Songs of the Red Guards:
Keywords Set to Music

Vivian Wagner
University of Heidelberg


Red Guard songs not only provide us with vivid accounts of central notions and concepts in the Red Guard movement, but can also serve to illustrate certain inherent trends in the Chinese politics of language and art, which were taken to their extremes during the Cultural Revolution. Words obtain particular qualities when set to music--looking only at the lyrics would be an incomplete approach. This paper thus endeavors to take into account various facets of the subject. Besides questions of form, language, symbolism, and content, I examine different meanings and functions of songs and singing in the context of the Red Guard movement.(1) Furthermore, I touch upon the place of the Red Guard songs in the Chinese tradition of politically motivated songs. My research is based on a collection of eighty-one titles from various sources, predominantly originating in Beijing or neighboring provinces: songbooks and booklets, some edited by Red Guards; Red Guard publications; People's Daily; Masses' Daily (Dazhong bao); biographical works; and songs I recorded myself which do not exist in printed form. Additionally, I conducted about twenty interviews with former Red Guards in 1993 and 1994.(2) These firsthand accounts, though too few in number to be representative, provided valuable information, particularly with regard to functional aspects of the songs. After an introduction I examine several prominent keywords and characteristic topoi of the Red Guard song repertoire. I then give a brief linguistic analysis of Red Guard song texts. Finally, I describe social and political functions of the song as a form belonging to Red Guard political culture.


As is known, the Confucian concept of music, or art in general, was in certain respects quite similar to communist ideas: in both cases music is considered a tool for didactic or ideological purposes that has to be put under state control.(3) On the other hand, songs traditionally served as vehicles to articulate more or less hidden remonstrance of the emperor, and were therefore objects of serious attention by the authorities. At times certain folksongs were even banned (jin ge). Hong Xiuquan, the infamous leader of the Taiping Rebellion, appears to have been the first to systematically employ songs as protest or propaganda devices and he was inspired by the hymns of protestant missionaries.(4) Even in 1903 singing was an element of student protest in Shanghai.(5) In the 1910s the Department of Education started to use "classroom songs" (xuetangge) on a large scale in order to spread social and political norms. Patriotic songs accompanied the demonstrations of the May Fourth movement.(6) Since the 1920s Chinese communists have systematically used re-written folksongs as vehicles for propaganda or information, especially to win over the rural population. So-called "mass songs" (dazhong gequ), whose musical style is heavily influenced by Western tradition (particularly by Soviet revolutionary songs) gained major importance as a powerful protest medium of left-wing and nationalist groups in urban areas in the 1930s.(7) After the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the song as a form was controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and served as a significant upholder of state ideology. They fell under the primacy of politics as prescribed by Mao's Yan'an Talks: songs had to be weapons in the class struggle; they had to comply with the "mass line" and the requirements of socialist realism, which during the Great Leap Forward were superseded by the aesthetic guideline of "combining revolutionary realism with revolutionary romanticism" (Geming shixianzhuyi he geming langmanzhuyi xiang jiehe).(8) All of the numerous mass campaigns were accompanied by specially composed songs. Mao Zedong's call for continuing class struggle in 1962 led to a radicalization of cultural politics which were increasingly ruled by Jiang Qing's ultra-leftist ideas. In the early 1960s, the group of professional musicians was too small in number to be able to satisfy the needs of the propaganda apparatus; this led centrists to establish special classes in order to teach peasants, workers, and students the basics of song composition. Song-composing contests and amateur performances at work units took place on a regular basis. On the eve of the Cultural Revolution, militant songs about class struggle and exalted odes to socialism, the party, and Mao Zedong were the predominant genres in China's musical life. They exerted a formative influence on the style of Cultural Revolution­era composition, including many Red Guard songs.

In August 1966 Mao Zedong granted the Red Guards exceptional privileges. The youthful rebels obtained the right to demonstrate and the right of freedom of assembly. They were allowed to publish their own tabloids in order to criticize cadres of all levels. Soon Red Guards were in command of the public-address systems of their schools. The unhindered access to these media and the theretofore unheard-of freedom to attack authority (excluding Mao Zedong and his followers of course) led to a flood of publications, among them Red Guard songbooks and booklets. Red Guards put on self-written "operas." Red Guard choirs presented full-length performances in public places. Red Guard propaganda teams sang their songs in the streets. The capital had become a huge stage for the raging youth.

According to former Red Guards many songs were created spontaneously and often more than one person took part in composing a new song. During their primarily oral dissemination the songs were frequently altered and their origin thus obscured. In accordance with the Chinese tradition, Red Guards drew from existing material when giving old popular revolutionary songs or folksongs a new text or altering them at certain points.(9) Songs were put in circulation in many issues of Red Guard "little newspapers" (xiaobao), handbills, and small booklets. Red Guard songs were heard from public-address systems on campus, in the streets, and even on trains. They were even broadcast by public radio stations; the People's Daily and other big newspapers regularly printed Red Guard songs (in addition to other Cultural Revolution songs) with musical notes. Yet it is not always ascertainable which songs originate with Red Guards and which ones were dictated from above. Besides self-composed songs, other song types added to the repertoire. Among them so-called "yulu songs" (yuluge)--quotations from Mao Zedong set to music--formed the vast majority. The "model-composer" Li Jiefu arranged most of the yulu songs and also set a couple of Mao Zedong's poems to music, thus creating "poems of Chairman Mao songs" (Mao zhuxi shici gequ).(10) Countless were the "odes to Mao Zedong" (Mao song or taiyang song) during the Cultural Revolution. Likewise popular among Red Guards were some older revolutionary songs (geming gequ), Red Army and People's Liberation Army (PLA) songs, arias from model operas, and others. The simplest genre of Red Guard song was the folksong (geyao): slogan-like verse that could either be sung or chanted and usually consisted of four to ten rhymed lines. With regard to language the geyao stood out against other song types by their particularly rude expressions.

Bourgeois royalists

(zichanjieji baohuangpai)

You sabotage the revolution, bad, bad, bad!

(pohuai geming huai, huai, huai)

Dead set royalist

(sixintadi lai baohuang)

Willing dogs and slaves of the capitalist-roaders

(ganzuo zouzipaide gou nucai)

Strike, strike, strike

Strike down the capitalist-roaders!

(dadao baohuangpai)

Strike, strike, strike,

Strike down the capitalist-roaders!(11)

Depending on the occasion or the current target, the terms "bourgeois royalists" and "capitalist-roaders" could be substituted with "Liu Shaoqi," "black gang," "work team," etc. The following "Battle Song of the Red Guards" (Hongweibing zhan'ge) forms a typical Red Guard song in the style of the mass songs, whose melodies are usually constructed in the major mode, with mostly march-like rhythms.(12) Red Guard songs of this kind consist of two or more verses which are sometimes followed by a refrain; often their simple rhyme scheme (AABB or ABAB) is not maintained.

We are the Red Guards of Chairman Mao

Our red heart steeled in storms and waves

Armed with Mao Zedong Thought

We dare to storm mountains of swords and seas of flames


Dare to criticize, dare to fight

Revolutionary rebellion never stops

Dare to criticize, dare to fight

Revolutionary rebellion never stops

Thoroughly smash the old world

Revolutionary rivers and mountains shall be red ten thousand years!

Red ten thousand years!

