China in Ten Words

Many of Yu Hua’s critiques center around violence. A trend I thought was interesting about this was that in Yu’s mind the violence he grew up with in the Cultural Revolution has not diminished it has just taken on new forms. Though much of Yu’s accounts are memories recounting his childhood in the Cultural Revolution he also recalls more recent events of violence in China during later years of his life. Yu mentions the way that people are forced out of their homes in modern times and the violence that is inflicted on individuals for not complying with underselling their buildings. The violence in more modern times seems to have a stronger root in the state then before. While the Cultural Revolution was put forward by the state it was individuals who sought out and encouraged one another to commit violence. Yu recounts spending his middle school years looks to pick fights with his gang of friends for no reason other then that they could.


Progress progress


Since last weeks update I have mostly been working on going through sources and evaluating those sources while taking notes.  Mostly this has meant a lot of time buckling down to reading and skimming works. The main issue I have worked on since last week was concentrating on better time management skills and efficient use of my time.

I have reached the point in the semester where all of my classes major projects are very research based, because of this I have been vigilant about creating a research schedule and sticking to it. By setting goals and deadlines before deadlines I have been better able to get concrete work done and not procrastinate so much.

In terms of the next three steps for this project I have to continue research, analyzing sources, and start outlining. There are still some sources that I think I need to further explore for my project so I will be looking at all of those in the near future. I also need to start looking at the posters comparatively and analytically to get more out of those sources. Then finally I need to work on outline for the outline because that is due very soon!

Research Struggles

So far in terms of challenges I have had some issues finding sources and then evaluating those sources. These are both issues that I commonly go through when I write papers.

In terms of finding sources I need to get better at coming up with search terms and spend more time looking. I also have a terrible habit of finding sources and then not always writing adequate information to find them again. So far this semester I have nixed that habit though and have kept a better lock on my sources.

Another issue is that I often feel that I do not have enough time to go through sources. This is an issue that I run into frequently with projects because I prefer to read more into the sources I find instead of just skimming them. While I understand how constructive scanning to be I always feel like I found my best quotes when I spend more time with a source. I know that to change this I need to get better at constructive scanning for information, so that I have more time to look at all my sources and curate a larger amount of information.

Primary Source:

Be sure to also provide your own evaluation of the source’s strengths Be sure to cite your source in the blog post.

For my primary source I looked at a poster that from 1956 that depicted “The Good Points of Collectivization.” Posters are a big part of the visual primary sources I am analyzing so I picked out this poster to work on for this post.  This poster actually also had a twin poster that was incredibly similar from the same manufacture and appear that they might have been displayed together. Both are depictions of the benefits of collectivization and are similar in style and layout with little bubbles representing positive outcomes of collectivization.

(Second poster that matches the firsts style)

This poster’s perspective is state mandated so it is important to analyze it understanding that it would have been approved by the government before being put into mass production and sent out to the public. The poster looks at the bountiful fields that outstretch into all the countryside in view in the top two image sequences. The next row looks at agricultural processes starting with plowing the field and ending with the harvesting of it. Underneath that the next row shows the raising of livestock as well as the collection of crops and water. The final bottom row of the poster shows the people coming together embodying the commune.

A strength of this primary source is the variety of the benefits of communism. It serves as a step by step plan out of what the government thought were the benefits of collectivization. The weakness is that I can not read the text in the primary source, however the visuals are very self explanatory since the peasant audience that these posters were aimed at were still not unanimously literate.

“The Good Points of Collectivization,”  (February,1956)

Project topic in progress

After creating the project proposal last week I went and met with Dr. Fernsebner because I still had some issues deciding if my topics had enough translated information on them.

One of the ideas I originally had was to explore the ways that the rural population of China experienced the Cultural Revolution. I had a feeling that actual accounts on this topic may be difficult to find in translation. When discussing with Dr. Fernsebner she suggested that if I wanted to try to pursue this topic I should look into the visual culture of the time period for other sources that would have been in the village. Also that I should consider what did the Cultural Revolution look like from the ground up?

So far then in my research I mostly have been looking into finding primary and secondary sources about either Cultural Revolution or post Cultural Revolution village reforms. This has included looking into posters on village life during the Cultural Revolution era. Other sources I have considered using are memoirs from those sent down to the villages during this period. Even though most of these memoirs are from individuals who started life in urban spheres there experiences in rural areas could have some potentially important details.

The more research I have done the more I am trying to get a better sense of where my analysis should start and end. Originally I was going to cover just the official dates of the Cultural Revolution. Now though I want to include the years after to hopefully get a better and clearer image of how the Cultural Revolution had a long term impact on village life and community.

Before turning in the final proposal then I still need to make firm decisions on the years I will be analyzing, the type of sources I will include, and specifics on how and when urban perspective can be useful.

The future of the rural village

This poster titled “The future of the rural village” was published in October 1958 and was designed by Zhang Yuqing.

The main scene in this poster depicts a group of people working on bringing in the grain harvest. Around them there are many examples of modernized technology that is the key element in “the future.”  In this poster technology is clearly posed as the future for rural villages, with an emphasis on machines.

