Red Scarf Girl Historical Context Setting/history • “The story takes place in Shanghai, China, during the onset of Chairman Mao Ze-dong's Cultural Revolution.” From www.harperchildrens.com Setting/history • “By 1949 Mao established a Communist state by defeating the former ruling party, the Nationalists. In 1966, when Ji-li's story begins, Mao has just imposed the Cultural Revolution to cut people's ties to pre-Communist China.” From www.harperchildrens.com Setting/history • “To lead this revolution he enlisted help--mostly high school and college students-to implement rules and to eliminate everything that suggested a bourgeois lifestyle.” From www.harperchildrens.com Setting/history • “Having only grown up during the Communist state, many young people had little understanding of China's pre-Communist past and were aggressive about enforcing these rules. These factions of young people became known as the Red Guards.” From www.harperchildrens.com Setting/history • “The Red Guard frequently terrorized people they felt were not good Communists, and those under suspicion often lost their positions or their memberships in the Communist Party. Many others were sent to work camps. Some were thrown in jail or even killed.” From www.harperchildrens.com Landowners • At first, the heart of the revolution was land reform. • “The ultimate goal was to increase economic output so that China's industrialization could be built on the profits made in agriculture.” • “The first step, ‘land to the tiller,’ was to get land into the hands of those who rented but did not own it. This was a bloody phase because landlords, whose lands were seized by local political leaders without compensation, were attacked by local peasants and often killed in struggle meetings.” • Who in the book is a landlord? From “The Mao Years” R. Keith Schoppa The Cultural Revolution • “Mao mobilized the people to carry out government policies through mass political campaigns.” • “In the first years of the regime, there were campaigns against corruption and waste among elites in party and government (Three-Anti Campaign) and against corruption in business and industry (Five-Anti Campaign).” • “They were called ‘campaigns’ because people were mobilized to campaign against the "evils" that were specified by the party.” From “The Mao Years” R. Keith Schoppa The Cultural Revolution • By 1966 there was internal strife in the Communist Party and many policies were failing. • Mao recruited young people to engage in “continual revolution” in order to maintain control over his party and to draw attention away from governmental failures. • This time period is the focus of Red Scarf Girl. 1966-1968 • “Mao called on the young people in The Red Guard to destroy the ‘four olds’: old ideas, habits, customs, and culture. The years from 1966 to 1968 were a period of almost total anarchy in China. Red Guards seized and humiliated - in some cases, beat to death - anyone allegedly linked with "feudal China." Many people committed suicide to escape such humiliation and torture.” From “The Mao Years” R. Keith Schoppa The Cultural Revolution • The Cultural Revolution was meant to change people’s values and beliefs. • It was a systematic attack on Chinese traditions, culture, and beliefs (the olds), which people were expected to replace with new beliefs an values. • This poster is titled “Destroy Old World.” Monsters and Demons • 'Monsters and Demons' (牛鬼 蛇神 niugui sheshen) was the term used to vilify specialists, scholars, authorities and 'people who entrenched themselves in ideological and cultural positions' during the Cultural Revolution. Monsters and Demons • Once people were 'dragged out' as 'evil spirits', they were forced to wear caps, collars or placards identifying them as such. Being 'cow monsters', they were imprisoned in what was generally called a 'cowshed' (牛棚，niupeng). This did not have to be a genuine stable; it could be a classroom, storehouse, dark room or temple. In the absence of legal procedures, the length of stay in the 'cowshed' could be ten days or ten years. Rules of Survival: • During the Cultural Revolution, China printed an estimated 2.2 billion Mao Zedong posters--three for every citizen. Failing to display Mao prominently could brand you a counterrevolutionary. The Little Red Book • Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong was published in 1964. • Every citizen was (unofficially) required to study and memorize quotes from it to be seen as a good citizen. As you finish reading . . . • What are the “rules of survival” depicted in Red Scarf Girl? • Why do you think Ji-li Jiang’s peers behave the way they do? • Why is she tempted to behave in similar ways? • What does the book tell us about children as political agents?