Usually portrayed as an era of chaos and destruction, the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) also saw considerable innovation in cultural production. The eight model performances (yangbanxi) at the heart of the period included five operas and two ballet dramas. Each was the result of years of experimentation by a range of specialists even from beyond the opera and dance worlds. Beyond these officially sanctioned works were the unauthorised, so-called underground experiments by amateurs, particularly among the sent-down youth in the countryside. Their writings and other efforts, often circulated in hand-copied versions, laid the groundwork for the remarkable changes in Chinese cultural practices since the 1980s. By putting culture back into the Cultural Revolution, new aspects of the era are revealed.
Paul Clark is Chair Professor of Chinese at the University of Auckland. His research area is modern Chinese popular culture, including film and its audiences. He has published books on Maori history, Chinese film, culture during the Cultural Revolution (The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History, Cambridge University Press, 2008), and on youth cultures in China. His current book project is a study of popular leisure in Beijing since 1949. A member of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, he was educated at Auckland, Peking and Harvard universities.
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