• A Chronology of the PRC under Mao Zedong (1949-1976) [Asia for Educators]
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Primary Source w/DBQs • Intellectual Opinions from the Hundred Flowers Period (1957) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
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Primary Source w/DBQs • From the People's Daily: "How China Proceeds with the Task of Industrialization" (1953) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Mao Zedong, 1893-1976
Primary Source w/DBQs • "The Question of Agricultural Cooperation" (Speech, July 31, 1955) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
• The Commune System [Asia for Educators]
This unit offers a discussion of the commune system in China. While the commune system is no longer used in China, knowledge of it is important background for grasping some of the problems China faces and the solutions the Communist government has proposed. Included in this unit is a reading on the commune system; a chart of commune organization; and an outline of the stages of rural collectivization.
• China's Great Leap Forward [Education About Asia]
From 1960-1962, an estimated thirty million people died of starvation in China, more than any other single famine in recorded human history. Most tragically, this disaster was largely preventable. The ironically titled Great Leap Forward was supposed to be the spectacular culmination of Mao Zedong's program for transforming China into a Communist paradise. In 1958, Chairman Mao launched a radical campaign to outproduce Great Britain, mother of the Industrial Revolution, while simultaneously achieving Communism before the Soviet Union. But the fanatical push to meet unrealistic goals led to widespread fraud and intimidation, culminating not in record-breaking output but the starvation of approximately one in twenty Chinese.
For novels through the eyes of young people living during these times, see The Dragon’s Village and To Live in the Literature section.
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• Introduction to the Cultural Revolution [SPICE Digest, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University]
"The 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution,' usually known simply as the Cultural Revolution (or the Great Cultural Revolution), was a 'complex social upheaval that began as a struggle between Mao Zedong and other top party leaders for dominance of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and went on to affect all of China with its call for 'continuing revolution.' This social upheaval lasted from 1966 to 1976 and left deep scars upon Chinese society."
Primary Source w/DBQs • The Sixteen Points: Guidelines for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
• China’s Cultural Revolution [Stanford History Education Group]
In August 1966, Mao Tse-Tung launched the Cultural Revolution. He encouraged the creation of “Red Guards” to punish those who were harboring counter-revolutionary tendencies. In the decade that followed, China was turned upside down as millions of Chinese youth attacked traditional standard bearers of power and authority – among them party leaders, teachers, and family members. This lesson explores the motivations of Chinese youth in participating in the Cultural Revolution. Through a series of primary documents, students consider what it may have been like to experience this tumultuous period of Chinese history. (Lesson and Power Point)
Lesson Plan • The Chinese Cultural Revolution: Dynamic Times, Dramatic Lessons for Today’s Kids [Education about Asia]
• China’s Cultural Revolution in Memories: The CR/10 Project [University of Pittsburgh]
The full name of China's Cultural Revolution is the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution." Chairman Mao Zedong initiated this "Great Revolution" to prevent capitalism's return to China, protect the purity of the Communist Party of China, and seek a path for further developing socialism in China. This "Great Revolution" was called a "cultural" revolution because it started from criticism of the intellectual and cultural arena. What is CR/10? CR/10 (Cultural Revolution: 10) is an experimental oral history project. It aims to neutrally collect ordinary people’s authentic memories and impressions of China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which lasted 10 years, from 1966 to 1976. Collection of interviews began in December 2015 and continues to the present. 32 interviews were posted on the University of Pittsburgh’s Digital Collections website in September 2017.
• Morning Sun: A Film and Website about the Cultural Revolution [Long Bow Group]
"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." Site uses Flash. View an excerpt of the film.
• China's Cultural Revolution [ExEAS, Columbia University]
This unit uses memoirs of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) to broaden students’ understanding of political activism and the motivations behind political campaigns. By studying the Cultural Revolution in the context of the sociology of mass mobilization, students will gain an awareness of the power behind politics and ideology.
Video • China under Mao [SPICE/Stanford]
A fascinating discussion of Mao Zedong, his goals, leadership, and legacy in a short, 10-minute video.The speaker is Professor Andrew Walder, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, is a political sociologist, and author of China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed. Includes discussion guide and transcript.
China’s Cultural Revolution through the eyes of its participants, see the Literature section.
