Toward a Maoist Dream of the Red Chamber: Or, How Baoyu and Daiyu Became Rebels Against Feudalism

in Journal of Chinese Humanities
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Mao Zedong’s views on literature were enigmatic: although he coerced writers into “learning the language of the masses,” he made no secret of his own enthusiasm for Dream of the Red Chamber, a novel written during the Qing dynasty. In 1954 this paradox appeared to be resolved when Li Xifan and Lan Ling presented an interpretation that saw the tragic love story as a manifestation of class struggle. Ever since, the conception of Baoyu and Daiyu as class warriors has become a powerful and unquestioned cliché of Chinese literary criticism. Endowing aristocratic protagonists with revolutionary grandeur, however, violates a basic principle of Marxist orthodoxy. This article examines the reasons behind this position: on the one hand, Mao’s support for Li and Lan’s approach acts as a reminder of his early journalistic agitation against arranged marriage and the social ills it engenders. On the other hand, it offers evidence of Mao’s increasingly ambiguous conception of class.

Toward a Maoist Dream of the Red Chamber: Or, How Baoyu and Daiyu Became Rebels Against Feudalism

in Journal of Chinese Humanities

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1

Merle Goldman“The Political Role of Literature and the Intellectuals,” in The Secret Speeches of Chairman Mao: From the Hundred Flowers to the Great Leap Forwarded. Roderick MacFarquhar et al. (Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press 1989) 40.

2

Quoted in Ng Yong-sang“The Poetry of Mao Tse-tung,” in Mao Zedong and the Chinese Revolutioned. Gregor Benton (London: Routledge 2007) 1: 360.

3

Mao Tse-tungSelected Works of Mao Tse-tung (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press1967) 3: 72.

4

Cf. ibid.76.

12

Karl Marx and Friedrich EngelsKarl Marx Friedrich Engels Collected Works (New York: International1976) 6: 494.

14

Cf. SunRed-ology: 195424-26.

16

Cf. SunRed-ology: 195484.

19

Ibid.193.

20

Ibid.197.

23

Cf. ibid.16 and 121.

24

Ibid.268.

25

Vladimir I. LeninOn Literature and Art (Moscow: Progress1967) 32.

26

Ibid.52.

31

CaoStory of the Stone4: 326.

35

Cf. Roxane Witke“Mao Tse-tung, Women and Suicide in the May Fourth Era,” in Mao Zedong and the Chinese Revolutioned. Gregor Benton (London: Routledge 2008) 3: 5-9.

37

Ibid.391-92.

38

Ibid.396.

41

MaoSelected Works3: 76.

42

After 1950the musical was also adapted to film ballet and Beijing opera. Cf. Zhang Xiaofang 張小芳 “Geju de muhou gushi 歌劇《白毛女》的幕後故事 [Behind the Scenes of the Opera The White-Haired Girl]” Fujian dangshi yuekan 福建黨史月刊 [Fujian Journal of Party History] 3 (2016): 44-47.

46

Cf. Stuart R. SchramThe Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung (London: Pall Mall Press1963) 43.

48

Francis Y. K. SooMao Tse-tung’s Theory of Dialectics (Dordrecht: D. Reidel1981) 46.

55

SooMao Tse-tung’s Theory114.

57

Cf. SchramThe Political Thought45.

62

Zhou RuchangHong lou meng xin zheng (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe2003) 1: ii-iii.

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