Medium 9781780490939

Landscapes of the Chinese Soul

Views: 409
Ratings: (0)

In 1981 the Communist Party of China declared: "The 'Cultural Revolution', which lasted from May 1966 to October 1976, was responsible for the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the state and the people since the founding of the People's Republic". The civilizational crisis called the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution still eludes our historical, political, and psychological understanding.This book helps to fill the gap. It features twelve extended, psychoanalytically-oriented interviews, six with witnesses to the revolution and six more with sons and daughters. Team analysis of the transcripts is buttressed by sinological, historical, and social-psychological essays. The authors explore Chinese ways of processing the experience of violence, both individually and in collective memory, and identify psycho-traumatic consequences for witnesses and for the following generation.

List price: $24.99

Your Price: $19.99

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

9 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Introduction: Cultural Revolution and Cultural Regression

ePub

Tomas Plänkers

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution gives a shape to Chinese history under Communist rule, forcing its division into three phases: before, during, and after. The first period extends from the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Historians disagree about the duration of the Cultural Revolution. Some identify it with the years 1966–1969; others include the whole decade between 1966 and 1976, ending only with the death of Mao Zedong (1893–1976). The official resolution of the Communist Party of China concerning the Cultural Revolution (adopted 1981, see pp. 175–191) uses the broader definition. The third period, which continues today, began in 1978 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. It is the era of continuing economic reforms, the turn away from centralised economic planning and towards capitalistic economic structures.

Before the Cultural Revolution came the disastrous famine of 1958–1962, in which thirty to forty million people died. This debacle, associated with the “Great Leap Forward”, could have cast doubt on the leadership competence of the Party. Thus, it was kept secret not only from the outer world, but also to a large extent within China itself; even the elites in Beijing heard only selective reports. After a period of withdrawal in the post-famine years, Mao took the helm again with the Cultural Revolution. This new upheaval was required, as he thought, to break up the inertia of established political relationships. As a sequel to the 1949 revolution and its political consolidation in ensuing years, the cultural superstructure must now be transformed. To produce a profound renewal of a society whose ways of thought go back millennia, this new movement took aim at “the Four Olds”: old ways of thought, old cultures, old habits, and old customs. An atmosphere of paranoia arose, in which many political leaders fell under suspicion of supporting the “capitalist road”. Suddenly, society was split into “true revolutionaries”, “supporters of Mao Zedong thought”, and reactionary forces, “demons and serpents”, against which the harshest measures were justified. This led to an orgy of violence, together with the destruction of physical cultural treasures on an unprecedented scale, all in accord with Mao's doctrine of “no development without destruction”—though the process usually stopped with the destruction. A bizarre cult of personality arose around Mao. The song “The East is Red” became a religious hymn:

 

Chapter One - Negotiating the Past: Narratives of the Cultural Revolution in Party History, Literature, Popular Media, and Interviews

ePub

Natascha Gentz

The following contribution concerns the reasons why the processing of the traumatic experiences of the Chinese Cultural Revolution has been so difficult for the country in political, social, and cultural contexts. The working through of such experiences generally depends on a supportive social environment that acknowledges the experience of trauma and, thus, permits traumatised persons to emerge from amnesia and confront what they have been through. Such a social consensus has not existed in China since the Cultural Revolution. On the one hand, the political edicts of a socialistic dictatorship have defined the permissible ways of dealing with the past. On the other hand, due to the complexity of the circumstances, there is no consensus to date as to whether a confrontation with the past is even necessary or important. As the following discussion will show, political guidelines have not only had a restrictive effect but have also put their own definite stamp on understanding and interpretation of the events of the Cultural Revolution: a stamp reflected in culture, literature, film, and scientific debate. The effects extend beyond mainland China. In the West, too, many of these données have been absorbed and have influenced conceptions of this phenomenon.

 

Chapter Two - The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) as an Experience of Contingency

ePub

Liying Wang

Reflecting on the horrors of world history and especially the catastrophes of the twentieth century, Reemtsma (2001) takes issue with Hegel's philosophy of history:

The second half of the twentieth century has bankrupted Hegel's hope for History. It is exactly at that moment, the philosopher said, when we regard “History as the slaughter-bench on which the happiness of peoples, the wisdom of states, and the virtue of individuals has been sacrificed” that we must believe “these enormous sacrifices” to be serving an ultimate goal. The philosophy of history, that great attempt of European modernity to see itself as on the right road out of a world of violence into a future relatively or entirely free of it, was shaken by the First World War and refuted by Auschwitz. It is dead. We should not, we cannot even, lament its passing. (p. 172, translated for this edition)

