Smash the old world

China’s ten-year Cultural Revolution is now generally regarded as a great tragedy in which countless thousands died. A new book brings together extraordinary images of an extraordinary time.

China’s ten-year Cultural Revolution is now generally regarded as a great tragedy in which countless thousands died. A new book brings together extraordinary images of an extraordinary time.

From 1966 until Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 over 800 million Chinese took part in mass upheaval that pitted children against parents, country against city and peasant against elite. Urged on by Mao, The Red Guard of young people in the vanguard of the revolution determined to abolish the “Four Olds”, destroying artifacts, landmarks and iconic sights of China’s heritage, and punisingh or even killing any ‘revisionists’ who held on to anything considered ‘old’.

RED – to be published by Jonathan Cape on September 9 – documents the passion, energy and fanaticism of the time, as well as the destruction and confusion that it brought to the country. Though the period is now seen as a cultutral desert, RED’s collection of photographs, ephemera and paintings, sourced by art historian and curator Jiang Jiehong, suggests that things were not to simple, or culturally bereft, as that.

Below are a few images from the book:

The Red Guards Pulling Down the Memorial Archway, Qufu, Shandong Province, 1966.

The ‘Four Olds’ being set on fire, Zhengzhou, 1966.

Chairman Mao on Tiananmen, Beijing, 1966.

‘The revolutionary little generals: with their endless love towards the great leader, the Red Guards were cheering enthusiastically on Chairman Mao’ – Beijing, 1966 (China Pictorial, Vol.219, September 1966.)

Mao badge packs, 1966-68

Red Guard newspaper, 1967.


Chairman Mao, woodcut print, 1966

Billboard painting at Chang’an Boulevard, Beijing, 1966.

Anti- Revisionism Meeting at the Workers Stadium, Beijing, 1966.

Opera Azalea Mountain (Dujuan shan), Beijing, 1974.

Opera Ode to Yimeng (Yimeng Song), Beijing, 1975.

Little Red Guards Singing Chairman Mao’s Quotations, Nanjing, Jiangsu province, 1966.

To purchase this book, click here.

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