Influence of the Great Cultural Revolution on Music of Contemporary Chinese Composers: Part I
Background of the Great Cultural Revolution
I. General Introduction to China
When considering the unique people, the basic culture, and the core traditional territory comprising the “Middle Kingdom” (China’s traditional name for itself), “China” has spanned a period of over 10,000 years. This time period encompassed twelve dynasties and multiple periods of warring states. Throughout its history, the traditional territory of China was only controlled by foreign invaders twice: namely, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), established by the Mongolians; and during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912), established by the Manchus. Even during these periods, however, the Chinese culture largely remained supreme.
II. The Fall of Qing Dynasty and the Rise of Communism
The last and arguably most powerful dynasty in China’s history, the Qing Dynasty, collapsed after a reign of almost 300 years due to a combination of several factors: primarily, overextension due to wars with neighbors; internal rebellions; invasion by Western foreign powers; and failed internal administration and policies. The Warlord Era in China rose against the backdrop of a political power vacuum left in the wake of the Qing Dynasty’s collapse. Mao Zedong, the figurehead and most powerful historical leader of the Chinese Communist Party, was raised during the ensuing era of chaos.
Mao was known to be a headstrong and rebellious child with strong opinions. Based on numerous writings during both his youth and while leading the Chinese Communist Party, it was clear that Mao attributed much of the collapse of the Qing dynasty to rigid adherence to China’s traditional cultural norms. Ironically, after China’s culture withstood thousands of years of outward pressure, and even outright invasions, by foreign powers, the greatest instrument of change to Chinese traditional culture came from within.
After the Communists came to power, Chairman Mao Zedong, as its primary leader and figurehead, ultimately led a series of initiatives to eradicate many of the traditional customs and philosophies of China. The two primary policies bringing about such changes were the Great Leap Forward and the Great Cultural Revolution. Out of the two, the Great Cultural Revolution had the most dramatic impact on China’s culture, and most importantly, for the purposes of this paper, on its music...
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