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Wei Jingsheng, b. 1950
Primary Source w/DBQs • “The Fifth Modernization: Democracy" (1978) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Deng Xiaoping, 1904-1997
Primary Source w/DBQs • "Uphold the Four Basic Principles" (Speech, March 30, 1979) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • "The Present Situation and the Tasks Before Us" (Speech, January 16, 1980) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • From the Office of the CCP Dehong Dai Nationality and Qingbo Autonomous Zhou Committee: “Several Questions in Strengthening and Perfecting the Job Responsibility Systems of Agricultural Production” (1980) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • How Should the Criteria for Admission to the Communist Youth League Be Administered After Installation of the Production Responsibility System? (1981) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Fang Lizhi, b. 1936
Primary Source w/DBQs • "The Social Responsibility of Today’s Intellectuals" (Speech, November 4, 1985) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source w/DBQs • From the People's Daily: "Bourgeois and Socialist Democracies Compared" (March 1990) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
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• A Brief Chronology of Events at Tiananmen Square (1989) [Asia for Educators]
Lesson Plan • Looking at Tankman: The 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen [Choices/Brown]
"On June 4, 1989...government troops killed hundreds and injured thousands more in a crackdown on protestors in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. In April 2009, for the first time in two decades, Chinese people were able to search for information about these protests on the internet after the Chinese government removed some of its heavy censorship."
• Tiananmen Square in the Newspapers [PBS]
2019 documentary featuring the reflections of student leaders. 40 years after the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989. Available on DVD from PBS and streaming on Amazon.
Primary Source w/DBQs • The May 13 Hunger Strike Declaration (1989) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
Primary Source • Interview at Tiananmen Square with Chai Ling [Asia for Educators]
• The Political Education of a Chinese Dissident: Conversation with Wei Jingsheng, Human Rights Activist [Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley]
• Tiananmen Square in the Newspapers [Asia for Educators]
With three articles from The New York Times, all written in 1989.
• Epilogue, from Children of the Dragon: The Story of Tiananmen Square [Asia for Educators]
• The Gate of Heavenly Peace [Long Bow Group]
"Tiananmen" is translated as The Gate of Heavenly Peace." In the spring of 1989, Chinese students and workers occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square and began the largest nonviolent political protest in China's history. At the height of of the movement, over one million people marched in the streets of Beijing. The movement ended with the government's crackdown and the Beijing massacre of June 4. Witnessed on television by millions around the world, the Tiananmen protests were one of the most watched, yet least understood, stories of our time. This website explores the origins and history of the protests, the intense international media coverage, and underlying themes such as democracy, human rights, reform and revolution, and nationalism.
• 20 Years On: Tiananmen Remembered [CNN.com]
A list of related articles and video clips.
• Tianamen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes [IDW Publishing]
A graphic novel by Lun Zhang, a major participant and observer. San Diego: IDW Publishing, 2020.
Lesson Plans • The Tank Man [Frontline, PBS]
"On a fateful day in June 1989, the world became fixed on the bold image of a lone man staring down a procession of tanks in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. While trying to unearth the story behind this courageous man, the producers of The Tank Man uncover additional stories about the clash between the communist government of the People's Republic of China and those who advocate for a more open, democratic society. In this film FRONTLINE explores a society in transition 17 years after the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square. China has become open for global business, but it remains closed to a free media and available information." This teacher's guide to the PBS documentary includes four lesson plans.
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• Living in the Chinese Cosmos >> Religion in China Today: Reemergence of Traditional Practices and the Question of National Identity [Asia for Educators]
The practice of religion has reemerged in China since the 1970s. Part of a teaching module on Chinese religious practice during the late-imperial period, this section on contemporary China provides background on religions in China and discusses current issues of practice, identity, and state efforts to control religious expression.
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• Organization Chart of the Chinese Government and Chinese Communist [US-China Business Council]
Excellent graphic representation of China’s governmental structure, showing parallels to the Chinese Communist Party structure.
Interactive • A Simple Guide to the Chinese Government [South China Morning Post/SCMP]
A clever, interactive visual introduction to the Chinese system of government and the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese state government.
