“Surviving the religion of Mao”

Real information about real struggles for human rights, as opposed to mere efforts to set the record straight: American Public Media’s radio program, Speaking of Faith features a program on the “religion” of Mao, how life under the long-time communist ruler of the Peoples Republic of China really was closer to religious fervor than reason.

Maoist era propaganda poster;

Propaganda poster from Maoist era: “I’m a battlefield hero, as well as a labor hero!”

It’s an encore presentation, from a year ago. Featured is an interview with Anchee Min, author of The Red Azalea and The Last Empress.

Speaking of Faith’s host Krista Tippett is one of the better interviewers on spirituality and faith. The program may be carried on your local public radio station (not in Dallas, alas); if not, you can listen on-line.

Ms. Tippett wrote of this interview:

Before my interview with Anchee Min, I wasn’t sure what she would have to say about faith, if anything at all. But I had read her books. Between the lines of her beautiful, careful prose, I found glimpses of a passion not just to tell about her own life — and the story of, ancient and modern — but to illuminate the struggles of the human spirit in a society gone awry. Take this passage from her 1995 novel, Katherine:

“The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was pronounced officially “ended” in 1980. I was now a former revolutionary, a status shared by millions. Chairman Mao had described himself as a servant of the people, but he was just another emperor. For twenty-seven years he played with our minds. Our heads were jars of pork marinating in five-thousand-year-old feudalist soy sauce. The spoiled mixture produced generations of smelly rotten thoughts. The thoughts multiplied like bacteria. Since 1976 we had been singing an elegy for Chairman Mao; now we were singing for our own vanished souls.”

Vox Day rails at Darwin; Glenn Reynolds rails at Pete Seeger. Anchee Min discusses the trials of life under Mao, how she survived, and how it has changed her. If you have time to listen to only one outspoken critic of totalitarianism today, make it Anchee Min. Does she complain about either Seeger or Darwin?

2 Responses to “Surviving the religion of Mao”

  1. bernarda says:

    I would like to add a couple more to my list. First there are several novels by Qiu Xiaolong like “Death of a Red Heroine” and “When Red is Black”, among others.

    Second there is another police novel Zhang(a very common name in China) Yu, “Ripoux à Zhengzhou”(a best seller in China but not translated into English–a real shame). If you know a publisher, you could suggest this one.

    Literally, The Corrupt in Zhengzhou. France is much quicker to translate such good books than America is. With all the ones I have mentioned, you seem to get a good glimpse of society in China, besides there being good intrigues.


  2. bernarda says:

    I have long been interested in Chinese history and culture, so I would like to recommend a couple of authors.

    Zhang Xianliang has written moving novelistic accounts of his experiences under the reign of Mao:”Half of Man is Woman”, “Mimosa”, and “My Bodhi Tree”.

    Another good one is by Zhang Xinxin and Sang Ye, “Chinese Lives: An Oral History of Contemporary China”.

    For more on contemporary China, the police novels by He Jiahong(apparently not translated into English yet).


    “He Jiahong’s books gained international attention in 1999 when Marie-Claude Cantournet began translating into French four of his five detective novels, including The Evils in the Stock Market, The Enigma of the Dragon Eye Stone and The Mysterious Ancient Painting. Encouraged by the success of the translation, Penguin recently bought the English-language rights to The Mad Woman, which is due to be published under the title Blood Crime at the beginning of next year.”

    I pretty much agree with the whole review.


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