With this pronouncement, Reemtsma challenges the teleological idea of history. The disillusionment of historical philosophy, stemming not least from the catastrophic experiences of the twentieth century, brings to the fore the awareness and experience of contingency. Among the century's terrible events, the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” in China (1966–1976) must take its place. It is both an example of the many Chinese troubles of the period and their climax. The reach of the Cultural Revolution, impacting on almost all social classes throughout the country, was vast, its course prolonged and bewildering. For most participants, perpetrators as well as victims, the direction of the campaign was chaotic and confusing, because of contradictory instructions from on high; in this, the Cultural Revolution differs from other comparable events.

 

Chapter Three - Red Terror: The Experience of Violence During the Cultural Revolution

ePub

Rolf Haubl

The span of years between the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 can be subdivided according to the campaigns proclaimed by the Communist Party and its “Great Steersman”: 1950: land reform; 1951: “Suppression of Reactionaries”; 1952: The “Three Antis” and “Five Antis” campaigns; 1955: “Liquidation of Reactionaries”; 1957–1958: “The Anti-Rightist Movement”; 1959–1961: “Three Red Flags”, “Highway to Socialist Construction”, “Great Leap Forward”, “Great Steel Production”, foundation of communes; 1963: Campaign of socialist education; 1966–1976: “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”.

Reviewing the series, it is striking how campaigns aimed at modernising the nation alternate with campaigns intended to identify and combat opponents of the promulgated course. The rhythm suggests an interpretation: every time the Party fails to deliver on its promise of bringing increasing prosperity to the masses, and especially to the peasants, it turns to persecuting men and women who are accused of boycotting the effort.

 

Chapter Four - The Cultural Revolution in the Mirror of the Soul: a Research Project of the Sigmund Freud Institute

ePub

Tomas Plänkers

Our China Project was conceived in the continuing education seminars in psychotherapy for Chinese psychiatrists and psychologists, initiated by Alf Gerlach in Shanghai. The case reports discussed with our Chinese colleagues aroused our interest in the psychological meaning of the dramatic social upheaval brought about by the “Great Cultural Revolution”. As German psychoanalysts, we naturally saw parallels with our own history and the now extensive scientific literature on the psychic implications of the Nazi era and in particular of the Holocaust. Investigations such as those of Laub and Auerhahn (1993), Kestenberg (1989, 1993, 1995), Jucovy (1995), Bergmann (1996; Bergmann, Jucovy, & Kestenberg, 1995), Faimberg (1987, 2009), Herzog (1995), Eckstaedt (1989, 1997), and Grubrich-Simitis (1979, 1984)—to name just a few—show clearly that the traumatic psychic structures of one generation affect the next. Thus, it interests us to see whether these findings can be replicated with regard to witnesses of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and their children and whether there are cultural variables that affect the psychic working out of traumatic experiences or which need to be taken into account in interpreting these experiences. For this reason, we structured our investigation as a combination of psychoanalytic, sinological, and social-scientific lines of investigation.

 

Chapter Five - Psychic Trauma between the Poles of the Individual and Society in China

ePub

Tomas Plänkers

The world we live in is only superficially civilised and only partially accessible to our control. This fact underlies our modern sense of life and contributes greatly, as Sigmund Freud noted as early as 1930, to our chronic uneasiness and anxiety. In spite of all international institutions and diplomatic efforts, war, famine, poverty, and social catastrophe seem unavoidable. Many people perceive that our ordered life is insecure and is subject to dangers that can emanate, in our time, from any corner of the globe. Despite a hundred years of psychoanalytic teaching, the analogously perilous condition of our psychic world is not so universally grasped. Freud's early (1923b) model of the personality suggested the image of an iceberg: just as most of the berg's mass is below waterline, the unconscious—the unsocialised part of the mind—is more extensive than the conscious. According to Freud's initial theory, neurosis arises when traumas stored in the unconscious break through into consciousness. This first trauma theory posited an injury initially inflicted from outside that becomes troublesome later in life when it is given a secondary meaning (deferred action). It was only later (1920g, p. 35) that Freud made room for the thought of an essentially endogenous trauma, in which psychically unintegrated drive impulses produce an overstimulation. According to this more fundamental perspective, our conscious mental structures, built up through socialisation, are constantly endangered by incursions from our unconscious drives. The “Great Wall of China”, built to protect a civilised empire from peoples regarded as uncivilised barbarians, is a kind of metaphor in stone for this psychic situation. Like the physical wall, the attempt on the individual level to “civilise” human instincts has limited success. The process of their psychic integration only goes so far; it is a constant of human existence to be in danger of traumatisation from the eruption of the barbaric within us.