We are the Red Guards of Chairman Mao

Most firm is our proletarian class stand

Following the footsteps of our fathers' revolutionary path

We take on the important task of these times


We are the Red Guards of Chairman Mao

The vanguard of the Great Cultural Revolution

United with the masses, going into battle

Sweeping out all injurious vermin.


From songs for one voice we distinguish arrangements for choir called group songs (qichang) and full-length epical song cycles (zuge) which re-tell stages of the Red Guard movement. In the latter, recitations and sung passages take turns; the singing was either performed by one person, two persons, or the choir. Dramatic elements are also a distinguishing feature of yet another genre, performance songs (biaoyan ge), which were accompanied by gestural movements of the singers and were brought into action especially for propaganda purposes (an example will be given below).

Predominant issues of Red Guard songs were struggle and rebellion, adoration and defence of Mao, the party, the Cultural Revolution, and the Red Guard movement itself. The "Battle Song of the Red Guards" may serve as an entry into the world-view and self-image of Red Guards as expressed in their singing. Each verse enumerates central themes: "revolutionary steeling" of the youth by means of a mass campaign ("storms and waves"); Mao Zedong Thought as a mental "wonder weapon;" ideological purity and steadfastness; "revolutionary succession" as a historical mission that legitimated Red Guards' privileged role as revolutionary vanguard. The refrain contains their program of action: criticism, struggle, and continuous "revolutionary rebellion" which called for the smashing of the "old world." The last two lines of the refrain announce the program's goal: preservation and continuation of communist rule.

Motifs and Topoi of Red Guard Songs

Steeling and revolutionary succession. Mao Zedong instructed China's youth to take up the revolutionary cause as "revolutionary successors" (geming jiebanren). According to the Chairman, it was necessary for the young to steel themselves in a mass campaign in order to fulfill their mission. The struggles of the Cultural Revolution, Mao further explained, would give them an opportunity to do so.

You [Mao Zedong] kindled the raging flames of the Great Cultural Revolution with your own hands

(Nin qinshou dianran wenhua da geming liehuo)

Thus smelting us into steel a hundredfold

(ba women bai lian cheng gang)(13)

"Raging flames" (liehuo) and "storms and waves" both stand for uncontrollable destruction and were common symbols for the Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong was convinced that destructive chaos or a shocking movement would have a salutary effect on society.(14) As well as washed-out ground, society needed regeneration through a "wild fire" so that the new growth might shoot up unhindered by old brush wood. The heat of flames does not only possess devastating but also hardening and strengthening power, as implied by the steeling image quoted above.(15) Mao's "successors" had to be steeled both ideologically ("let us steel our red hearts") and physically ("iron soles").

In storms and waves we want to steel ourselves

(dafeng dalang li qu duanlian)

Steeling a red heart and iron guts

(lian yike hong xin he tie dan)

Steeling a revolutionary pair of iron soles

(lian yishuang gemingde tie jiaoban)(16)

Each one of these images can be considered, in the figurative sense, as a call for mental strengthening. Yet they should also be examined for their verbatim meaning. In one of his earliest essays Mao Zedong explained that hardening was necessary to obtain physical health, to strengthen one's willpower, to become fearless, and to curb one's emotion.(17) The young Mao (who engaged in strenuous physical training at the time) and the Communist Army's struggle during the Liberation War served as models for Red Guards. The third verse of "The Red Guards Learn from the Liberation Army" goes:

The Red Guards of Chairman Mao learn from the Liberation Army

Following Chairman Mao in storms and waves, melted into true gold

(genzhe Mao zhuxi dafeng lang li duanlian cheng gang)(18)

The thus-refined youth was ready to take up revolutionary succession. A mythical biographical sketch of an idealized revolutionary successor is given in a song called "Longing for Mao Zedong":

Twenty years before I was born in one of Yan'an's earthen caves

A horse's back was my cradle, following the army to the west and to the east

My first sentence was "make revolution"

My first song was "The East Is Red"

The dew of socialism nourished me, I grew up beneath the red flag

In front of the Heroes' Monument I took the oath

To devote my life to revolution(19)

In accordance with the concept of revolutionary purity, these verses relate an unsullied childhood, insofar as the narrator has spent it separated from all evil influence of the ancien regime, surrounded by the loftiest symbols of revolution. But not merely surrounded, he or she was physically and mentally permeated by them, as expressed in phrases like "the dew of Socialism nourished me," "my first sentence . . . ," or "my first song . . . ." The scenario reminds one of a stage, equipped with significant props of the revolutionary myth: Yan'an, the City of Revolution, the cave, the Red Army, the red flag, and the Heroes' Monument. Our narrator thus became immune to the temptations of evil and is prepared to take up his revolutionary task:

Who knows how many dark clouds want to overcast the sky

Some people persistently want to turn me into a counterrevolutionary . . .

It is the petrel who's not afraid of violent storms

It is steel which is not afraid of the furnace's red flames

Chairman Mao, with you guiding us

We are neither afraid of ferocious wolves standing in our way, nor of fierce tigers and panthers

We dare to think, to speak up, to act, to rush (chuang), dare to make revolution

Beat them until they vanish like mist, and the sun starts shining red again.

Heroism and blood-imagery. During the 1960s the militarization of China's educational system, the intensified class-struggle propaganda, the concept of revolutionary successorship, along with the long-internalized hero models, led to a romantically beatific concept of death among the young. In the early PRC, heroism was primarily connected with military efforts before 1949. Models introduced later on for the peaceful era of socialist construction in the vein of Lei Feng seem not to have complied with the kind of heroism some of the youth strove for.(20) The Red Guards, who deemed themselves soldiers, rather wanted to put on their fathers' uniforms, not only to fight for their ideals but to spread them all over the world. A utopian vision of the victory of world revolution arises as the finale of the "Song Cycle of the Red Guards":

The Red Square is covered with banners of justice dancing in the skies

From the broken bell of the White House sounds the death knell

Red flags waving like an ocean all over the world

The universe echoes with the voice of rebellion

Sing in praise of great Mao Zedong

Sing in praise of the heroic Red Guards(21)

Revolutions take their toll in blood:

If the martyrs had not spilled their hot blood

How could the red flower bloom everywhere(22)

This conviction was mediated by the very common image that the cult-worshipped red flag owed its color to the blood of martyrs:

Red flag, red flag, banner of revolution

Fresh blood of martyrs has dyed you red(23)

Traditional notions connected to blood might have continued to have an effect. In his Lexicon of Chinese Symbols Wolfram Eberhard explains that blood is deemed to be the seat of the soul; by smearing blood on anything, the object thus becomes endowed with magic power.(24) Associating the red flag with matryrs' blood is a common motif in Chinese communist terminology and often appears in Red Guard songs and literature.(25) The strong desire of many Red Guards to emulate Red Army heroes included their readiness to die a martyr's death. The following song lines claim that only death on the battlefield gives certain proof of one's revolutionary vigour and loyalty:

Since we are born on the battlefield we're not afraid to die in hot blood

Not until our fresh blood stains the banner of war

(zhiyou dang womende xian xue sa zai zhanqi shang)

Our loyalty will show

(cai kandechu womende zhongcheng)

Not until bombs burst open our breast

(zhiyou dang zhadan zhakai womende xiongtang)

It will show, our hearts are red like fire

(cai kandechu womende xin xiang huo yiyang hong)(26)

Here the longed-for hero's death is almost lustfully staged, employing horrible images and making good use of the extremely tense content of the word "blood". Blood, being one of the most suggestive symbols, evokes a range of associations and emotions: disgust, fear, excitement, but above all effervescent vitality and--in marked contrast with it--violent death. "Fresh blood" nourishes ("stains") the idea ("banner of war") for which it has been sacrificed. Through its color, the "flaming red heart" as well is connected with the term blood in the first line. It seems to be a lucky coincidence for the Chinese communists that red, traditionally endowed with numerous positive connotations, is both the color of communism and the color of blood.(27) "Blood of martyrs," "red banners," "red hearts," "communist [red] revolution"--all of these formulations are connected on a metaphorical level through their color symbolism. Thus, the overtones of all these phrases are conjured up in any one of them. The red flag is mentioned in almost every other Red Guard song. Various meanings of the emblem are enumerated in the "Ode to the Red Flag": being the "banner of revolution," "banner of combat," "banner of glory," and "banner of victory," the flag--symbolizing the political ideal--leads their struggle for its realization.(28) The dynamic, exhortive language of this ode suggests that the blood of soldiers killed in action serves as fuel to power the engine of "revolutionary struggle":

No sooner has one fallen than another, raising high the red flag, steps into the breach . . .

Red flag, red flag, banner of combat

Wherever you point to, we follow you

Under the red flag march the revolutionary ranks

Battles in the south, combats in the north, invincible.

Further examples regarding blood metaphors are to be found in the "Song Cycle of the Red Guards":

Iron moral, heroic guts

Defend this country, spilling hot blood

The little general's bloody combat has reddened the month of August

(xiaojiang xuezhan hong bayue)(29)

The second example refers to the "Smash the Four Olds" campaign in August of 1966. Though it appeared in poetic diction, the use of characters for colors as verbs only became common in daily speech during the Cultural Revolution.(30) In accordance with the then-current slogan "Live to fight for Chairman Mao, die to sacrifice your life to Chairman Mao," several songs declared that Red Guards were prepared to give their lives defending Mao Zedong. The ideal of sacrificing oneself to the people or to the communist cause was propagated by many yulu songs, among which the following is quite remarkable:

Where sacrifice is needed

(zai xuyao xisheng de difang)

One must face sacrifice, one must face sacrifice!

(yao ganyu xisheng)

One must even sacrifice one's life

(baokuo xisheng ziji zainei)

If I'm finished so be it, if I'm finished so be it

(wandan, jiu wandan)

Once the gun sounds, go to the battlefield!

(qiang yi xiang, shang zhanchang)

I make a resolution, a resolution

(laozi jiu xiading juexin)

Today I die on the battlefield!

(jintian jiu si zai zhancheng shang)(31)

The lyrics originate with Lin Biao, a fact which caused a heated debate among students of Beijing University, for some of them vigorously denied that Mao's "close comrade-in-arms" would ever make use of such rude expressions as laozi or wandan.(32) Yet later on it was this almost fatalistic battlecry which particularly stirred up the Red Guards' fighting spirit, "Just like members of a spontaneous suicide squad we sang the seditious song in a loud voice. . . . Singing it was just as if yet another bucket of oil is being poured onto the flames that have been kindled by the youths' fanaticism."(33)

"Chuanlian," Tiananmen Square, and Long Marches. Experiences during the "Great Linking-Up" (da chuanlian) inspired Red Guards to compose special Chuanlian songs, some of them singing of Mao Zedong receiving Red Guards at Tiananmen Square. Those gigantic mass rallies left the young rebels with deep impressions.(34) We may regard the verbal excesses employed to capture their experiences as sincere outbursts of enthusiasm:

Piercingly staring at the clouds and the sky

Our longing hearts burning with anxiety

When Chairman Mao enters Tiananmen Square

Even mountains and rivers rejoice.(35)

To have seen the Great Teacher Chairman Mao, is the fulfillment of our brightest wish. Ah! . . .

How many nights did we dream of you, ah

Burning tears of happiness keep running down . . .

Longed for day by day

Hoped for year by year, ah

Today we're at your side.(36)

The often widely travelled Red Guards made extensive use of sun symbolism to express their passionate feelings for the adored idol:

The golden sun is rising over Tiananmen Square

The five continents and the four seas shining bright

When the Chairman goes past waving

Brilliant sunshine fills our breast . . .

When the Chairman goes past waving

Countless sunflowers bloom towards the sun . . .

Chairman Mao, Chairman Mao

You are the reddest red sun in our hearts(37)

Mao Zedong bathes the entire scene, the whole world even, in light; it floods the hearts of Red Guards, who like "sunflowers" turn towards the sun, the source of truth and salvation. Such settings evoke a "baptism with light" through which the red successors are assured of the "liberator's" (jiuxing) salvation promise. Acoustically the scene was likewise provided with hymns dominated by sun symbolism ("The East Is Red" and "Deep-Sea Shipping Needs a Helmsman") as we learn in the Red Guard song "We Saw Chairman Mao":

The rewafu-lute starts playing "The East Is Red", starts playing "The East Is Red"

Turned toward the sun we sing the ode, turned toward the sun

Sing in praise of the Great Helmsman, Chairman Mao

Who shows us the way to victory. Ah!(38)

A special form of chuanlian were the long marches (chang zheng) of Red Guards throughout China.(39) The ascetic per pedes was regarded as being the most revolutionary means of locomotion and it thus gave impressive proof of the youths' ambition to "steel" themselves. Besides that, the Red Guards' pilgrimages were meant to serve as a campaign bringing Mao Zedong Thought to the remotest corners of the country and depriving hidden "revisionists" of power.(40) The following excerpt from the song "The Red Guards Are Not Afraid of Hardships on the March" (Hongweibing bu pa yuenzheng nan) may illustrate their missionary task:

Mao Zedong Thought is shining with golden gleam

We are its red-colored propagandists

Among workers and peasants we strike our roots

Forever forward on the road of revolution

In the same song we find an example of creating a new song by drawing on existing lyrics, which in this case are quite famous :

With long strides stepping forward courageously

(maikai dabu yong xiangqian)

The Red Guards are not afraid of hardship on the march

(Hongweibing bupa yuanzheng nan)

Who cares about storms and snow, hardships and dangers

(na guan ta fengxue he jianxian)

Ten thousand waters and a thousand mountains are nothing

(Wanshui qianshan zhi dengxian)(41)

The second and fourth lines are adapted from Mao's poem "The Long March," which begins: "The Red Army is not afraid of hardship on the march." By replacing "Red Army" with "Red Guards," the latter claim for themselves the most glorious episode of CCP history. The seventh part of the "Song Cycle of the Red Guards" goes in the same vein.

We study the Red Army, our ambition is big

With long strides we march to the ends of the world . . .

The Red Guards are not afraid of hardship on the march

Everybody praises the revolutionary descendants

Down to detailed requisites and acts the historical Long March has been re-enacted by Red Guards, although their staging was replete with youthful romanticism, not lacking camp fires and sunsets.(42) The seventh part of the song cycle continues:

At the banks of Yangzi River a camp fire is burning

On top of Langya Mountain we watch the sunset glow

Drinking clear spring water from the Yan River

Eating big pumpkins (nangua) from Jinggang Mountain

We put on our blood-soaked straw sandals

Iron soles dyeing the sea of flowers red(43)

The nangua pumpkin, a frugal meal in wartimes, has almost become a topos in the Chinese revolutionary myth, which likewise seems to be the case with "straw sandals" and "iron soles." Chinese culture attaches particular importance to food. Bitter, frugal meals thus evoke all the hardships connected with the war of liberation. Moreover, eating this kind of food voluntarily was a sure sign of revolutionary fervor.(44) Popular among Red Guards was the old four-lined revolutionary song, dating from before 1949, "Day by Day Victorious with the Committee Member Mao" (Genzhe Mao weiyuan, tiantian da shengli):

Pumpkin soup and rifle

Five-star badges sparkle red

Forge a pair of iron soles

Day by day victorious with the committee member Mao(45)

Down to the Red Army's diet, Red Guards once again put on the epos of the Long March.(46)

Other equally significant topoi and keywords of the Red Guard repertoire which have been examined in previous analyses should at least be mentioned here, the most famous being "rebellion" (zaofan), often combined with the words "revolution" or "revolutionary" (geming): "revolutionary rebellion won't ever cease" (geming zaofan yong bu ting). The sacred attribute thus transforms the formerly derogatory term zaofan into a "most laudatory one."(47) Certain song types were called "rebellion songs" (zaofange), the popular yulu song "Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party" (Geming bu shi qingke chifan) being one of them. Needless to say, the word "revolution" as an attribute, a topos, or a myth is one of the most frequently flogged terms, appearing at least once in each song. Revolution required "smashing the Four Olds, erecting the Four News" (po sijiu, li sixin), whereas "erecting" occurs just as seldom in Red Guard songs as it did in their actions. Hints about what might hide behind the "new" are equally rare. Nevertheless, Red Guards were obsessed with it, as is reflected, for instance, in their abandonment of "old" (read feudalist) names in favor of "new" (read revolutionary) ones. As is often the case with ideological cues, though a bearer of meaning with specified limits, it is the semantic bluriness of the term "new" that qualifies it for propagandist usage: catchwords captivate through their feigned clarity and strong emotional connotations.

"Class enemies" used to be excluded from human society by identifying them with beasts or evil characters of mythology.(48) Particularly common was the epithet "cow-devils and snake-spirits" (niugui sheshen) which originates in Buddhist demonology.(49) In order to humiliate their victims, Red Guards made them sing the "Cow-devil and Snake-spirit Song" whose first lines go: "I am a cow-devil and snake-spirit, I am guilty (wo youzui), I am guilty." Mao Zedong Thought was not only a weapon to fight these "enemies"--in this capacity it was often referred to as the "thousand-jun cudgel" (qianjunbang) of the Monkey King--but a "demon-exposing mirror" (zhaoyaojing). This magical property originates with the Journey to the West and is brought into action in the song "Open Fire at the Black Line" (Xiang heixian kaihuo):

Open fire at the black gang, open fire at the black gang

Resolutely strike down the handful of anti-party and counterrevolutionary elements

Take its black lid off

(jiekai tade hei gaizi)

To look at its black heart

(kankan tade hei xinwo)

Mao Zedong Thought is a demon-exposing mirror

Demons and ghosts, don't imagine you can get away with it . . .

(yaomo guiguai xiuxiang taodetuo)

Unearth the poisonous contraband . . .

(wadiao tade ducao heihuo)

The reactionary fortress must be resolutely attacked and smashed, must be attacked and smashed

(fandong bailei jianjue yao gongpo)(50)

The metaphor employed here reflects the Red Guards' "almost obsessive concern with exposure," their urge to penetrate the world of evil.(51)

Superlative, Martial, Exalted, Vulgar: The Language of Red Guard Songs

In a Red Guard cartoon book the editors asked their readers for contributions, pointing out several requirements: "The rebellious spirit must be powerful, the smell of gunpowder strong and [the contributions] full of fighting valor."(52) Such criteria suggest prominent aesthetic features distinguishing Red Guard song texts. This aesthetic moves toward the highest heights, strives for eternity; its scene of action is the battlefield. It appreciates all that is lofty, vigorous, uncompromising; everything rushing upward or forward. It is an aesthetic concept that provokes the excessive use of superlatives and grandiose metaphor. High-rising mountains, waves, the sea; impressive phenomena like thunderstorms or wild fires; "boundless seas of banners" (wubiande qihai) and mass rallies ("Ten thousand people in ecstasies, like an ocean" [wan zhong huanteng si haiyang]) serve as appropriate backgrounds to endow the songs with the desired force.(53) "Great" (weida), "strong" (qiang), and "impressive" or "majestic" (pangbo) were favourite attributes.(54) Even the biggest entities of nature tremble with the deeds of Red Guards, "Shaking the Four Seas, Shocking the Five Continents." Lowell Dittmer remarked of this imagery that "[the Red Guards] described their exploits with cataclysmic metaphors that suggested a desire to feel part of a vast, impersonal, destructive force."(55) Their voices "penetrate the clouds," the entire "universe echoes with voices of rebellion." The all-pervasive power of this aesthetic is mirrored in a preference for everything dynamic--"forward" (qian) is one of the most frequently used words. With "long strides" Red Guards "storm forward," "there's no going back." "Waving red flags" are a compulsory literary topos. The unstoppable urge to move forward is complemented by unshakeable revolutionary steadfastness, which again is expressed by inflated formulations such as, "The heroic spirit of the Red Guards is rising high ten thousand zhang" (Hongweibong haoqi wan zhang gao). In this context constantly repeated adjectives like "forever" (yong), "unceasing" (buduan), "firmest" (zui jianding), and "iron" seem to have emerged from youthful fantasies of omnipotence and immortality.(56)

Not surprisingly, Red Guard vocabulary is most extensive when drawing on martial expressions.(57) The Red Guards (Hongweibing) took all of their names from the military realm: organized in "fighting corps" (zhandoutuan) and "troops" (duiwu), serving as the "vanguard" (xianfeng or jianbing) and "raiding party" (chongfeng), being "daring generals" (chuangjiang), "little red soldiers," and "young generals" (xiao jiang) of the "Red Commander" (hong siling), Mao Zedong.(58) Verbs predominantly describe military or destructive acts: to attack, to fight, to defend, to bombard, and the like. One of the most frequently used words is "to dare" (gan), occuring together with indefatigably repeated expressions like "dare to act," "dare to think," "dare to speak up," "dare to storm," "dare to rebel," etc.(59) "Boldness" (yongqi) and "fearlessness" (bupa) guide their actions on the battlefields where "flames of war blaze" and "banners of war wave in the wind." Acoustic impressions belong to the same kind of scenery: "battle songs arise" (zhandoude gesheng qi), "beat the battle drums" (bo zhangu), "rumbling guns" (paosheng longlong), etc.

Another hallmark of art in the Cultural Revolution is its simplification and polarization of emotions. It is but two highly purified emotions, love and hate, which were sung of by Red Guards; their "boundless ardent love" (wuxian reai) is only for the Chairman; only for him they "shed hot tears" (relei luo); at his sight their "hot blood starts surging" (rexue fanteng). Elizabeth J. Perry and Li Xun have drawn attention to the "schizophrenic rhetoric" of Red Guards in an earlier issue of the Indiana Working Paper Series.(60) While the phraseology of propagandist flattery was fully developed during the seventeen years before the Cultural Revolution and was only further exaggerated in the course of the cult of personality, the vulgarism of Red Guard language was a real innovation "enriching" the rhetoric of the Cultural Revolution. In addition to the relevant expletives, we find extremely violent images in Red Guard geyao:

Anti-imperialism requires anti-revisionism

(fandi bi fanxiu)

Smash the dog's heads of Soviet revisionists

(zalan suxiu goutou)

Step on them with one foot

(tazhe yizhi jiao)

Never let them free themselves!

(rang ta yongshi bu de fanshen)(61)

Liu Shaoqi, who cares about you

(Liu Shaoqi ni suan laoji)

Today I will seize you!

(jintian laozi yao jiu ni)

I'll make your muscles cramp

(chou nide jin)

Take off your skin

(bo nide pi)

Play socker with your skull!

(ba nide naoke dang qiu ti)(62)

To conclude this section, I'd like to give a very brief account on results of my research concerning questions which have been examined in previous studies: Manichean imagery and the uniformity of the language of the Cultural Revolution. Red Guard songs are permeated with symbology that illustrates and reveals the then-prevailing Manichean world view. Lowell Dittmer distinguished four "binary oppositions" in the Cultural Revolution's polemical symbology, all of which can be traced in the Red Guard song repertoire: light/darkness, revealed/concealed, pure/defiled, and active/passive.(63) To avoid repetition, I refrain from quoting further song passages. As for uniformity, one inevitably gets the impression that the bulk of Red Guard songs are products of a random generator that has been fed with the relevant stereotypes and rhetorical patterns. Red Guards drew on a very limited fund of expression and style. The odes to the Chairman, for instance, consist of just a handful of stock phrases, which are already covered by the vocabulary of the Cultural Revolution classics "The East Is Red" and "Deep-Sea Shipping Needs a Helmsman." Elizabeth Perry and Li Xun have suggested that Red Guards contributed significantly to "a peculiar uniformity" of the language of the Cultural Revolution. Another factor adding to that uniformity was the "authoritarian role of Chairman Mao."(64) Red Guard lyrics are heavily influenced by Mao Zedong's literary style; his poem "To Guo Moruo. Manjianghong" being particularly popular with them. Last but not least, one has to mention Mao Zedong's "close comrade-in-arms" Lin Biao, who left his mark by introducing a new kind of superlativism to Cultural Revolution rhetoric, which earned him the nickname "expert in superlative adjectives" (zui gaoji xingrongci zhuanjia).(65) Stringing several zui together, Lin Biao thus established what would later be called the "zui-zui-zui- style of writing" (zui zui zui wenfeng): "Chairman Mao is the reddest, reddest red sun in our hearts" (Mao zhuxi shi women xinzhong zui hong zui hongde hong taiyang).(66) In Red Guard song texts we often find the adverbial zui in formulations like "our revolutionary standpoint is the firmest" (geming lichang zui jianding) and "our hearts are the reddest" (xin zui hong).

Propaganda and Emotional Ecstasy: Political and Social Functions of the Song

Songs served as media of propaganda and ideological indoctrination; they were vehicles for the values and ideals of the first generation to grow up in the PRC. In their factional fights and during "struggle meetings," Red Guards used songs as "weapons." Apart from these political functions, singing could foster the collective spirit and help channel accumulated emotions; moreover, it satisfied the youth's need for a heroic, emotionally charged atmosphere.(67) Depending on the circumstances, singing was either a more or less spontaneous form of expression or a part of daily enacted rituals (e.g., the singing of "The East Is Red" before the opening of a meeting). Asked for the most important functions of singing in the Red Guard movement, several ex-Red Guards pointed to propaganda and agitation: at the beginning of the Chuanlian Red Guards started to form "Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Teams" (Mao Zedong sixiang xuanchuandui). Their activities in remote parts of the country encompassed two tasks: the dissemination of political news and "instructions," and general political agitation. Here various kinds of performance came into action: clapper talk (kuaiban), drama, dancing, and singing. A former Red Guard claimed that singing was the most important method of propaganda: "A propaganda team would take a bunch of kids, teach them a song and then ask them to spread it further--snowball effect! Without any further assistance of the team, propaganda would work by itself. Propaganda teams would pay visits to individual households and be welcome there. In isolated areas songs made up for newspapers and radiostations."(68) Of course it remains an open question whether those performances weren't rather enjoyed as entertaining diversions (just as traditional opera was in previous times), the political message being left unreceived. However, with the often illiterate or semi-literate rural population, songs were indispensible media of political information; in this connection, the yulu songs formed the majority of songs and played a crucial role in the spreading of Mao Zedong Thought and the Chairman's latest "highest instructions" (zuigao zhishi).

Red Guard propaganda activities were not confined to rural areas--the "performance song" (biaoyan ge) "Sing in Praise of the Sixteen Points" may serve as an example for urban agitation.(69) The Sixteen Points, issued on 8 August 1966, became the young rebel students' "guiding principle" (gangling), because, among other things, it ordered the workteams' (gongzuozu) retreat and called for a struggle against authorities, including party cadres.(70) The introductory verse of this biaoyan ge welcomes the resolution as the "great guiding principle;" it is followed by five verses, each of which propagates various issues of the document. In the style of a battle cry, its seventh verse is the finale:

The battle song is towering the clouds, towering the clouds, ai

(zhan'ge chong yunxiao, chong yunxiao, ai)

Red flags waving all over the sky, waving all over the sky, ai

The revolutionary people has got the Sixteen Points

(geming renmin youle Shiliu Tiao)

Countless hardships cannot frighten it . . .

(qiannan wannan xiabudao)

Besides the intended spreading of the "guiding principle," staging this credo itself was a demonstrative act by which the actors (to themselves and to the spectators) justified their status in the Cultural Revolution movement. During such performances in front of a larger audience, the rebels' political intentions might well have come second in favor of demonstrating their revolutionary fervor and of enjoying a feeling of powerful presence or "public happiness."(71) In Beijing, for instance, students of the Academy of Music organized performances in prominent places throughout the city.(72) Red Guards used songs to support their political activities effectively. Thus the geyao "The Young Revolutionary Generals Want the Truth" (Geming xiaojiang yao zhenli) was written during a hunger strike:

Mianbao, mantou, we don't care at all

(mianbao mantou suan laoji)

Even if we starve to death, we don't need you!

(laozi esi bu yao ni)

Quickly get the Four Great Works

(xiongwen si juan kuai nalai)

The young revolutionary generals want the truth!

(geming xiaojiang yao zhenli)(73)

In January 1967 the Beijing alliance of "conservative" Red Guards (Liandong), then deemed a counterrevolutionary organization, was smashed and several hundreds of its members were arrested, some of whom nonetheless continued their underground activities, which included song-writing; the geyao "Remembering That Year When She Gave Us Crabapples" is a rare but striking example of what could be regarded as cynical critique of the Maoist regime:

Remembering that year when she gave us crabapples

(xiangqi dangnian song shaguo)

Aunt Jiang Qing really liked us then

(Jiang Qing ayi zhen ai wo)

How pitiful, today those who were given fruit

(kelian jintian song guo ren)

Got handcuffed and put into prison

(daiqi shoukou ba lao zuo)(74)

To explain these lines: In the summer of 1966 Mao Zedong's wife expressed her support for the early Red Guards (lao Hongweibing) by giving Red Guard representatives Chinese crabapples as a present. However, Jiang Qing's sympathy quickly turned towards the rebel faction (zaofanpai). By the end of 1966 she and members of the "conservative" Red Guards engaged in a verbal exchange of blows: a contemporary witness recalled that both sides exchanged vicious couplets (duilian), one of which was almost identical to the above geyao.

Typical of the state-guided employment of songs as a means of ideological education or discipline is a measure taken during the violent excesses of August and September 1966. An army song titled "The Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points of Attention," based on an early text by Mao Zedong and well-known at the time, was printed repeatedly in the People's Daily during these months. The 12 September 1966 edition added to it a commentary stating that Red Guards, revolutionary youths, and the revolutionary masses should--in the course of "Learning from the PLA"--particularly take this song into consideration.(75) The political center might have hoped for a disciplining effect on the raging youth, but the song's popularity among Red Guards was above all due to the fact that they fancied themselves in the role of hero soldiers, though not in the desired way.

Even taking into account the fact that the educational use of songs often did not achieve its purpose, it nevertheless appears probable that songs were able to control politically relevant actions and attitudes, at least in one respect: their emotive force could prevent rational reflection and foster an affirmative attitude towards the political line. Being of a propagandist nature, the following excerpts from a People's Daily article, "Revolutionary Songs Are Really Good!" do not qualify as definitive support for this assumption, but it cannot be ruled out that enthusiastic activists really felt this way:

Just as a worker of our factory said: "The more one sings revolutionary songs, the redder becomes one's heart; singing makes the whole body burst with energy [changge changchu hunshen jing]! When singing about advancing [women chang xianjin], we learn to advance [xue xianjin]; when singing about heroes, we learn to be heroes; with long strides we advance on the road of revolutionizing [zai geminghua de dadao shang kuo bu xiang qian].(76)

All in accordance with Mao Zedong's Yan'an Talks, the song was regarded and employed as a weapon:(77)

Revolutionary songs are really good! This is because revolutionary songs are our powerful weapon in fighting against monsters and demons [zhe shi yinwei geming gequ shi women gen niugui sheshen zuo douzheng de youli wuqi]. . . . With battle songs of tremendous force we fiercely open fire at all monsters and demons [women yong qishi pangbo de zhan'ge, xiang yiqie niugui sheshen menglie kaihuo]!(78)

Having dealt with political functions of the song, we now focus attention on its social and emotional significance. Former Red Guards claimed that singing strengthened their self-confidence, made them more courageous, and fostered group solidarity as well as a sense of community. Through its unifying effect singing facilitates efforts to distinguish between one's own group and out-groups. In the Red Guard movement specially composed signature songs for each faction served this end (one of them will be quoted below). Describing their feelings while singing, ex-Red Guards mentioned "passion" and "arousal" first; several felt "great" (weida), "powerful" (qiangda), or "elated" (gaoang). Some maintained that singing stirred up fanaticism. It seems probable that rabble-rousing Red Guard battle songs did make considerable contributions to the propensity for violence among the youth. Verbal excesses prepared for the breach of psychological barriers, hence distinctions "between symbolic and physical violence proved impossible to maintain."(79) In the world of Red Guard lyrics, human frailties were alien to the heroic protagonists, for fears, doubts, or any feelings separating the individual from the collective distracted from the march forward; they were implicitly dreaded and avenged as a betrayal of the common cause.

Rational thought undermines the unshakeable forward dashing of revolutionary zest, but singing facilitates the intense experience of collective ecstasies of emotion, and in this is hardly comparable to any other form of expression. The individual extends itself to the masses; through rhythm and sound it merges with the collective. A former Red Guard put it this way: "Songs were able to drive young students to reckless revolutionary fervor."(80)

The rhetoric of some Red Guard songs leads one to speculate that Mao Zedong and his Thought were at least as important to Red Guards as means to advance their own interests, as they were objects of selfless admiration and devotion.(81) Mao Zedong's absence from the most informal genre, the geyao, might be an indication. The geyao were concerned with blatant clashes among Red Guard factions or with authorities in their immediate social sphere. Here the rebels did not bother any more to enlist Chairman Mao explicitly as their "patron" (kaoshan). In the signature song "Song of the Red Regiment of Rebellion" (Hongse Zaofantuan tuange), Mao Zedong is actually mentioned, though the Red Commander almost pales into insignificance beside the fantasies of omnipotence and megalomaniacal self-depictions:

We are the Red Regiment of Rebellion

Mao Zedong is our red commander

Rebellion is justified, fight to the finish

(yi fan daodi)

[We fight] as easy as crushing dry weeds and smashing rotten wood

(women cuiku-laxiu)

Nothing can stop us

We are Mount Tai, we are the Great Wall

(women shi Taishan shi Changcheng)

We make imperialists, revisionists and counter-revolutionaries tremble with fear

(women shi di xiu fan danzhan-xinjing)

When the Red Regiment of Rebellion occupied a building in Beijing, this march-like song was heard from speakers installed on the rooftop.(82)


The absence of several concepts which could have been expected in Red Guard songs seems remarkable: "friendship" or "comradeship," common topoi in other (communist and non-communist) youth movements, are never mentioned explicitly; the same is the case with "freedom" (ziyou).(83) The otherwise common comparison of the CCP with a mother only appeared in one song text. Metaphors from the realm of technology, being popular in international communist rhetoric, were hardly employed by the young rebels; Cultural Revolution terminology at best made use of them in referring to Mao Zedong Thought as "compass," "telescope," "microscope," or "train engine" (huochetou). Instead, Red Guards favored rather archaic imagery and often drew on pre-communist cultural repertoires (e.g., demonology, magic, sun symbolism, etc.).

Many of the aesthetic and linguistic features analyzed here seem to apply to totalitarian imagery at large, transcending ideological and cultural distinctions. This is true, for instance, for a politically and culturally rather different movement: the German Hitlerjugend. In a merely preliminary comparative attempt, I examined a few Hitlerjugend songs and found a whole range of metaphors and symbols astonishingly similiar to those analyzed in this paper; several phrases are really interchangeable. The same can be observed in some songs of the (left-wing) Arbeiterjugend in the 1930s. Besides a fuller comparative approach along these lines, it appears quite promising to do diachronic research on politically employed songs in twentieth-century China: songs deriving from various social sources (from "popular protest" to party-controlled propaganda) and periods of time might help to inform us about changes with regard to official semantics and popular reception of political keywords. What is more, as political devices, songs reflect and are always part of the prevailing politics of language.

1. The present paper is a selective summary of my Master's thesis, "Die Lieder der Roten Garden" [The Songs of the Red Guards] (unpublished: Ludiwg-Maximilians University, Munich, 1995). Up to now Red Guard songs have not been studied academically. Yang Jian has dedicated a couple of pages to Red Guard songs in his work Wenhua da geming zhong de dixia wenxue [Underground literature during the Great Cultural Revolution] (Beijing: Zhaohua chubanshe, 1993). Studies dealing with the entanglement of music and politics in the PRC include: Richard Curt Kraus, Pianos and Politics in China: Middle-Class Ambitions and the Struggle over Western Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); Arnold Perris, Music as Propaganda: Art to Persuade and to Control (Westport: Greenwood, 1983); and Isabel F. K. Wong "Geming gequ: Songs for the Education of the Masses," in Popular Chinese Literature and Performing Arts in the People's Republic of China 1949-1979, ed. Bonnie S. McDougall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984). Only the latter primarily concentrates on the song as a musical genre. Valuable information on the role of music as protest or propaganda medium can be found in several popular culture studies: Hung Chang-Tai, War and Popular Culture: Resistance in Modern China, 1937-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); David Johnson, Andrew Nathan, and Evelyn S. Rawski, Popular Culture in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: The View from Shanghai (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991); and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry, eds., Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994).

2. When mentioning "former Red Guards" in this paper, I refer to these interviews.

3. For a fuller discussion of music and politics in imperial China, see for example: Liang Mingyue, Music of the Billion: An Introduction to Chinese Musical Culture (New York: Heinrichshofen Edition, 1985); Alan Trasher, "The Role of Music in Chinese Culture," World of Music 27.1 (1985): 3-17; Song Daneng,Minjian gequ gailun [An outline of folk songs] (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1979); and Johnson, Nathan, and Rawski, Popular Culture in Late Imperial China, 330, 354.

4. Isabel F. K. Wong has pointed to amazing similarities in language, content, and style between Taiping hymns and the mass songs of the PRC. See Wong, "Geming gequ," 114.

5. Wasserstrom, Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China, 40.

6. Wong, "Geming gequ," 117.

7. Wong, "Geming gequ"; Hans Pischner, Musik in China (Berlin: Henschelverlag Berlin, 1955), 99; cf. Wasserstrom, Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China, 211. Truly impressive accounts of the "mass singing movement" with its `National Salvation Songs' (jiuwang gequ) in the 1930s are given in Israel Epstein, The People's War (London: Victor Gollanz, 1939).

8. For an analysis of Soviet influences on Maoist theories of art, see Igor Golomshtok, Totalitarian Art in the Soviet Union, the Third Reich, Fascist Italy, and the People's Republic of China (London: Collins-Harvill, 1990).

9. The Chinese term for this procedure is tian ci.

10. Kraus, Pianos and Politics in China, 113.

11. Mr. Hu interview by Vivian Wagner, Dec. 22, 1993, audiotape (in Vivian Wagner's possession).

12. Mao zhuxi he women zai yiqi [Chairman Mao is together with us] (Shanghai: Shanghai chubanshe, 1966), 13.

13. See Current Background 737 (14 July 1964), 32. For Mao Zedong's concept of steeling (duanlian), see Mao Zedong xuanji, vol. 5 [Selected works of Mao Zedong] (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1977), 442.

14. Cf. Lowell Dittmer, China's Continuous Revolution: The Post-Liberation Epoch, 1949-1981 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 72.

15. Dietrich Harth has pointed to the relationship between revolutionary rhetoric and archaic cosmologies which relate the regular recurrence of chaos that gives birth to a new, purified order. See Dietrich Harth and Jan Assmann, eds., Revolution und Mythos [Revolution and Myth] (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1992), 29.

16. "The Red Guards are not afraid of hardships on the march" [Hongweibing bu pa yuanzheng nan], People's Daily, 23 November 1966, p. 6.

17. See "Tiyu zhi yanjiu" [Research in physical training], Xin Qingnian [New youth], 3.2 (1917). On physical exercise and politics in twentieth-century China, see Anita Chan, Children of Mao: Personality Development and Political Activism in the Red Guard Generation (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985), 101.

18. "Mao zhuxi de Hongweibing xuexi Jiefangjun," in Hongweibing gesheng [The voice of the Red Guards] (Beijing: Houdu dazhuan xuexiao Hongweibing daibiao dahui, 1969), 99.

19. "Xin zhong xiangnian Mao Zedong," ibid., 102.

20. Chan, Children of Mao, 68.

21. Hongweibing zuge [Song Cycle of the Red Guards] (Beijing: Beijing Hongyan xuexiao Hongweibing xuanchuanzu, [1967]).

22. "We are the descendants of the revolution" [Women shi geming hou yidai], in Hongqi gesheng [Voice of the red flag] (Beijing: Beijing hangkong xueyuan Hongqi zhandoudui, [1968]), 158.

23. "Ode to the Red Flag" [Hongqi song] in Hongqi gesheng, 160. The red scarf worn by Chinese Young Pioneers was worshipped as a piece of the red flag dyed with the blood of martyrs. Yang Jian quotes Red Guard poems that reflect the cult of the flag in Yang, Wenhua da geming zhong de dixia wenxue, 28. Jeffrey Wasserstrom has observed that even during the 1925 protest movement, Shanghai students made good use of blood metaphors and martyr imagery. See Wasserstrom, Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China, 110.

24. Wolfram Eberhard, Lexikon chinesischer Symbole (Munich: Eugen Diederichs, 1983) 43.

25. See Yang, Wenhua da geming zhong de dixia wenxue, 28.

26. "How could we be afraid of sacrificing ourselves for Mao Zedong" [Wei Mao Zedong, women he wei xisheng], ibid., 49.

27. On the origin of red as the color code for communism see H. C. Chuang, The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: A Terminological Study (Berkeley: University of California Center for Chinese Studies, 1967), 7.

28. "Ode to the red flag," 160.

29. Hongweibing zuge.

30. Chuang, Great Proletarian Revolution, 8.

31. "Where sacrifice is needed" [Zai xuyao xishengde difang], in Yu Hui, et al., Hongweibing milu [Confidential records of Red Guards] (Beijing: Tuanjie chubanshe, 1993), 32.

32. See William Hinton, Hundred Day War: The Cultural Revolution at Tsinghua University (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 146.

33. Yu, et al., Hongweibing milu, 32. See also Gao Yuan, Born Red (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 283.

34. See for instance Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro, Son of the Revolution (New York: Random House, 1983), 124; or Gordon A. Bennett and Ronald N. Montaperto, Red Guard: The Political Biography of Dai Hsiao-ai (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971), 97. The mass rallies were repeatedly described in newspaper articles signed by Red Guards. See Dazhong ribao, 22 October 1966, p. 3; or Renmin ribao, 19 August 1966, p. 3.

35. Hongweibing zuge, part 4.

36. "We saw Chairman Mao" [Jiandaole Mao zhuxi], in Hongweibing gesheng, 118.

37. "We saw Chairman Mao" [Women jiandaole Mao zhuxi], ibid, 100.

38. "We saw Chairman Mao," [Jiandole Mao zhuxi], 118. The rewafu-lute is an instrument from Xinjiang province.

39. For accounts of the long marches, see Liang and Shapiro, Son of the Revolution, 101; and Yu, et al., Hongweibing milu, 62.

40. Cf. Rudolf G. Wagner, "Reading Chairman Mao Memorial Hall in Peking: The Tribulations of the Implied Pilgrim," in Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, ed. Susan Naquin and Yue Chuen-Fang (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 278-346.

41. People's Daily, 23 November 1966, p. 6.

42. The Red Guards did not use the term "sunset" (riluo) itself. During the Cultural Revolution it was generally avoided because it could be interpreted as a counter-revolutionary attack on the Chairman. Hence it was wise to replace riluo with the Chinese word for "sunset glow" (hongxia).

43. Hongweibing zuge, part 7.

44. One example of this is found in the "remembering the bitter, thinking of the sweet" meetings (yiku sitian hui) when participants sometimes had "a bowl of bitter food" (yiwan ku fan) in order to make the past even physically perceptible.

