Just like all of the literature circle books, Red Scarf Girl by Ji Li Jiang takes place in a critical time in history. In this book's case, the story takes place in The People's Republic of China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Many say that the ideas behind the Cultural Revolution came up when Mao Ze-Dong led the Communist Party to power in the year 1949. The Cultural Revolution was a social-political movement that lasted 10 years (1966-1976). Mao Ze-Dong launched the Cultural Revolution as a way to maintain and secure his authority over the Communist Party and Chinese government. This need arose after the widespread failure (and subsequent economic crisis) of his Great Leap Forward plans to change China from an agricultural into a modern, industrial society. In order for the Cultural Revolution to work, Mao appealed directly to his supporters and the nation's youth, such as Ji-Li, to help him "clean" China of many Western and money-oriented components of society that he considered "impure". Mao sought out to destroy anything related to the "Four Olds" which were defined as old customs, old habits, old cultures and old ideas.
|Chinese Propaganda Poster: "Destroy the Old World; Forge the New World".|
|Cultural Revolution Red Guards|
The initial targets included the vandalism and destruction of Buddhist temples, mosques and churches, the burning of holy texts, Confucian writings, and any artwork. The Red Guards also terrorized people who were unfairly accused of being "anti-revolutionary" and thinking capitalist thoughts. Basically, China's entire intellectual and elderly society was at risk for attacks, and a feverish personality cult was built around Mao Ze-Dong and his extremists.
Nearly 2,000 people were killed in the first two months of the revolution in Beijing. The movement only grew larger and more violent. By 1967, China was in a state of chaos and near-anarchy as Red Guard groups began to fight amongst themselves in all out wars and raid the People's Liberation Army for weaponry. At the end of 1968, Mao began scattering Red Guards across China as a way to tone down the brutal violence and destruction. The last seven years of the Cultural Revolution were focused around a struggle for power between China's leaders.
In 1976, the creator of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Mao Ze-Dong, died and his death indicated the end of the revolution. Mao Ze-Dong left his country years of destruction, violence and near-anarchy and the destruction of priceless pieces of artwork and history. In addition, he left an entire generation education-less by closing schools for the duration of the revolution. In the end, over one and a half million people were killed and many more were tortured, persecuted and humiliated.
History.com Staff. "Cultural Revolution." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 23 Aug. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/cultural-revolution>.
Szczepanski, Kallie. "What Happened During China's Cultural Revolution?"About.com Asian History. About.com, 2014. Web. 23 Aug. 2014. <http://asianhistory.about.com/od/modernchina/f/What-Was-The-Cultural-Revolution.htm>.
Red Guards (with "Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung" in Hand) on the Cover of an Elementary School Textbook from Guangxi 1971. N.d.Wikipedia Encyclopedia. Web. 23 Aug. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Guards_(China)>.
Chinese Propaganda Poster: "Destroy the Old World; Forge the New World." A Red Guard Crushes the Crucifix, Buddha, and Classical Chinese Texts with His Hammer; 1967. N.d. Wikipedia Encyclopedia. Web. 23 Aug. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_Revolution>.