Morning Sun

About the Site

A range of techniques and perspectives are used in the Morning Sun website to reflect on the origins and history of the Cultural Revolution (c.1964-1976). We approach the period not from a simplistic linear perspective, but from a panoptic one, encompassing a broad overview while allowing the user to focus in on individual histories, narratives and events that reveal the complex contradictory forces that led to an era of unrivalled revolutionary fervor and political turmoil.

Morning Sun is a production of the Long Bow Group, Inc.

Major funding for the film, Morning Sun, was provided by
the National Endowment for the Humanities,
with additional funds from ITVS/Corporation for Public Broadcasting,
the George D. Smith Fund, the Center for Asian American Media, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

Morning Sun is a presentation of the Independent Television Service (ITVS)
and the Center for Asian American Media (formerly NAATA),
with the participation of ARTE and the BBC.

Additional funding for portions of this website was provided by
the Henry Luce Foundation.

The culture of the Cultural Revolution in many ways created a world unto itself. It was supposed to be a realm with a universal appeal, an idealized environment peopled by revolutionary heroes who always vanquished class enemies and reactionaries. It provided prescriptions for the present and models for the future. Suffused with the guiding brilliance of Mao Zedong Thought, it was a world in which the past was dispelled and an eternal revolutionary present was invoked.

As Chinese and western works—literature, films, art, songs and music—were withdrawn from public circulation from 1964 amidst increasingly vicious denunciations, the art and letters of revolutionary China achieved a greater prominence than ever. The heroes of these works, the language of heroism and past rebellion, the art work of workers, soldiers and peasants, as well as a plethora of Mao quotes set to music, revolutionary theater pieces (in particular the Revolutionary Model Beijing Operas whose creation was overseen by Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife), formed the particular cultural landscape of the new era.

While the range of artistic expression narrowed to a virtually impossible extent, the amount of cultural products was staggering. Everything was produced en masse, and the masses were encouraged to create their own works in line with the political directives of the day. It was agitprop culture, instant art, made for the moment and immediately expendable. Experimentation was kept to a minimum and the emulation of prescribed models was universal. Thus there were model Beijing theater pieces (yangban xi) that were then produced for the stage in local opera forms, paintings and posters were made, films were produced, songs created and literature written that seemed to be transplants of the rigorously produced models.

Because of the cultural purges, the dramatis personae of Chinese arts was also dramatically reduced to a few constantly recycled paragons. There was Lei Feng and Ouyang Hai, Wang Jie and Dong Cunrui, to name the most crucial quartet.

It was in the everyday and a myriad of ways in which people applied the teachings of Mao and put their own expression on things that also interests us here. The grand spectacle of revolution masked tens of millions of individual acts.

Living Revolution - The revolutionary life is revealed in the mundane and everyday, in the trivial and the transient. It is in the commonplace that a world of radical change unfolds. Its stories were told in the lives of countless individuals. In this section, site visitors can listen to period music, watch excerpts from feature films, and read items such as the Little Red Book, personal diaries, and magazine articles.

Smash the Old World! - Iconoclasm and the desire to make the world anew is at the heart of revolutionary zeal. The Cultural Revolution was about turning the old order on its head; it was a revolution on a revolution that had not been revolutionary enough. Read about the Four Olds, view photographs and posters.

Reddest Red Sun - Mao Zedong, the sun risen in the east, became symbolic of the revolution itself. His life was made into the biography of 20th-century China. The Mao cult made him a modern-day idol, the sun that never set, even long after the demise of his corporeal form.

Stages of History - State-orchestrated history unfolds through dramatic events. Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing is the epicenter of revolution and ordained mass expression.

The East is Red - Read about The East is Red, its history and transformation from a simple folk tune to a stage epic on China's revolutionary history.

Morning Sun, a documentary film about the Cultural Revolution

Images of the Cultural Revolution - photographs, posters, artwork, artifacts

Multimedia Presentations, Film Clips, Music


Chinese version of the website

About the Site | Living Revolution | Smash the Old World! | Reddest Red Sun | Stages of History | The East is Red
The Film | Multimedia | Images | Library | Site Map

© Long Bow Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.