In this poster there are some key elements that promote modernization spread throughout the image. Starting on the left side there are two new machines at work in the field. In the background you can see another village with an industrial plant producing smoke. Next to the machines stands a young girl on a phone that is connected through telephone wires to the village in view and out of the poster. There are then five other new machines that make grain harvesting simpler. On the road buses, trucks and motorcycles can be seen as well as a train. The road is also lined with street lamps. In the background behind the village on the right you can also see industrial production and grain storage. High on the hill there is also another structure with wires around it however it is difficult to tell what exactly it’s is supposed to be. Overall this poster contains around 15 or so new technologies to the village.

The website also had some information on the designer of this poster. Zhang Yuqing, was one of the most prolific poster designers in the 50s and 60s his posters are also well known for their extreme amounts of detail.

This poster is reflective of the optimism that surged at the very beginning of the Great Leap Forward. The Great Leap Forward promised increased agricultural production and technology advances for rural villages, therefore this poster echoes those promises. Since this poster was published within the first year of the start of the Great Leap Forward it is likely that some people would have still viewed it positively since some areas did not see famine or the harsher results of the Great Leap until later on in the program. However many areas were already hard hit by the disaster the Great Leap caused and for those in poorer villages the “future” that this poster represented might have sparked discontent or anger.

The public response to this poster would have been mixed and depended on where the viewer was from. For people in urban centers the Great Leap would not greatly impact them until the very end, and posters like this would prompt positive responses. Rural residents would have more common negative responses to the poster especially if famine had come to their village already.

Potential Paper Topics

In previous courses I have always been fascinated by the Great Leap Forward as well as agriculture in China. Considering how much I have enjoyed researching those particular topics, one of the paper projects I am considering is looking at land reform in China.

When I think of land reform in China, I instinctually think of first the redistribution of land by the Chinese Communist party and then of the later Maoist processes of collectivization and communes. Rarely have I thought about what land reform might look like in modern China. I found this article titled “Is Land Reform Finally Coming to China?” on China Digital Times.  It made an interesting argument that land reform is still a large part of Chinese rural society in the 21st century, and that land reform is partially responsible for the growing rural urban divide.

The article itself is a bit outdated being from 2013, however I would be interested to see how land reform continues to play a role in the division between rural and urban populations up to present day.

Land reform is obviously a very broad topic for the moment however I have two ways I am considering looking at the topic. One would be the role that land reform movements contribute to rural and urban relationships. Another topic I would also be interested to know how land reform has been viewed over time in China and what trend that perception might be.

Is Land Reform Finally Coming to China?


Exploring Media

The Day Zhao Wei Disappeared

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Global Voices article




MCLC Exploration

I had actually looked through the MCLC website before this assignment. In Dr. Fernsebner’s Chinese History through Film course, I used it find Chinese directors for a project that I completed. Only having used the site for a very specific purpose last time I explored more of the site this time around.

The MCLC had a variety of publication formats and a plethora of articles on the site itself. I was surprised that the current and back issues had content on the site, because I assumed that would make subscribing to the journal pointless. However, I quickly realized that only brief introductions to the articles were present in order to get site visitors interested in reading the entire article. I think it would have been useful for MCLC to include a link to either their JSTOR content (since some of these articles were on JSTOR), or their subscriptions page under the articles as a way to encourage more active exploration of the content.

Under the Bibliographies section of the website, I was surprised by the variety of categories that were offered. There were quite a few well maintained image archives with nice organized content. Over the Bibliographies for the site provides a wealth of information that can be used to build research from and that is presented in a straight forward fashion.


Young & Restless in China- Trends

One of the many common trends thought the documentary was a dedication to family or sense of duty toward the family that was a big part of the social atmosphere for many of the nine individuals. Miranda Hong spoke about it clearly in the way family can influence careers and home life. Hong discussed that she felt a duty to take care of her parents and understand their opinions. For her taking care of her parents was more a duty and partially out of the strictness of her own upbringing.

Yang Haiyan talked of coming home to the countryside to help her father for the harvests; although she wanted to leave the countryside to work she also made a big connection to the countryside and family ties. Another aspect of this can be seen on Yang’s venture to find her kidnapped mother. After finally finding her mother Yang promises that if she ever returns to their hometown Yang will care for her mother for the rest of her life. This promise Yang gives to her mother gives shape to the way family plays a large role in her life.

Xu Weimin’s life was also greatly impacted by family. He had to split his time between three different cities to fulfill all of his family’s needs, Beijing for the children of his first marriage, Shanghai for his current marriage, and Shenzhen for his parents and sister. In part of his discussion Xu spoke about how he has to live in three cities just to keep all of his family happy.


Education was another key dynamic that played roles in the lives of the nine individuals. The type or lack of education shaped the way each young person conducted themselves and saw their ability to interact within their families and society. Wei Zhanyan became a factory worker originally to help support her brother’s education. Although Wei knew how to read and write she resented the fact that education was prioritized for boys and not girls. Wei’s story shows the trend of women in China seeking out more education or having the want for more education.

Education outside of China can be influential and an issue for individuals. For Ben Wu his education abroad helped shape his moral center and principles. In coming back to China to do business he found that his education in the United States put him in questionable situations when it came to whether to bribe officials or not.

In Zhang Yao’s case his medical education placed him in a better place financially. However it is Zhang’s case his efforts to use his education for the greater good set him apart. Zhang spoke about taking his education and skills learned to do good and benefit people with less training.