The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

exhibit section showing artifacts and photos
exhibit case with artifacts and photos
Artifacts on loan courtesy of:
Memo (copy)
- to the president summarizing the situation in China, 1966
Memo (copy) - to the president's special assistant summarizing a meeting on China, 1967
--Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, Texas
Transcript (copy) - of radio broadcast regarding Nixon's viewpoint on relations with Red China, 1971
--Richard Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, College Park, Maryland

Artifacts in plex wall case, on loan courtesy of:
Front page (copy)
of the Washington Daily News - headlines reporting the North Korean seizure of the U.S.S. Pueblo, 1968
--Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, Texas
Mao Cap
--Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, Yorba Linda, California
Mao Button
Mao's "little red book" - one in Chinese, late 1960s to early 1970s; and one in English, 1972. The Chinese
version was the personal copy of a Red Guard stationed in Beijing. His daughter, who attended the University of Iowa, presented this copy to her professor, Dr. Phil Ecklund.
--Phil Ecklund, Iowa City, Iowa
Life Magazine - "Torture by Red Guards," June 1967
--Maureen Harding, Iowa City, Iowa


Mao's return to power in 1966 put an end to "creeping capitalism." To purify the revolution Mao appealed to young people, who nearly destroyed Chinese society by pitting one faction against another, even children against their parents. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese were executed, sent to jail, or exiled to re-education camps. Yet, surprisingly, by the early 1970s the political tide began to turn in favor of capitalistic America.

As Mao toppled Deng Xiaoping and others from power, his great "Cultural Revolution" proceeded to devastate Chinese society. His call to young people caused 11 million "Red Guards" to quit school and flock to Beijing to attack Mao's rivals. Children turned in their parents. Teachers were humiliated, beaten, even killed. Artists and writers were tortured. Books, artwork, and records were destroyed.

When faced with imminent anarchy, the Peoples Liberation Army restored order and sent the Red Guards back to communes all over China. This mass communal effort was coined "The Green University," but with minimal education beyond Mao's "little red book" of quotations, these youth were later to be called "The Lost Generation."

After 1969, the emphasis was on calm reconstruction and a rebuilding of the Communist Party. The Party also marked the rise of two opposing forces: Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, and Premier Zhou Enlai.

Zhou forged an alliance with moderates within the civilian bureaucracy and the armed forces in 1971. And since China was continuing their ongoing dispute with Moscow, Zhou looked to improve relations with the West, particularly the United States. By then Mao's health was failing, and he viewed himself as an elder statesman rather than a policy-making activist. In 1972, Mao ultimately helped to raise "the Bamboo Curtain."


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