 

Chapter Six - The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A Traumatic Experience and its Intergenerational Transmission

ePub

Friedrich Markert

With the unleashing of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, China entered an era of violence and terror in which millions of people were humiliated, persecuted, abused, and killed. The imprint of these experiences is seen not only in the lives of the victims, where it lingers to this day, but also in following generations. I will demonstrate this fact through interviews with a man born in 1930, who was directly affected, and with his son, born in 1968. These interviews also open the door to discussion of the problems of intercultural interpretation.

The interviews were conducted under the aegis of the China Project of the Sigmund Freud Institute (Frankfurt) by a Chinese colleague, and analysed by a group of five psychoanalysts in Germany (see the contribution of Plänkers, pp. 83–120). The following discussion incorporates this work.

“It cannot be made good”

Mr Wang, seventy-three at the time of our two interviews, tells of a life relentlessly pummelled by losses and abuses: separation from his parents at the age of two months; death of a greatly loved grandmother; political attacks; the loss of his beloved wife; maltreatment and banishment; professional demotion; a forced marriage.

 

Appendix 1: Selective Chronology of Events in the History of the People's Republic of China

ePub

From the founding to the Cultural Revolution (1949–1965)

1949, October 1

Proclamation of the People's Republic by Mao Zedong.

1951, October

Occupation of Tibet by Chinese troops.

1952

“Five Antis Campaign” in the economic realm, targeting bribery, theft of state property, tax evasion, fraud, and theft of commercial secrets. “Three Antis Campaign” in the governmental realm, targeting corruption, waste, and bureaucratisation.

1954, September

Initial meeting of the first National People's Congress.

Adoption of the first Constitution of the PRC.

1955

Collectivisation of agriculture and nationalisation of industry and commerce.

1955–56

Campaign against the oppositional clique around Hu Feng. More than 214,000 people are arrested, more than 21,000 sentenced to death, and more than 53,000 die through suicide, torture, or in labour camps.

1956, September

Beginning of the “Hundred Flowers Movement”, sanctioning open criticism of state and Party.

 

Appendix 2: Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China

ePub

(Adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on 27 June 1981)

Note: We reproduce here only Sections 19–26 of the Resolution, concerning the assessment of the Cultural Revolution. (T. P.)

The decade of the “Cultural Revolution’

19. The “cultural revolution’, which lasted from May 1966 to October 1976, was responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the state and the people since the founding of the People's Republic. It was initiated and led by Comrade Mao Zedong. His principal theses were that many representatives of the bourgeoisie and counter-revolutionary revisionists had sneaked into the Party, the government, the army and cultural circles, and leadership in a fairly large majority of organizations and departments was no longer in the hands of Marxists and the people; that Party persons in power taking the capitalist road had formed a bourgeois headquarters inside the Central Committee which pursued a revisionist political and organizational line and had agents in all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, as well as in all central departments; that since the forms of struggle adopted in the past had not been able to solve this problem, the power usurped by the capitalist-roaders could be recaptured only by carrying out a great cultural revolution, by openly and fully mobilizing the broad masses from the bottom up to expose these sinister phenomena; and that the cultural revolution was in fact a great political revolution in which one class would overthrow another, a revolution that would have to be waged time and again. These theses appeared mainly in the May 16 Circular, which served as the programmatic document of the “cultural revolution’, and in the political report to the Ninth National Congress of the Party in April 1969. They were incorporated into a general theory—the “theory of continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat”—which then took on a specific meaning. These erroneous “Left” theses, upon which Comrade Mao Zedong based himself in initiating the “cultural revolution”, were obviously inconsistent with the system of Mao Zedong Thought, which is the integration of the universal principles of Marxism–Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution. These theses must be clearly distinguished from Mao Zedong Thought. As for Lin Biao, Jiang Qing and others, who were placed in important positions by Comrade Mao Zedong, the matter is of an entirely different nature. They rigged up two counter-revolutionary cliques in an attempt to seize supreme power and, taking advantage of Comrade Mao Zedong's errors, committed many crimes behind his back, bringing disaster to the country and the people. As their counterrevolutionary crimes have been fully exposed, this resolution will not go into them at any length.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000036203
Isbn
9781781813201
File size
3.13 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata