Fine Arts Movement of the Red Guards

(Read Chinese version)

 Wang Mingxian

 

     The Red Guards were the daring vanguards of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1977). An editorial entitled “Praising the Red Guards” carried in the then Red Flag (the theoretical Party journal) wrote: “The pioneering spirit of the Red Guards has shaken the whole world.” “During the period of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution initiated and led by Chairman Mao himself, the Red Guards have fought heroically with the persons in power taking the capitalist road and forces of evils. They have become the vanguards of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” “The Red Guards are newly emerging things on the oriental horizon.” However, today’s historians of the history of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have different views about the Red Guards: “The political orientation of the Red Guards was wrong. But, most of the youths who joined the Red Guards ‘rose in rebellion’ simply because they believed that they were sincerely following Chairman Mao and the Central Committee of the CPC with revolutionary fervour.”

     The young art workers then launched a Fine Arts Movement of the Red Guards, adding fuel to the flames of the Cultural Revolution. The Fine Arts Movement of the Red Guards was an important artistic phenomenon. It, along with the songs for quotations of Chairman Mao and the revolutionary model operas (which were supported by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing), became one of three components of the art myth during the Cultural Revolution period. In the 1960s, the world experienced a massive transformation, so did the art amidst the turbulence. In western countries, art advanced from the stage of modernism to that of post-modernism, whereas in the east, art underwent intense changes during the Cultural Revolution period in China. The Red Guards Fine Arts was an outcome of centralization of state power and fanatical modern blind worship, it was also an artistic form with characteristics of “red modernism”. It is not an easy work to understand and reflect the Fine Arts Movement of the Red Guards from an academic angle, however, it is significant for us to re-examine the movement today when culture diversity is encouraged and when we have learnt more about the modern art development in western countries as well as in China. 

During the initial stage of the Cultural Revolution period, the Red Guards from the fine arts circle rushed ahead, putting up big character posters, distributing leaflets, parading reactionary authorities from the fine arts field in the streets, and making picture posters and caricatures. However, it was until the year of 1967 that we saw a real development of the Fine Arts Movement of the Red Guards. A great number of fine arts papers and periodicals by the Red Guards came into being, and many fine arts exhibitions organized by the Red Guards opened to the public. These signified that the Fine Arts Movement of the Red Guards was in full swing.

 

I.               Art Exhibitions at the Battleground

    The year of 1967 was a year when the Red Guards frequently organized and held art exhibitions.  

    On February 5, 1967, an exhibition entitled “Caricatures Exhibition: Smashing the Reactionary Line Advocated by Liu Xiaoqi and Deng Xiaoping” opened to the public at the Beijing Planetarium. This exhibition was organized by rebel groups from 20 universities and colleges, some factories, governmental and cultural organizations as well as army soldiers in Beijing. Since most of the displayed works had been posted before as big character posters, this exhibition was regarded as “a grand review of the art works of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”. The preface of the exhibition quoted Chairman Mao’s quotation in bold-faced characters: “Our purpose is to ensure that literature and art fit well into the whole revolutionary machine as a component part, that they operate as powerful weapon for uniting and educating the people and for attacking and destroying the enemy, and that they help the people fight the enemy with one heart and one mind.” The first picture on display was a huge portrait of Chairman Mao who was waving and leading the people to march forward.This portrait, along with a few other pieces of works, jointly displayed the magnificent feat of Chairman Mao who kindled the flames of the Cultural Revolution with his own hands. In addition, there were many satirical drawings with bitter irony, expressing “revolutionary rebels’ extreme contempt and incomparable hatred toward the diehards who put forward and stubbornly cling to the reactionary capitalist line.” On one of the caricatures, Mao Zhedong’s Thought was like a red sun, shedding its rays in all directions with boundless radiance, whereas a handful of “persons in power taking the capitalist road” and the diehards who put forward and stubbornly clung to the reactionary capitalist line were upholding a ragged umbrella with many holes, implying that these people defied Mao Zhedong Thoughts and sabotaged the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The third part of the exhibition “exposed the counter-revolutionary essence of the economism”, showed the success that the revolutionary rebels had achieved in response to Chairman Mao’s call of "taking firm hold of the revolution and promoting production”. On one of the caricatures, a handful of “monsters and demons” were dancing in riotous revelry in front of a speeding train. A reporter interpreted the painting in this way: “The counter-revolutionary economism, as well as any schemes and intrigues, can not hold back the historical wheel of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” The last part of the exhibition displayed such a painting: two sturdy hands, which represented “revolutionary rebels”, grasped tightly a scoundrel, which symbolized “the persons in power taking the capitalist road and the diehards who put forward and stubbornly cling to the reactionary capitalist line”. They were dying out under the joint attacking of the mass of revolutionaries. During the exhibition, the Red Guards from the Jinggangshan Corps of Qinghua University showed some slides that they made themselves, among them were Taking firm hold of the revolution and promoting production and Monkey King Subdues the White Bone Demon (New Edition). This exhibition had attracted some foreigners. A correspondent from the Xinhua News Agency, the national news agency, wrote:

The exhibition was permeated with revolutionary fervour. It vividly expressed the sincere feelings of the broad masses of revolutionary people who had boundless ardent love for Chairman Mao and who pledged to fight to the death in defending Mao’s revolutionary line, and it enthusiastically sang the praises of the proletarian revolutionaries’ rebellion spirit in forming a grand revolutionary alliance and in seizure of power. Every caricature was like a sharp javelin or a dagger, ruthlessly attacking the capitalist reactionary line, making a most telling exposure of the hideous features of a handful of persons in power taking the capitalist road, displaying the far-reaching significance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and its bright prospect for the final victory.

In fact, most of the caricatures displayed at the exhibition directly attacked Liu Shaoqi (president of People's Republic of China and “number one capitalist-roader”). But the correspondent from the Xinhua News Agency could only write that this exhibition was a “caricatures exhibition smashing the reactionary capitalist line”, because Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping (a politburo member and “number two capitalist roader” after Liu) were not yet criticized by name publicly through formal newspapers, periodicals and other media. Although the correspondent did not comment on the techniques and features of the satirical drawings, he emphasized the important role of the exhibition in the then intense ideological struggle.

     During that period, many other comprehensive exhibitions were also organized to demonstrate the Red Guards’ “great achievements” and the rebels’ strength, and most of the exhibits were photographs and paintings. These exhibitions were not pure art exhibitions, instead, they served to show the achievements of the Cultural Revolution. However, quite a number of paintings and sculptures on display were typical art works during that special historical period of the Cultural Revolution. In April 1967 when the Red Flag Combat Corps of the Beijing Aeronautical Engineering Institute (BARF) prepared for an exhibition entitled “Exhibition on the Victory of Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line”, workers from the Beijing Guanghua Timber Mill made about a hundred exhibition boards for it at a very low price, whereas workers from the Beijing Jade Workshop created quite a number of “lifelike” clay sculptures, which “vividly depict the heroic images of the Red Flag fighters who dare to rebel in the Cultural Revolution”. “The revolutionary comrades from the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Middle School Attached to the Central Academy of Fine Arts and School of Arts and Crafts joined to help for the preparations. They ate, lived and worked together, and made gigantic efforts in publicizing the glorious victory of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line.”

     May of 1967 marked the first anniversary of the launch of the Cultural Revolution and the 25th anniversary of the publication of Mao Zedong’s article “Talks at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art”. The Red Guard rebel groups within the fine arts circle would naturally not stand idle. To ceremoniously commemorate this special day, a total of 84 revolutionary rebels organizations under the Capital’s Congress of the Workers, Congress of the Poor and Lower-Middle Peasants, Liberation Army, Congress of the Red Guards and revolutionary literature and art groups jointly launched and organized the “Revolutionary Paintings Exhibition: Long Live the Victory of Mao Zedong Thought”. The exhibition opened on May 23, 1967 at China Art Gallery. According to an introduction carried on the 4th issue on of Art Battlefield Report: “The exhibition is scheduled to open on May 23rd at China Art Gallery, there will be an oath-taking rally where the key members of the reactionary gang from the literature and art circle will be ferreted out and publicly exposed.” Other newspapers and periodicals like Art Tempest, Man Jiang Hong and Beihang Red Flag had also covered the exhibition. The editorial commission of the pictorial The Proletarians by the Capital workers and the editorial office of the Art Battlefield Report had jointly published a special issue for this “Revolutionary Paintings Exhibition: Long Live the Victory of Mao Zedong Thought”.

     This exhibition was fairly large in scale, displaying hundreds of prints, caricatures, picture posters and new pictures with Chairman Mao’s quotations. Among them were some works singing the praises of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, they included Advance Triumphantly Along Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line of Literature and Art (by the Revolutionary Rebel Corps of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army <PLA> Military Museum), Pledge to Fight to the Death in Defending Mao Zedong Though (by the Xinghuo Liaoyuan Revolutionary Rebel Corps of the PLA Institute of Rear-Service Engineering), Advance Triumphantly Along Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line of Literature and Art (by the Anti-Revisionist Corps of the Middle School Attached to the Central Academy of Fine Arts), The People’s Revolution under the Guidance of  Mao Zedong Thought Is the Locomotive of History Advancement (by the Combat Corps for Propagating Mao Zedong Thought, the 2.7 Commune, Beijing Rolling Stock Works), Make the Whole Country a Big School of Mao Zedong Thought (by the Red Sun Propaganda Team of the Revolutionary Alliance of the Electronics Industry), Hail the Publication of the Great Historical 16 Articles (by The Red Rebels Liaison Station of the No. One Machine Tools Plant of the Congress of the Workers, the Red Sun Propaganda Team of the Revolutionary Alliance of the Electronics Industry, the Red Painting Brush of the Revolutionary Authority of the Beijing Beiguang Electron Tube Plant of the Congress of the Workersand the Little Red Soldiers of the People’s Publishing House), and Chairman Mao Is Coming (by the Red Sun Propaganda Team of the Revolutionary Alliance of the Electronics Industry). Another major part of the works on display were criticism picture posters, like Down with Liu (Shaoqi) and Deng (Xiaoping) (by the Red Rebels Headquarter of the Beijing Silk Firm of the Congress of the Workers), Down with Liu Shaoqi, Roundly Criticize His Sinister Cultivation Doctrine (by the Dongfanghong Commune of Beijing Bus Company of the Congress of the Workers), Thoroughly Smash a Handful of the Counter-Revolutionary Revisionists (by the Red Painting Brush of the No. Two Beijing Machine Tools Plant of the Congress of the Workers), Down with Peng Zhen (by the Red Rebels Liaison Station of the No. One Machine Tools Plant of the Congress of the Workers, the Red Sun Propaganda Team of the Revolutionary Alliance of the Electronics Industry, the Red Painting Brush of the Revolutionary Authority of the Beijing Beiguang Electron Tube Plant of the Congress of the Workers and the Little Red Guards of the People’s Publishing House) and Hold High the Great Banner of Mao Zedong Thought, Smash Liu Shaoqi’s Sinister Cultivation (by the Proletarian Alliance Headquarter of the Dongbeiwang Commune of the Congress of the Poor and Lower-Middle Peasants). This exhibition also featured a big proportion of caricatures. This could be reflected from the fact that the organizing section of the exhibition selected some caricatures attacking Liu Shaoqi and compiled an album when the exhibition concluded. This album was named Selected Caricatures from the Revolutionary Paintings Exhibition: Long Live the Victory of Mao Zedong Thought. The caricatures included Liu’s Fishing Device Store (by Dongfanghong Art Fighters of Beijing Printing Company), Playing Tricks (by the People’s Publishing House and Zhunyi Corps of Rural Readings Publishing House) Highlights of the Secret History (by Little Red Soldiers’ Combat Corps of the People’s Fine Art Publishing House), Mixed Scenes (by Little Red Soldiers’ Combat Corps of the People’s Fine Art Publishing House),Chanting Revisionism Scriptures (by the Red Rebel Corps of the Capital Practical Arts of the Congress of the Workers), Axis (by the Red Rebel Corps of the Capital Practical Arts of the Congress of the Workers), Liu’s Self-Explanation of His ‘Cultivation’ (by Liaoyuan Corps of the Central Academy of Fine Arts), and Coming Down in One Continuous Line (by the Red Rebel Corps of the Capital Practical Fine Arts of the Congress of the Workers). Among these displayed pictures with strong smell of gunpowder, people found an interesting piece of painted sculpture An Old Couple Studying Selected Works of Mao Zedong (by the Temporary Revolutionary Authority of the Red Rebel Column of Beijing Painted Sculpture Workshop). This sculpture was created with traditional folk art techniques, portraying a very humorous old couple. 

      This revolutionary exhibition caused strong repercussions. A media report wrote: “The works on display are imbued with people’s deep love and respect for Chairman Mao, singing the praises enthusiastically of the victory of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line. With ingenious composition and trenchant brushwork, painters created a great number of caricatures, exposing and criticizing the crimes of Liu Shaoqi, China’s Khrushchev. These works are brimming with the fighting spirit and revolutionary rebellion spirit of the painters, who fear nothing at all.” This exhibition was regarded as “the great victory of Mao Zedong Thought and the great achievement of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line of literature and art! It was a happy event in the history of art in China! Like a glorious epic, the exhibition honestly recorded the world-shaking history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and offered to visitors the newest and most beautiful pictures.”

     Because this exhibition was a “revolutionary” one, the organizers had invited workers, peasants and army soldiers, instead of fine arts critics, to be the critics. Some famous models for studying Mao Zedong’s works visited the exhibition, they included Wei Fengying (a worker from Liaoning province) and Li Suwen (a saleswoman from Liaoning province). Wei Fengying wasmoved deeply” and said: “The mass of workers, peasants and soldiers are singing the praises of our most beloved great leader Chairman Mao with their paintings. Every painting radiates with the glory of Mao Zedong Thought and shows the occasion when our great leader has the faith in the masses and their hearts are linked to each other. The success of this exhibition is the great victory of the invincible Mao Zedong Thought, the result that the great number of workers, peasants and soldiers who have effectively learnt Chairman Mao’s works and put them into practice! It is the great victory of Chairman Mao’s Literature and Art Line! It is the great victory of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution!” Li Suwen said:” This exhibition is a solemn declaration for the revolutionary people from around the world: the workers, peasants and soldiers (in China) who are armed with Mao Zedong Thought have really occupied the art position. They are using their painting brushes to sing the praises of our great leader Chairman Mao! All these stirring pictures fully show that our most beloved great leader Chairman Mao has faith in the masses, depends on the masses and their hearts are linked to each other. The pictures on display also reflect the feelings of our masses of workers, peasants and soldiers who have boundless ardent love for our great leader Chairman Mao.”

     On the afternoon of May 25th, 1967, “The Fine Arts Exhibition Tour: Long Live the Victory of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” was inaugurated at the Tiananmen Square. Shortly afterwards, the exhibition toured to factories in the outskirts of Beijing, communes in rural areas and PLA units. About 150 artistic works were displayed at the exhibition, and the artistic forms of the exhibits ranged from posters with Chairman Mao’s quotations, wood engraving prints and caricatures to paper-cuts. These works portrayed the image of Mao Zedong, featured Lin Biao (Mao’s successor) who called on the people to study the “three constantly read articles'' (which referred to three articles by Mao Zedong – “Serve the People”, “In Memory of Norman Bethune” and “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains”) and learn from Jiang Qing, sang the praises of the Red Guards, propagated Mao Zedong Thought, commemorated the 25th anniversary of the publication of Mao Zedong’s article “Talks at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art”, depicted characters of the model operas, and exposed Liu Shaoqi and Peng Zhen’s “crimes committed during the three-anti movement (movement against corruption, waste, and bureaucracy in 1951)”, ect. The key works included water-color painting Long Live the Victory of the Proletarian Revolutionary Line Represented by Chairman Mao, wood engravings Study the “Three Constantly Read Articles” and Take Them as Our Mottos, Let the New Socialist Literature and Art Occupy All Stages, The Proletarian Revolutionaries Grasp the Power Firmly!, Down with Liu Shaoqi! Roundly Criticize His Sinister ‘Cultivation Doctrine’, and so on. More important, this exhibition displayed the wood engravings Advance with Chairman Mao amid Great Storms and Long Live the Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, the most influential Mao Zedong’s portraits created by Shen Yaoyi, who was the member of the “Revolutionary Alliance” and the “Red Flag” Corps of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The main preparing organizations for this exhibition were the “Revolutionary Rebels Commune” of the Feng Tai Bridge Plant under the Ministry of Railways, the “Red Flag” Corps of Beijing Heat and Power Plant, the “Revolutionary Alliance” and “Red Flag” Corps of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the “Jinggangshan” Corps of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, the “Beijing Commune” of the Central Conservatory of Music, and the “Jinggangshan” Corps of Beijing Film Academy.

    When reviewing the exhibition at the Tiananmen Square, one of the visitors said: “This exhibition is very good, with a right direction. We didn’t have time to go to art galleries in the past. Today, it takes us only about ten minutes to review the exhibition on our way home.” A worker with the Fengtai Bridge Plant said: “During the rule of the “three old organizations” (old Ministry of Propaganda, old Ministry of Culture and old Beijing Committee of the CPC) in the past, literature and art didn’t serve workers, peasants and soldiers. Today, it’s so great that you deliver the exhibition right to our plant.” A senior worker said: “Your exhibition is the first of its kind since the liberation 17 years ago, and we can also say it’s the of its kind in history. We had to go to the big exhibition centres at the down town for an exhibition in the past. We simply didn’t have the time.” Other workers said: “Art exhibitions of the past were organized by art specialists, who were unwilling to deliver them to factories and the rural areas. It’s a victory of the Cultural Revolution that you send these paintings to the plants.” After having viewed the exhibition, a senior worker said: “It’s the first time for me to see such great paintings since the liberation 17 years ago. They have greatly boosted our morale and dampened the enemy’s spirit. The more you paint, the better.” Some soldiers commented the exhibition in this way: “These paintings are great! They’re just as powerful as our bayonets and as portable as our hand grenades, we like them best. The previous painting exhibitions at the exhibition centres were dominated by “big, foreign or ancient” themes by experts, they didn’t serve we workers, peasants and soldiers at all.”

    In June, 1967, an “Exhibition of the Picture Posters with Chairman Mao’s Quotations” singing the praises of Mao Zedong and Mao Zedong Thought opened at the Shanghai Workers’ Cultural Palace. This exhibition was composed of eight parts: singing the praises of Mao Zedong; singing the praises of the Communist Party of China; singing the “January Revolution”; singing the praises of the Chinese People Liberation Army; literature and art serving workers, peasants and soldiers; taking firm hold of the revolution and promoting production; training revolutionary successors; down with the major capitalist-roaders who take the positions of authority within the Party” and “carrying the world revolution to the end”. More than 400 pictures were on display, and 70 per cent of them were created by workers, peasants and soldiers.

    On June 2nd, 1967, an “Exhibition by the Capital’s Red Guard Revolutionary Rebels” opened at the Beijing Exhibition Centre. This exhibition was organized by the Congress of the Red Guards of the Colleges and Universities in the Capital and the Congress of the Red Guards of the Middle Schools in the Capital. According to the preface of the brief introduction to the exhibition: Lin Biao “called on all parts of the country to organize Red Guard revolutionary rebels’ exhibitions with the aim of singing the praises of the great achievements of the Red Guards, of the great victory of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and of the great victory of Mao Zedong’s Proletarian Revolutionary Line. Through this exhibition, the people, carders and the younger generation can receive education.” This exhibition “is organized by the Red Guards themselves under the instructions of the Vice Commander-in-Chief Lin Bao, with kind attention from the leaders of the Central Cultural Revolution Group and with the great support from the People’s Liberation Army as well as the great number of revolutionary rebels.” The whole exhibition was composed of the prelude hall and the four exhibition halls. In the prelude hall was a huge statue of Mao Zedong, who was in soldier’s uniform and wore a red armband of Red Guard, waving to the visitors. On the two side walls were frescoes featuring tens of thousands of the Red Guards and revolutionary masses who hold high Chairman Mao’s portrait and hold Little Red Book (known as Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong) in hands, streaming into the Tiananmen Square from all directions. Forty bright red flags of the Red Guards were displayed around the four sides of the exhibition hall.

    The theme of the first exhibition hall was “Long Live the Victory of Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line”. The exhibits of this hall reflected “the sharp and complicated struggle between the Proletarian Revolutionary Line represented by Chairman Mao and the Capitalist Reactionary Line represented by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Under the leadership and support of the Central Cultural Revolution Group, the heroic Red Guards stand firmly on the side of Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line, take the invincible Mao Zedong Thought as a weapon, display their dauntless revolutionary rebel spirit in waging an unyielding struggle against  the Liu-Deng reactionary line and a vigorous offensive to a handful of capitalist-roaders within the Party.” The title for the first part of this hall was: the Great Strategic Decision; for the second part: Raging Flames in June; for the third part: Pledging to Fight to Death in Defending Chairman Mao and Mao Zedong Thought; the fourth part: the Great Victory of Mao Zedong’s Revolutionary Line; the fifth part: Opening Fire Fiercely towards the Reactionary Capitalist Line; for part six: Smashing up Liu-Deng’s Black Headquarter and for part seven: the Great Strategic Decisive Battle.

    The theme for the second exhibition hall was “Down with Persons Like Khrushchev in China”. The exhibits of this hall showed the “struggles between the two classes, two roads, two headquarters and two lines, the power-seizure struggle between the capitalist class and the proletarian class.” The title for the first part of this hall was: Where Is China Heading for? the second par was: Taking the Socialist Road Firmly; part three: Shattering the Furious Attack of the Bourgeois Rightist, the Three Red Flags (refers to general line, great leap forward and people's commune movement which aimed to speed up the socialist construction in China) Rising in the East; part four: Defending the Three Red Flags, Safeguarding the Socialist System; part five: Wise Decision and Great Turning Point; part six: Great Victory of Mao Zedong’s Revolutionary Line; part seven: Uprooting the Revisionism Completely, Unifying the 700 Million People with Mao Zedong Thought.

     The theme for the third hall was “Sweeping Away Forces of Evil in the Society”. The exhibits at this hall reflected that “Under the guidance of Mao Zedong’s Proletarian Revolutionary Line, the Red Guards hold high the big banner: ‘to rebel is justified’, display their ‘five-dare spirit’ (dare to speak up, dare to act, dare to attack, dare to carry on a revolution and dare to rebel) and break through one barrier after another of Liu-Deng’s capitalist reactionary line; with the support from workers, peasants and soldiers, they go into the society to ‘destroy the four olds’ (old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits) and to ‘establish the four news’, sweep away all forces of devil and clean up all the filth and mire .” The title for the first part of the hall was “Destroying the Four Olds of the Exploiting Class and to Establish the Four News of the Proletariat”; for the second part: “Sweeping Away All Forces of Evil and to Destroy Liu-Deng’s Social Base”; for the third part: “Repulsing the Counterattacks of the Enemy and to Consolidating the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”.

The theme for the fourth hall was: “The Great Red Guards Movement Has Shaken the Whole World”. The focus of this hall was on “The great international significance and the profound impact on the world of our country’s Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the Red Guards’ Movement”. The title for the first part of the hall was “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Has Ushered in a New Epoch in the History of the International Communist Movement”; the second part: “The Heroic Red Guards Are Inspiring the Revolutionary People from around the World; the third part: “The Red Guards’ Movement Has Sounded the Death Knell of the Imperialism, Revisionism and Reactionaries”; the forth part: “The Radiance of Mao Zedong Thought Illuminates Every Corner of the World.”

This exhibition also displayed some objects and photographs, for example, the army uniform, the Red Guard armband and the red scarf that Chairman Mao wore during his first review of the Red Guards (at Tiananmen Square), the original script of “the first big character poster of Marxism and Leninism in the country” by Beijing University’s Nie Yuanzi (a philosophy instructor) and others students, as well as a great number of fine arts creations. These creations included the statues of Our Most Beloved Red General Chairman Mao with the Red Guards, The Heroic Red Guards Rise with a Weapon of Mao Zedong Thought to Sweep Away the Forces of Evil of the Society and etc, the water color paintings like The Heroic Red Guards, Look Up at the Big Dipper, Destroy the Capitalist Headquarter Completely, Be Ready to Have the Head Cut and Blood Shed to Safeguard Mao Zedong Thought, etc. These works were created by the red guards from the Middle School Attached to the Central Academy of Fine Arts and some artistic workers from the navy.

The above-mentioned exhibitions were all organized by the Red Guard rebels in Beijing. By October, 1967, conditions were ripe for organizing national art exhibitions. The art exhibition “Long Live the Victory of Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line” opened at the China Art Gallery on October 1, 1967, the 18th anniversary of the founding of new China. The scale of this exhibition was unprecedented, it displayed more than 1,600 pieces of works including traditional Chinese paintings, oil paintings, prints, picture posters, clay sculptures and arts and crafts. The organizers of this exhibition had also brought some of the exhibits and slides to mountainous rural areas for exhibition tour. In an article Ode to Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line – On the Art Exhibition of “Long Live the Victory of Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line”, the fine arts critic group of the literature and art sectors under the direct administration of the central departments wrote: “These revolutionary art works have been created by the broad masses of workers, peasants, soldiers, the Red Guards and revolutionary art workers in the period of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, during which they held high the great banner of Mao Zedong Thought, kept in step with Chairman Mao’s great strategic plan, fought decisive struggles with China’s Khrushchev and a handful of capitalist-roaders that represented by him. These works are from Beijing, the centre of the Cultural Revolution; Shanghai, the origin place of January Storm; they are from all the corners and directions of the country: (western China’s) Guizhou, (eastern China’s) Qingdao and (central China’s) Wuhan; they are from army units, rural areas, factories, mines and schools. They have strong smell of gunpowder firing criticism at the capitalist headquarter, and they bring to visitors the ode to Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line. Today’s China Art Gallery is a propaganda front worthy of the name for Mao Zedong Thought.”

The critic group of the Revolution Coordination Section of the literature and art sectors under the direct administration of the central departments wrote in the article Ode to Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line:

The first feature of this exhibition is its revolutionary character. All the displayed works have focused on this great theme. Every single item of the exhibits, from big sculptures to small souvenirs, from huge oil paintings to delicate paper cuttings, are for the purpose of propagating invincible Mao Zedong Thought and singing the praises of Chairman Mao, the reddest red sun in our hearts.

 The second feature of the exhibition is its fighting spirit. Almost all the works of the exhibition were created during the period of the intense ideological struggle between the two lines (of socialism and revisionism). They display the magnificent scenery where the broad masses of workers, peasants, soldiers and the Red Guards kept in step with Chairman Mao’s strategic plan and held high the great banner of Mao Zedong Thought. They also show heroism of the broad masses of workers, peasants, soldiers and the Red Guards displayed in the fierce two-line struggle. These works have become the powerful weapons for the proletarian revolutionaries when waging a struggle against the enemies.

The third feature of the exhibition is its mass participation. More than 60 per cent of the works on display at the exhibition were created by workers, peasants and soldiers, and most of the themes of the works are about workers, peasants and soldiers in fighting with enemies. Among the displayed poster pictures with Chairman Mao’s quotations from Shanghai, about 70 per cent were created by amateur artists from workers, peasants and soldiers. The clay group sculpture Ode to the Red Guards was also jointly created by soldiers, the Red Guards and revolutionary professional sculptors. We can say that this exhibition is a popularization and enhancement of artistic creation among the broad masses of workers, peasants and soldiers.                                     

The exhibits on display included oil paintings like The East is Red, China and Albania Are Separated by Vast Oceans,, but the Hearts of the People from the Two Countries Are Linked to Each Other and Hearts of Chairman Mao and Revolutionary People Beat as One; a print The Great Historical Document; wood engraving series Long Live Chairman Mao and a huge traditional Chinese painting Bombard the Headquarters – My Own Big Character Poster (the title of Mao Zedong’s big character poster), etc. Workers, peasants and soldiers have used their own painting brushes to express their “infinite faith, boundless ardent love, absolute royalty and immeasurable adoration” for Chairman Mao. Other works listed in the following also expressed the similar feelings: Chairman Mao Has Mounted the Rostrum of Tian An Men, Chairman Mao Comes to the Golden Water River Bridge, Tens of Thousands of Sunflowers Are Facing the Sun, Chairman Mao and the Red Guards Are Together, Chairman Mao Is Conducting Party Building in a Company, The Red Sun Is Lighting up An Yuan, Chairman Mao Is with Us – Return from Beijing and Follow Chairman Mao, the World Is Red. The huge oil painting The East is Red, with brilliant colors of gold rays shedding in all directions, depicted the scene when Chairman Mao, Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, Jiang Qing, Chen Boda and Kang Sheng standing at the Rostrum of Tian An Men, reviewed the Red Guards. The 11 wood engraving series Long Live Chairman Mao, created by the Red Guards from Beijing New Normal College, focused on the depiction of how Chairman Mao led the surging revolutionary masses’ movements over the years of China’s revolutionary struggles. The series recorded a number of milestones in China’s history with the most common artistic expression forms. These milestones, with some important periods in China’s revolutionary history as the background, ranged from the initial stage of forming the Communist Party of China, the initiation of a revolutionary line which led to the victory of revolution in China: encircling the cities from the rural areas and then capturing them, to the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the launch of the Cultural Revolution. The painting The Great Historical Document showed that Chairman Mao issued the “May 16 Circular”, which “sounded the clarion call to march towards the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”. The setting of the painting depicted the revolutionary events led by the revolutionary guides Marx, Engles and Lenin. These symbolized the three milestones in the history of Marxism development. The oil painting The Great Strategic Plan is an ode to our great leader who is broad-minded, having the whole country in mind and the whole world in view. He wrote ‘my own big character poster’ at the critical moment determining the destiny of China and the World, and demonstrated the significance internationally of destroying capitalist headquarters.”  

     The large number of heroes and heroines emerged during the Cultural Revolution had become the examples for the revolutionary art workers to learn and the models for their art creation: heroes at that time like Cai Yongxiang (a soldier who sacrificed his life for saving a train by removing a big log on a bridge railway in 1966), Lu Xiangbi (a soldier who died in 1966 by saving four students from an out-of-control horse-drawn carriage), Zhou Guobin and Wang Shitong (a soldier who died for saving a train by removing logs from a bridge railway over the Yellow River in 1967) all became characters in the art works.

      A great number of picture posters with Chairman Mao quotations propagated Mao Zedong Thought in a vivid and easy-to-understand way. Shanghai’s painters of picture posters with the quotations of Chairman Mao made great efforts in expressing Mao Zedong Thought in vivid pictures and helping launch a mighty movement to popularize the learning of Mao Zedong works. Long Live the Three Constantly Read Articles by painters from Tianjin portrayed the images of Zhang Side (a red army soldier who was killed by the sudden collapse of a kiln when making charcoal for the army), Norman Bethune (a Canadian surgeon who came to China in 1938 to help the Chinese people to fight against Japanese invaders, he contracted blood poisoning while operating on wounded soldiers and died in 1939) and Chen Yonggui (who led local peasants to turn a village Dazhai in Shanxi province into a national model of self-reliance in 1964), the pictures were easy to understand and effectively propagated Mao Zedong Thought.  

