historical breaks often obscure the past. Why did so many Germans vote, fight, and die for Hitler? Why were so many ordinary Russians reduced to tears by Stalin's death? How many Americans today admit to voting for George Bush? Dismissing these eras as lunatic aberrations risks condemning us to repetition. Paul Clark's The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History is an exciting and eye-opening read. Far from being a cultural desert, this wonderfully readable and scrupulously researched work shows us a period of innovation and vibrantly engaging cultural production. Furthermore, however derided that culture may be today, it partook of the drive for modernity and nationalism that continues to shape China today." - Chris Berry, University of London "Paul Clark explains what was 'cultural' about the Cultural Revolution. Writing against the conventional but mistaken view that Chinese culture was put on hold or simply destroyed, Clark provides an impressively detailed and nuanced study of artistic life in the 1966-1976 period. He shows that despite enormous political adversity, artists fashioned a large number of new works, and that these are most usefully understood in the context of a longer-term modernization of Chinese culture over the 20th Century. Artistic professionalism and experimentation, energized by the political urgency of factional struggle, addressed many of the same questions that have gripped Chinese intellectuals and politicians since the 1911 revolution. Clark never loses sight of this bigger story as he analyzes a decade of Maoist tumult in the arts with grace and compassion." - Richard Kraus, University of Oregon "This admirable work adds a much-needed dimension to our understanding of China's Cultural Revolution, its genesis in the immediate past, and its continuing impact on the decades thereafter. Clark convincingly reconstructs the place of culture in people's lives during the 1960s and 1970s by focusing on the production, dissemination, and reception of the arts rather than on the factional and ideological struggles they represented. In restoring 'culture' to the Cultural Revolution, this study enables readers to appreciate how this period of turmoil and destruction was experienced by people who had little choice but to survive as best they could-how it felt to be Chinese in that time and place." - Bonnie S. McDougall, The Chinese University of Hong Kong "By placing 'culture' at the centre of this important reconsideration of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Paul Clark provides a crucially new perspective on a tumultuous and vitally important era in modern Chinese history and thought. This balanced and sympathetic study helps make sense of China's struggle to be modern, as well as filling in the background to key events that have shaped that country's contemporary rise." - Geremie R. Barme, China Institute, The Australian National University
Paul Clark (born 1949) is Professor of Chinese at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He pioneered the study of Chinese films with his Chinese Cinema: Culture and Politics since 1949 (Cambridge University Press, 1987) and most recently updated this work with Reinventing China: A Generation and Its Films (2005), on Chinese cinema's New Wave since the 1980s. He received his PhD from Harvard University and was a researcher at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawai'i. This present book draws on his experience as an exchange student in Beijing from 1974 to 1976, the last two years of the Cultural Revolution.