45. Hu interview by Wagner.

46. See Liang and Shapiro, Son of the Revolution, 101, 104.

47. Chuang, Great Proletarian Revolution, 13.

48. On the earlier usage of such imagery, see Wasserstrom, Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China; and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Sin-kiong Wong, "Taunting the Turtles and Damning the Dogs: Animal Epithets and Political Conflict in Modern China," Indiana East Asian Working Paper Series on Language and Politics in Modern China 9 (Summer 1996).

49. Elizabeth J. Perry and Li Xun, "Revolutionary Rudeness: Notes on Red Guard and Rebel Worker Language in China's Cultural Revolution," Indiana East Asian Working Paper Series on Language and Politics in Modern China 2 (Summer 1993): 7; and Michael Schoenhals, "Talk about a Revolution: Red Guards, Government Cadres, and the Language of Political Discourse," Indiana East Asian Working Paper Series on Language and Politics in Modern China 1 (Spring 1993): 39.

50. Hong ge (Beijing: Beijing daxue "Hongge" bianjizu, 1996), 16.

51. Lowell Dittmer, "Thought Reform and Cultural Revolution: An Analysis of the Symbolism of Chinese Polemics," American Political Science Review 71.1 (1977): 76.

52. Qianjunbang manhua [Thousand-jun-cudgel cartoons] (Beijing: Shoudu geming zaofanpai manhua qianjunbang bianjibu, 1967). In this section I will draw on previous analyses of the language of the Cultural Revolution: Chuang, Great Proletarian Revolution; Lowell Dittmer and Chen Ruoxi, Ethics and Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Center for Chinese Studies, 1981); Dittmer, "Thought Reform and Cultural Revolution"; Dittmer, China's Continuous Revolution; Perry and Xun, "Revolutionary Rudeness"; and Schoenhals, "Talk about a Revolution."

53. Poets of the October Revolution employed similar imagery to nourish the myth of the collective. See Harth and Assmann, eds., Revolution und Mythos, 163.

54. Cf. Dittmer, China's Continuous Revolution, 85. Topoi of the sublime are significant components of the propagandist utilization of myth during revolutionary or post-revolutionary situations. See Harth and

Assmann, Revolution und Mythos, 30.

55. Dittmer, China's Continuous Revolution, 85.

56. On the notion of revolutionary immortality, see Robert Jay Lifton, Revolutionary Immortality: Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (London: Weidenfeld und Nicholson, 1969), 7.

57. Perry and Li, "Revolutionary Rudeness," 8; Dittmer and Chen, Ethics and Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 29.

58. The name Hongweibing originated from the earlier term Chiweidui which was used until the beginning of 1966 for certain kinds of organizations (e.g., "Workers' Red Guard" [Gongren Chiweidui]) and was modelled on the Russian Krasnaya Gvardia. See Chuang, Great Proletarian Revolution, 9.

59. Further explanations regarding the use of the word gan during the Cultural Revolution are given in Dittmer, China's Continuous Revolution, 73, 84.

60. Perry and Li, "Revolutionary Rudeness," 17.

61. In Yang Jian, Wenhua da geming zhong de dixia wenxue, 18. The word yi ("one") often was replaced by yi, meaning "100 million." Although not written out in this case, one may assume that the angry Red Guards replaced it in their minds. I am indebted to Michael Schoenhals for this information.

62. Xie zai huohongde zhanqi shang [Written on the fiery red flag] (Beijing: Shoudu dazhuan xuexiao Hongdaihui Hongweibing wenyi bianjibu, 1968), 49. On referring to oneself as laozi, see Hinton, Hundred Day War, 146.

63. Dittmer, China's Continuous Revolution, 81.

64. Perry and Li, "Revolutionary Rudeness," 15. On the formulaic nature of language during the Cultural Revolution, see Michael Schoenhals, Doing Things with Words in Chinese Politics: Five Studies (Berkeley: University of California Center for East Asian Studies, 1992), 19. On the influence of Mao Zedong on the language of the Cultural Revolution, see Dittmer and Chen, Ethics and Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 21.

65. Dittmer and Chen, Ethics and Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 35.

66. Jin Chunming, et al., "Wenge" shiqi guai shi guai yu [Strange things and strange words of the "Cultural Revolution" era] (Beijing: Qiushi chubanshe, 1989), 349.

67. For a fuller discussion of these questions, see Ulrich Paetzhold, Die deutschen Jugendbewegungen dieses Jahrhunderts: Eine psychologische Analyse ihrer Inhalte anhand des Liedgutes [The German youth movements of this century: A psychological analysis of their issues on the basis of their songs] (Ph.D. diss., Universitet Bamberg, 1988).

68. Wang Xi interview with Vivian Wagner, April 7, 1994, audiotape (in Wagner's possession).

69. Cf. Gao Yuan's account of a "spectacular parade through town" on the occasion of the announcement of the Sixteen Points, where similar songs or chants were bellowed out by Red Guards. Gao, Born Red, 82.

70. For a summary of the contents of the Sixteen Points see Jin, et al., "Wenge" shiqi guai shi guai yu, 15.

71. On the concept of "public happiness" see "Adelbert Reif, Interview mit Hannah Arendt," in Macht und Gewalt [On violence], by Hannah Arendt (M√ľnchen: Piper, 1993), 109.

72. Liang and Shapiro, Son of the Revolution, 122.

73. Xie zai huohongde zhanqi shang, 48. An account of a Red Guard hunger strike is given in Yan Jiaqi and Gao Gao, "Wenhua da geming" shi nian shi [History of the "Great Cultural Revolution" decade] (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 1986), 83. Mianbao and mantou are northern Chinese kinds of bread.

74. Yang, Wenhua da geming zhong de dixia wenxue, 21.

75. People's Daily, 12 September 1966, p. 6. The rules of discipline were originally written in 1928 and 1929. See Mao Zedong xuanji [Selected works of Mao Zedong] (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1967), 1137fn. See also Kraus, Pianos and Politics in China, 55; and Arnold Perris, "Music as Propaganda: Art in the Command of Doctrine in the People's Republic of China," Ethnomusicology 27.1 (1983), 8.

76. "Geming gequ jiu shi hao!," People's Daily, 23 September 1966, p. 6. The article was allegedly written by workers from Shanghai.

77. Mao Zedong xuanji, 820.

78. "Geming gequ jiu shi hao!," 6.

79. Dittmer, China's Continuous Revolution, 85.

80. Song Shuxing interview by Wagner, March 11, 1994, audiotape (in Wagner's possession).

81. Anita Chan supports this assumption: "The conscious basis for the young people's behavior was to `defend Chairman Mao's revolutionary line,' but this became . . . a rationale for the expression of their personal interests and emotional yearnings." Chan, Children of Mao, 124.

82. Liang Xiaosheng, Yi ge Hongweibing de zibai [The confessions of a Red Guard] (Xian: Shanxi renmin chubanshe, 1993), 132-133.

83. I only found the word 'freedom' in one Red Guard poem: "Now take a few drops of blood and of tears, sprinkle them all over the flowers of freedom in the whole world" (qie jiang dian di xue he lei, sabian tianxia ziyouhua). Yang, Wenhua da geming zhong de dixia wenxue, 60.

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