 “The Literature and Art circle has undergone an earth-shaking change”, “Paintings with the out-date themes of emperors, kings, generals and chancellors, literati and beauties, flowers, birds, fish and insects, as well as mountains and waters have already been removed from the exhibition centre.” Images of Zhang Side, Norman Bethune, Lei Feng (a soldier who performed many good deeds), Wang Jie (a soldier who sacrificed his life by throwing himself into a blast of a landmine and saving the lives of 12 people in 1965), Jiao Yulu (a good Party cardre who led the masses to struggle against natural disaster until his death in 1964), Chen Yonggui and numerous workers, peasants and soldiers had occupied the art position. Some heroes became the focus of painting, they included Wang Shidong who sacrificed himself to protect the Yellow River Bridge, Cai Yongxiang who heroically rescued red guards, Lu Xiangbi who devoted himself wholeheartedly to the state and Lu Ronggen who feared not being cut to pieces dared to unhorse the emperor (the emperor here implied capital-roaders).

     Tens of thousands of people joined the team to portray the glorious image of Mao Zedong with full enthusiasm. Their works ranged from street prints to Chairman Mao souvenir badges that every soldier wore, from huge frescoes to paper-cuts pasted on window glasses, and from imposing giant clay sculptures to delicate jade or ivory carvings. Workers of the Capital Steel Company, who had had no experience in wood engravings before, made steel gravers by themselves and engraved a colored full-length picture of Mao Zedong. Workers at Rong Bao Zhai art gallery created a portrait of Mao Zedong on a silk scroll with the technique of wood water-color block printing; People’s Commune members from the outskirts of Beijing painted a picture showing Mao Zedong waving greetings to hundreds of millions of people.

    Another important piece of works displayed at the exhibition was a large-scale clay sculpture Ode to the Red Guards. With a continuous story line, this sculpture focused on displaying the great achievements of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards, who served as pathbreakers for the Cultural Revolution, smashed the “four olds” and established the “four news” instead, and fought heroically to defend the proletarian revolutionary line. One of the unforgettable scenes was that: some red guards were labeled by mistake as members of a “counterrevolutionary and little sinister gang”, one of the wounded red guards wrote with his blood his demand for joining fighting on the wall of the prison. This piece of the giant clay sculpture was finished within just 20 days of valiant struggle when the creators including soldiers, workers, the Red Guards and revolutionary art workers had surmounted various difficulties in sculpture creation. The sculpture was the second of its kind, after a sculpture named Rent House, that creators used techniques of clay sculpture loved by the masses to reflect the struggles during the socialist revolutionary period. In the history of sculpture in China, Ode to the Red Guards was the first giant clay sculpture which was produced timely to support the then “Cultural Revolution”. Having visited the exhibition, comrades from Albania praised the creation of this sculpture: “It is the first time in the history of the world for the artists to use the artistic form of a giant clay sculpture to reflect timely the revolutionary and to finish the creation in such a short time.” A red guard from northern China’s Shanxi province said:  

    This exhibition gave voice to our red guards’ innermost thoughts and feelings. I myself am a red guard suffered prosecution by the reactionary capitalist line. When I saw that revolutionary red guard wearing a placard which writes “little sinister gang”, my eyes were brimming with tears. It reminded me of my days of being besieged when fighting with the work team (sent in by Liu Shaoqi to suppress student rebels)  and capitalist roaders, and the time when we were singing a revolutionary song “Looking up, we see the Big Dipper in the sky and long for Chairman Mao’s return” during the period of white terror (when work teams had tried to suppress the student rebels). This clay sculpture has further aroused my enthusiasm and strengthened my determination to defend Chairman Mao’s Revolutionary Line.

In October, 1967, an exhibition entitled “The Glory of Chairman Mao’s Thought Illuminates the Anyuan Workers’ Movement” was held at the Chinese Historical Museum. The famous painting Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan was displayed along with other works.

On January 1st, another painting exhibition entitled “The Red Sun” opened in Shanghai. This exhibition was jointly organized by 34 revolutionary organizations following more than half a year’s preparations. Most of the 300 works on display were created by workers, peasants, soldiers and the Red Guards.

     “The Red Sun” was composed of three parts. The first part focused on the historical facts of revolutionary struggles when Chairman Mao led the whole nation to defeat enemies from both at home and abroad. The main paintings on display included The Red Power Has Taken Roots For Tens of Thousands of Years, Series Paintings for the Long March, Use Your Own Hands, and You Will Live a Plentiful Life, etc. Paintings of the second part focused on showing that the “Revolutionary People Have Deep Love for the Great Leader Chairman Mao”, such as Our Hearts Are Linked to Each Other, Mao Zedong, the Contemporary Lenin and The Red Sun Has Lit Up the Dark Africa and so on. The third part was loaded with a greater proportion of works, which reflected how Chairman Mao launched the “unprecedented” Cultural Revolution. The paintings included Bombard the Headquarters, Chairman Mao Is with the Red Guards, Anting Tempest, Seizure of Power in Shanghai and The Revolutionary Committee Is Good. 

 

II  Fine Arts Papers and Pictorials by the Red Guards

    Due to the shortage of research materials and the limited vision, scholars of the history of fine arts haven’t recognized the significance of the study on the Fine Arts Movement of the Red Guards upon China’s history of fine arts. We have found hardly a single word about the Red Guards Fine Arts Movement in any books and research papers on China’s history of fine arts in the 20th century. A monumental work Yearbook of China’s History of Fine Arts (1949-1989) compiled by China Art Gallery (the first edition was published by Guangxi Fine Arts Publishing House in 1993) introduces the development of fine arts in China from 1949 to 1989. However, there are not any accounts about the development in 1967, because the year 1967 has been regarded as a year without any art events. In essence, the year 1967 was the prime time for the Red Guards Fine Arts Movement, instead of a vacuum period in China’s history of fine arts.   

    When we gathered one after another the fine arts papers and periodicals by the Red Guards scattered in different places, we experienced the similar happy astonishment and excitement that the archaeologists experienced when they discovered the skull fossils of Peking Man at the Zhoukoudian Old Stone Age Ruins. We believe that our efforts in collecting, sorting out and studying these precious fine arts documents will allow us to discover an unusual period in China’s history of fine arts. 

     In 1967, the Red Guards units were formed in fine arts colleges or faculties throughout the country. The Central Academy of Fine Arts formed Liaoyuan Corps and Red Flag Corps of Revolutionary Alliance, the middle school attached to the academy formed Anti-Revisionism Corps, and the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts set up Dongfanghong Commune and Jinggangshan Corps. The Red Guards in colleges and middle schools, workers, peasants and soldiers all took up painting brushes as their weapons, and picture posters and caricatures could be found everywhere. In May of 1967, Beijing, like all parts in China, commemorated the 25th anniversary of the publication of Mao Zedong’s article “Talks at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art”. As part of the commemoration activities, eight “modern revolutionary model operas”, represented by Taking Tiger Mountain, were performed simultaneously in Beijing. At the same time, various fine arts papers and periodicals were launched by the Red Guards across the country, and the curtains for art exhibitions were raised. This marked the coming of the high tide of the Fine Arts Movement the Red Guards.     

     The great number of fine arts papers and periodicals launched by the Red Guards in 1967 created a miracle in China’s history of fine arts. From 1911 to 1949, there were 139 fine arts supplements for the Chinese-language newspapers in China. This period was regarded as the golden age for the publication of the illustrated sections of newspapers in China’s history of fine arts. In the year of 1967, the number of fine arts papers and periodicals by the Red Guards in only two cities of Beijing and Tianjing was fairly big (see the attached form). In addition, there emerged many other papers in other parts of China, for example, Hong Lu Yi by Mao Zedong Thought Red Guard Rebels Headquarter of Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts in Lianning province, Red Art Soldiers by the Red Art Soldiers Rebels Group of Changchun city, the New Jiangsu Pictorial of the “New Jiangsu” Editorial Office by the Proletarian Revolutionaries of Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province, Red Waves jointly compiled by the Publicity Department of the Red Guards of the Chendu Army Unit and the Red Fine Arts Soldiers, Fine Arts Battlefield Report by the Fine Art School’s “6.16” Fine Arts Battlefield Report Editorial Office of the first section of Kaifeng City’s Red Guard Rebels Headquarter, Shanxi Red Pictorial by “6 .18” Red Flag Fighting Force of Shanxi University and the Red Guards Fighting Force of Shanxi People’s Publishing House, and Zheng Gong Pictorial by the 2.7 Commune of Zhengzhou Engineering Institute, Henan Province, ect.

Fine arts information during the initial stage of the Cultural Revolution was largely preserved by the Red Guards’ illustrated sections of newspapers and periodicals (the then Red Guards’ fine art periodicals included Fine Arts Tempest and New Fine Arts). Apart from these, it is very difficult for fine arts historians to get more first hand information on fine arts and other source materials for the studies on fine arts of the initial stage of the Cultural Revolution.

    There were two main categories of the Fine Arts papers and periodicals: the first category referred to battlefield reports by the revolutionary rebels from the fine arts circle, another category included pictorials compiled by revolutionary rebels in the society. The battlefield reports by fine arts circle were meant for people from the fine arts circle, they focused on criticizing Liu Shaoqi’s “agents” and the counterrevolutionary revisionist line in the fine art field, initiated the two-line struggle in the fine art circle and recaptured the revolutionary fine arts position.  

The fine arts papers and periodicals served as daggers and javelins in big criticism campaigns and as a huge iron rod (weapon of a Chinese legendary Monkey King who defeated numerous evils and demons) in destroying “Liu-Deng Reactionary Line” and “American Imperialism, Soviet Union’s Revisionism and all other reactionaries”. They were also like a red battle song singing the praises of Mao Zedong and Chairman Mao’s Proletarian Revolutionary Line. Amid the voices for the fine arts revolution, they became sharp weapons in the class struggles in the fine arts front. The major targets to criticize for the Red Guards were, firstly, Liu Shaoqi and the “capitalist roaders” from the Fine Arts Association; secondly, the “reactionary painters” and thirdly, the old systems including “old fine arts academies” and “old galleries”. We will discuss the criticism of Liu Shaoqi and his “black line of literature and art” in the following.

 

III. Criticism of Liu Shaoqi and His “Black Line of Literature and Art”

     It was mentioned in the “May 16 Circular” that “persons like Khrushchev” who were still nestling beside us were being trained as our successors. This passage was handwritten by Mao Zedong. At that time, most of the Chinese people did not know the target of attack of this message, and even Liu Shaoqi himself might not expect that he would become “China’s Khrushchev”.

     In the raging tide of “Down with Liu Shaoqi”, the fine arts circle followed suit to criticize Liu. On May 2nd, 1967, an exhibition entitled “Caricatures on Completely Smashing Liu-Deng Reactionary Line” opened at Beijing Planetarium. From the exhibits, people realized that the caricatures on the theme of “Down with Liu Shaoqi” were countless in 1967. The criticism of Liu Shaoqi was one of the most important activities for the fine arts circle of the year, and the criticism focused on the following two aspects: firstly, to vilify the image of Liu Shaoqi; secondly, to criticize Liu Shaoqi’s “Black Line of Literature and Art” that he advocated in the literature and art field.

 

1. Vilifying the Image of Liu Shaoqi

    To keep abreast of the political situation, a great number of caricatures were created to criticize Liu Shaoqi. All fine arts pictorials and tabloids by the Red Guards carried such satirical paintingsattacking Liu Shaoqi and his “capitalist reactionary lines”. Some full-page caricatures criticizing Liu Shaoqi appeared in the Red Guards’ papers and periodicals like Fine Arts Battlefield Report, Red Sabre and 6.18 Red Guards Pictorial. The birth of a caricature entitled A Swarm of Uglies signified a big change in caricature creation in China’s history of fine arts. Humor featured China’s satirical paintings in the 1920s, with Fen Zikai as the representative of the artists; in the 1950s and 1960s, caricatures were mainly about international and political themes, and until the Cultural Revolution, caricatures became weapons of class and line struggles.

    A Swarm of Uglies was a powerful bomb of China’s political caricatures. Weng Rulan, painter of the picture, graduated in 1966 from the Traditional Chinese Painting Department of Central Academy of Fine Arts. She was the daughter of a famous scholar Weng Dujian who graduated from Harvard University. Born and brought up in such an intellectual family, Weng Rulan had an extremely strong character. She obtained various information about those high-ranking officials of the central committee from her father’s friends, and the information had become the important source for her creation of the caricature A Swarm of Uglies .

    The initial publication date for A Swarm of Uglies can not be verified. What we can see today is a full-page carriage of the painting on page four of The East Is Red periodical(which was published by the Red Guard Revolutionary Rebels’ Liaison Station of the colleges and universities in the capital) on February 22nd, 1967. In addition, the Revolutionary Workers’ Newspaper (published by the Revolutionary Rebels Headquarter of the Capital Workers) also published this painting in a half-page space on page four on March 3, 1967. It seemed that before February 16, this caricature had been published (or posted along with other big-character posters?). According to the minutes of a “Meeting at Huairen Hall” (within Zhongnanhai, Beijing headquarters of CPC and Chinese government)) on February 16th ” during the period of the so-called “February Countercurrent”, Tan Zhenlin (vice premier) was furious at the meeting and complained: “What a despicable creature Kuai Dafu (a famous rebel leader) is! He’s simply a counterrevolutionary! He had this A Hundred Uglies painted. They guys just want to overthrow all senior cadres.” In a letter to Lin Biao on February 17th, Tan Zhenlin mentioned his third counterattack at the meeting on the previous day: “We have been vilified in extreme.” When passing this letter to Chairman Mao, Lin Biao wrote: “It’s exceeding my expectations that Tan Zhenlin was so ideologically confused and degenerated recently.”

     The caricature A Hundred Uglies that Tan Zhenlin mentioned was, according to the notes of a book Years of Upheaval,a caricature vilifying Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, Tao Zhu, Peng Zhen, Luo Ruiqing, Lu Dingyi, Yang Shangkun and many other senior proletarian revolutionaries.” This caricature A Hundred Uglies should be the caricature A Swarm of Uglies created by Weng Rulan.

    An article published in a periodical entitled Yan-Huang Historical Review in 1994 mentioned this caricature:

    Fu Chongbi (the commander for the Beijing Garrison Command) submitted a Red Guards’ tabloid to Mao Zedong. This tabloid carried a caricature A Hundred Uglies (it should be the A Swarm of Uglies – noted by the author). This painting features two sedan chairs, on which are sitting Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Among those who carry the sedan chairs are 100 senior proletarian revolutionaries and former central committee officials who were framed and overthrown. On the picture, Tan Zhenglin’s hands are full of blood, Luo Ruiqing is holding a knife in his mouth and Tao Zhu is beating a gong to clear the way …

    Mao Zedong unfolded the caricature A Hundred Uglies and studied it seriously.  As he went on, he got angry. He distinguished his cigarette and said: “You give a call to Chen Boda (head of the Central Cultural Revolution Group) immediately, tell him that A Hundred Uglies is a condemnation for us. We can’t have people paint such pictures, we can’t stand such things that vilify us to spread.” 

   Although it is difficult to verify Mao Zedong’s attitude following his review of the caricature mentioned in that article, it allows of no doubt that the painting had aroused a mighty uproar at home and abroad. Since the publication of A Swarm of Uglies, creation of similar caricatures developed quickly. Page two and page three of the 9th issue of Fine Arts Revolution published in September, 1967 carried Revolutionary Criticism Caricature References, featuring satirical head portraits of central leaders like Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and Tao Zhu, celebrities in literature and art circle like Qi Baishi (famous painter) and Mei Lanfang (Peking Opera artist), and “imperialists and all reactionaries” like American imperialists, Soviet Union’s revisionists and Jiang Jieshi (head of Guomingdang).The supplementary edition of Shanxi Pictorial (compiled and printed by “6.18” Red Flag Fighting Force of Shanxi University and Red Painter Fighting Force of Shanxi People’s Publishing House) published in October 1967 also carried the Revolutionary Criticism Caricature References, with an official title of A Hundred Uglies. Page Two and page 3 of the first issue of Red Workers and Peasants published in October 1967 carried another picture of A Hundred Uglies, with satirical portraits (most of them were full-length portraits) of Liu Shaoqi and other 35 persons. Page one of the second issue of the Red Workers and Peasants published a full-page Liu’s Petefi (Hungarian poet Shandor Petefi)Club, which was a new version of A Hundred Uglies for celebrities in literature and art circle. However, the composition of the picture, figure modeling and brushwork were inferior to those of A Hundred Uglies. All these indicated that the picture of A Hundred Uglies had produced a huge impact in the country, and many followers copied this caricature art form.

     In addition to group caricatures like A Swarm of Uglies, there were more series satirical pictures criticizing and denouncing Liu Shaoqi, including those attacking Liu’s “Sinister Cultivation Doctrine” and the “Secret History of Qing Dynasty” as well as Liu Shaoqi’s wife Wang Guangmei. The first issue of Fine Arts Battlefield Report published 14 satirical pictures attacking Liu Shaoqi; the second issue 45, the third issue 36, the forth 41 and the sixth issue carried six. The whole battlefield report had almost become a special pictorial exclusively for caricatures of Liu Shaoqi. The Ugly History of Liu’s Revisionism published in Man Jianghong, the Criminal History of Liu’s Revisionism by Huang Xintian with the “Beijing Commune” of the Ministry of Higher Education, and Down With Liu Shaoqi, Roundly Criticize His Sinister Cultivation Doctrine published by Workers and Peasants Pictorial were all lengthy caricature series. Qinghua University’s Jinggangshan Propaganda Section of the Congress of the Red Guards published an “amazing” 120-parts caricature series entitled Down With Liu Shaoqi – China’s Khrushchev. According to the recalls of Liu Shaoqi’s children, Jiang Qing and her followers planned a public meeting to criticize and denounce Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and Tao Zhu at Zhongnanhai on August 5th, 1967. The rebels escorted Liu Shaoqi and Wang Guangmei to a corner of the venue, forced them to bow to the Red Guards painted on two huge caricatures in front of them. “Those guys covered on our Dad’s head a satirical picture featuring a noose, a pen point and fists of a Red Guard. He was amid hurling abuses and jointly attacking. Who could imagine that the person in the noose of the caricature was our president legally elected by 800 million people?”  

    The purpose of these caricatures was to make Liu Shaoqi’s name discredit politically. However, many rebel organizations and caricature painters took the creation of these pictures as an occasion to let off artistic inspiration, thus developed a new pop art genre. Because of this, someone wrote an article Unhealthy Tendencies in Making Street Big-Character Posters and Caricatures, which brought to the Cultural Revolution Group’s attention. Jiang Qing, Qi Benyu (member of the Central Cultural Revolution Group) made written instructions, and the Literature and Art Group of the Cultural Revolution Group wrote a letter to the Congress of the Red Guards, asking it to find out a solution.

  

2. Criticizing the “Black Line of Literature and Art” Advocated by Liu Shaoqi

in the Fine Arts Circle 

    Rebels believed that “Liu Shaoqi was the major backstage supporter of the black line of literature and art of the counterrevolutionary revisionism. He not only supported counterrevolutionary revisionists like Zhou Yang and Lin Mohan, but also encouraged them to join revisionists in literature and art circle like Cai Ruohong and Hua Junwu, made use of their leadership positions that they usurped in the literature and art organizations, stubbornly promoted this black literature and art guideline and challenged Chairman Mao’s literature and art line. He also had his counterrevolutionary black hand in traditional Chinese painting circle to prop up feudal culture for the landlord class.”

    On March 8th, 1956, in his instructions to the Ministry of Culture, Liu Shaoqi said: “We all like traditional Chinese paintings, some artists haven’t got enough support in their work and life arrangement …… Why can’t we see traditional Chinese realistic paintings now?” What Liu Shaoqi said, in view of the rebels, conveyed a message that he was holding high the black flag of “developing traditional Chinese painting” and desperately opposed “Chairman Mao’s revolutionary literature and art line. His first crime was that he “preached the theory of being ‘beneficial and harmless’, and rejected the revolutionary struggles of workers, peasants and soldiers”. According to the rebels, the theory of being “beneficial and harmless” was an integrated part of the literature and art theory of counterrevolutionary revisionism. They spread the idea of sticking on “harmless” labels to pictures of flowers and grasses (which were regarded as bourgeois pictures) and sold them to hundreds of millions of the masses. Their purpose was to disintegrate the people’s fighting spirit, promote bourgeois freedom values and oppose Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line. Propped up by Liu Shaoqi and noisily advocated by capitalist roaders from the literature and art field, a great number of feudal traditional Chinese paintings were flooding in art exhibitions in China. The paintings displayed included those by feudal scholars like Gu Kaizhi, Wu Daozi, feudal emperor Song Huizhong, monks and Taoist priests, Shi Tao and Ba Da (famous painters in the Qing Dynasty). The paintings featured emperors, kings, general, chancellors, flying Apsaras and, flowers and grasses, mountains and water, and even door-god and kitchen god, which were often linked with feudal superstitious belief. The rebels rebuked that “they stubbornly opposed the socialist transformation in literature and art field and feverishly advocated feudalist literature and art, their purpose was to exclude proletarian literature and art, popularize landlord class literature and art, and launch a general feudalist restoration.”

     The second crime of Liu Shaoqi was that he “peddled the theory of ‘total inheritance’ and consolidated the feudal cultural position”. In views of the rebels, Liu Shaoqi and his followers expressly stipulated in explicit terms that galleries in China should take the inheritance of the excellent “tradition” of Chinese classical painting art as its black guiding principle. “Total inheritance’ was also an integrated part of the counterrevolutionary revisionism theory. Under the pretence of “tradition”, it in essence pursued bourgeois liberalization, peddled feudalist stuff, resisted the socialist transformation in literature and art field and opposed Chairman Mao’s revolutionary literature and art line. Because Liu Shaoqi promoted and advocated the landlord class feudal scholars’ paintings, the fine arts circle in China was enveloped in an air of going back to the ancients. The conservative thought was gaining ground, this thought stressed the past instead of the present, and encouraged artists to learn from the ancients instead of the nature. At that time, the feudal forces in China’s painting circle emphasized that “genuine tradition (in traditional Chinese painting) means that you can indicate the source of every stroke of a Chinese character and you pay special attention to brushwork in painting, it also means that your finished works have been polished again and again and they have a penetrating power.”What they emphasized were the ancient artists’ brushwork and techniques in painting and calligraphy. This kind of “total inheritance”, or following in the footsteps of the ancient people and absorbing both the essence and dross, became a big obstacle for the artists to serve workers, peasants and soldiers and serve the socialism. The tradition of the traditional Chinese painting has been eventually formed over the past thousands of years to suit the needs of the political struggle of the feudal ruling class. It had to be transformed to serve the needs of today’s society. The rebels stressed that Liu Shaoqi, in the guise of “total inheritance”, had in essence attempted to corrode the youth and the broad masses of the people with the decaying feudalist and bourgeois classes’ ideology and feelings. This was Liu Shaoqi’s sinister tricks to try in vain to change the political color of the proletarian literature and art.

     The third crime of Liu Shaoqi was that he “opposed the idea that Chinese artists should remould their ideologies and go deep into the realities of workers, peasants and soldiers’ struggle life”. Liu Shaoqi said: “Some artists of the traditional Chinese painting haven’t got enough support in their work and life arrangement”, he stressed “uniting them” and “taking care” of their work and life arrangement. However, the rebels believed that there were some feudal forces in the circle of traditional Chinese painting, they were out of tune with socialist workers, peasants and soldiers in respects of political stands, ideologies and artistic tastes. Seventeen years passed since the founding of new China, there were still a few old senior artists of the Chinese painting who talked about Guangxu (the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty) period or the Republic of China (1912 – 1949) whenever they spoke. For this group of people, (Liu Shaoqi) did not emphasize the need for them to remould their ideologies and artistic standpoint, but only emphasized to give support to their work and life arrangement. This was a tolerance of the spread of feudal poison. With Liu Shaoqi’s advocacy, revisionists from the literature and art circle gave up the principles of the CPC and the remoulding policies for intellectuals. For 17 years, these old artists had not been touched ideologically at all, not to mention emerging themselves among the workers, peasants and soldiers and learning from them, so as to change their world outlook. Cai Ruohong and Hua Wujun with the Association of Fine Arts, in the guise of being “close to life”, organized senior artists of traditional Chinese painting to make tours nationwide (to gather source materials for painting). In doing so, they went against the great call of Chairman Mao that literature and art workers had to romould their ideologies to serve workers, peasants and soldiers, to violate the principle that literature and art served as a weapon of class struggle instead of a tool of fame and gain. Some of the old artists of the traditional Chinese painting who had survived the old society (before the founding of new China) were bourgeois intellectuals or “authorities” of reactionary learning. For this group of people, could we simply emphasize “unity” and “respect” without principles? Even if these people supported socialism, they would attempt to transform literature and art, the party and the world according to bourgeois world outlook as long as their world outlook had not been remoulded. To give up ideological struggle simply meant that we tolerated the corrosive influence of bourgeois class on our team. This was a policy of downright class surrender. 

The fourth crime of Liu Shaoqi was that he “opposed the Party’s leadership to  the course of traditional Chinese painting”. Liu Shaoqi said: “The artists of traditional Chinese painting are in a more difficult position than doctors of traditional Chinese medicine, (some officials) can not paint and do not like traditional Chinese painting. In effect, the people like traditional Chinese painting.” The rebel thought that what Liu said was to accuse the party of not understanding traditional Chinese painting, and as a result, not capable of leading it. Liu Shaoqi and his supporters opposed extremely the Party’s leadership to the literature and art work. When Beijing Academy of Traditional Chinese Paintingwas founded in 1957, they formed a bourgeois dictatorship with the guiding ideology of Liu Shaoqi. Without any class classification for some old artists, they appointed four bourgeois intellectuals whose ideologies had not been remoulded as chancellors. They had even gone so far to appoint Xu Yansun, a downright reactionary feudalism gangmaster, to the position of vice chancellor. Xu had all along been hostile to the party and socialism, and he cursed against the CPC, saying that “CPC is even worse than a dog of America”. To show their “respect” to old artists of traditional Chinese painting, the Department of Traditional Chinese Painting of the Central Academy of Fine Arts offered the leadership position of the department to a reactionary “authority” Yi Qianyu. The bourgeois class was not vague on matters of leadership. He would remould you with his world outlook if you did not want to remould him. Yi proposed that “I should be in the position to select the Party branch secretary”, “the power of course design for the subject of science of politics should be given to the department” and he had to have the power for the scheduling of the course.

The rebels asked: was it a monstrous absurdity that the proletariats did not excise domination over the bourgeois class, on the contrary, they were dominated by the capitalist class? Was there anything more brutal that only allowed the bourgeois class to remould the proletariats, and that prohibited the proletariats to remould the bourgeois class? They had gone so far to confound and confuse right and wrong when they issued bourgeois administrative order to interfere proletarian literature and art course.  

    In view of the rebels, what a soul-striking class struggle has been going on the position of the traditional Chinese painting over the past 17 years! On this position, it was Liu Shaoqi, the evil backstage manipulator, that had firmly fettered us to the quagmire of the ancients and the dead of the feudal landlord class, and let the reactionary “authorities” of the revisionists to exercise dictatorship over us; it was him that, under the pretence of developing feudal traditional Chinese painting, made use of the role of traditional Chinese painting for the masses, tried in every possible way to fight for possession of this position for the purposes of corroding the masses and of whipping up opinion for their counterrevolutionary restoration; it was him that, in the guise of that “art works depicting ghosts are harmless” and “total inheritance”, negatedChairman Mao’s revolutionary literature and art line and distorted the orientation of serving workers, peasants and soldiers. He took this as his bullets to pave the way for usurping the party, the army and the government, and for capitalist restoration.  

    The rebels from the arts and crafts circle also denounced and exposed the “monstrous crimes committed” by Liu Shaoqi. When Liu Shaoqi visited Beijing Tuancheng Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1961, he met with heads of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts Deng Jie, Zhang Ding and Chen Shuliang and said: “The art of calligraphy of Wang Xizhi (famous calligrapher of ancient China) has no rivals from the ancient and the present times”. The rebels criticized that what he conveyed was “malicious words of thoroughly opposing the party, the socialism and Mao Zedong thought. His intention of saying so was to undermine the great significance and influence of Chairman Mao’s art of calligraphy”. Liu Shaoqi also said: “Artistic levels of the arts and crafts workers are not high, and the ideological content and artistic quality of their products are not good enough, due to their poor education. You experts are in a position to help upgrade their levels. Only in this way can we bring out new art”. The rebels asked: what kind of levels did this China’s Khrushchev want to see being upgraded, and what kind of new art did he hope to see? Liu Shaoqi furiously opposed the idea that literature and art should serve workers, peasants and soldiers, and it should serve proletarian politics. In effect, he wanted to replace this worker-peasant-soldier-oriented art with the bourgeois art. The so-called “new art” featured a three-leg deer, a side-view head portrait from which people could see two eyes, a teapot with a crooked spout, a piece of diaper-shaped cotton print, a human statue without eyes and nose, an ornamental painting with two heads on one neckThese “new art” creations were nothing else but hodgepodge of revisionism, capitalism and feudalism, were representatives of sheer reactionary literature against the party, socialism and Mao Zedong Thought! They were works for preparing public opinion for overthrowing the dictatorship of the proletariats and for capitalist restoration. Liu Shaoqi had also on purpose sent a Japanese pottery and porcelain vase to the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, and Liu’s wife Wang Guangmei wrote a note to Deng Jie (head of the academy), which said: “Liu Shaoqi sent this vase to you as a teaching object.” The rebels said that when the vase arrived at the academy, bourgeois representatives within and outside of the party were overwhelmed by an unexpected favour, they performed as if they had found a priceless treasure, displaying it ceremoniously. They regarded such a broken ancient vase as a most valuable treasure and a guide for art creation. The rebels severely criticized: “When our country is suffering from a natural disaster and the class struggles are getting intensified and complicated, Liu Shaoqi met with the academy’s heads at Tuancheng and sent a Japanese vase to the academy. These two events were by no means fortuitous. They sent out the message that Liu Shaoqi planned to have an all-out capitalist restoration at the arts and crafts circle.”    

The rebels also said: shortly after Liu Shaoqi gave his instructions, revisionist works came out one after another, imperialist culture and feudalist culture formed an alliance in arts and crafts field, and the evil wind of worshipping things foreign and restoring things ancient had come from all directions. All these had simply made the art academies foul! They established a complete set of revisionist teaching system – “one studio, two classes and three meetings”. “One studio” meant that a studio for artistic creation. They found an excuse that there were different so-called “schools” in art, and offered the revolutionary teaching position – the studio – to those bourgeois and feudalist “experts” and “professors”. By “two classes”, they meant classes for research and for pattern design training. Although they were different from studios, they were in fact variations of the product of the scholarship of those ‘experts”. The “three meetings” referred to meetings for master acknowledgment ceremony, debating meeting and free talks. The rebels believed that under such a teaching system, Liu Shaoqi’s revisionist art education brutally persecuted the young generation in respects of their ideologies, morals and daily lives. This was a peaceful evolution at the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts under the rule of Liu Shaoqi’s revisionist education line! This was a soul-touching restoration and anti-restoration struggle in which the bourgeoisie desperately tried to win the younger generation away from the Party and to train them as successors for the bourgeois revisionism!   

     At the same time, the Red Guards rewrote the fine arts history of the People’s Republic of China over the past 17 years from an angle of class struggles and two-line struggles. They also spared no effort to criticize a variety of series pictures, new-year pictures and picture posters published over that period.

 

 

shengtian zheng © 2014