• The Chinese Communist Party [Council on Foreign Relations]
General background analysis written in 2020 by the CFR.
• China’s Communist Party Absorbs more of the State [PDF] [Congressional Research Service, 2018]
Analysis of the impact of new amendments to the constitutional changes in China as of 2018. See related documents, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party in the primary source exercise below.
Primary Source • The Chinese Political System and the Communist Party [Asia for Educators]
This unit provides an overview of the Chinese political system and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with excerpts from the constitutions of the Communist Party of China and of the People's Republic of China. These primary documents can highlight for students how the Communist Party is the real political power in China. A chart of the political structure of China is also included, to help students better understand the relationship between the party and the state in a communist system. Discussion questions also included.
• Three Chinese Leaders: Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping [Asia for Educators]
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Video • Top Ten Things to Know about Human Rights in China [Asia for Educators]
An audio-visual presentation with power point presentation for class use, exploring the China’s understanding of “human rights” and its policies. The speaker is Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Columbia University, who is a specialist on China and author books and articles on human rights in China. He is also chair of the steering committee of the Center for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia. (Sign-in required; registration is quick and free.)
• China's Foreign Policy: The Historical Legacy and the Current Challenge [Asia for Educators]
This unit offers a historical overview of Chinese foreign relations and examines three major challenges that face China today as a result of this historical legacy: economic development, the search for territorial integrity, and the establishment of national identity. Discussion questions are included.
• The National Humiliation Narrative: Dealing with the Present by Fixating on the Past [Education About Asia]
In his speech announcing the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Mao Zedong famously proclaimed, "Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. We have stood up."" With those words, Mao explained that a new era had begun for China under CCP leadership. To those unfamiliar with Chinese history, such a proclamation may seem confusing. Didn't China have 5,000 years of a glorious and storied history? What did China have to be insulted or humiliated about? To whom was China standing up?
Mao Zedong, 1893-1976
Primary Source w/DBQs • From "The Dictatorship of the People's Democracy": On Leaning to One Side (Speech, 1949) [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
• China's Geography and Security Goals [Asia for Educators]
This unit explores how history and geography set the agenda for Chinese foreign policy. China's internal geography, regional geography, and the broader global context are discussed. Discussion questions are included.
• Principles of China's Foreign Policy [Asia for Educators]
This unit examines how China's foreign policy decisions derive from the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, originally enumerated in 1954. Includes a classroom exercise for students.
• Top Ten Things to Know about China in the World Today [Asia for Educators]
An audio-visual presentation with power point p resentation for class use, exoploring China’s world position, aspirations, military preparedness, and concerns.. The speaker is Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Columbia University and a specialist on China. (Sign-in required; registration is quick and free.)
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• U.S.-China Relations Since 1949 [Asia for Educators]
This unit explores three periods in the development of U.S.-China relations since 1949: Containment: 1949-1969; Rapprochement: 1970-1979; and Full Diplomatic Relations: 1979 to present. An overview of the human rights issue is also provided. Discussion questions are included.
• A Journey Shared: The United States and China, 200 Years of History [PDF] [U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian]
A module containing interesting historical documents and pictures regarding the early relations between the U.S. and China, up through the Nixon era.
Primary Sources • China and the United States: From Hostility to Engagement [National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 18, George Washington University]
Fifteen documents, with synopses, reflecting U.S. interaction with and policy toward China from 1963-1996. Document 5 contains the transcript of a 1972 conversation among Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Mao Zedong, and Zhou Enlai.
Primary Source w/DBQs • Taiwan and U.S.-China Relations Since 1949 [Asia for Educators]
This unit offers an historical overview of Taiwan and U.S.-China relations. An introductory reading is followed by two important primary-source documents ["Shanghai Communiqué" (1972) and Taiwan Relations Act (1979)] and discussion questions.
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Video • Top Ten Things to Know about China at the Beginning of the 21st Century [Asia for Educators]
An audio-visual presentation with power point presentation for class use, exploring important domestic issues in China, including economic development, climate policies, inequality in society, and other topics. The speaker is Xiaobo Lü, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University and Founding Director of Columbia Global Centers, East Asia.(Sign-in required; registration is quick and free.)
• Issues and Trends in China's Demographic History [Asia for Educators]
This unit offers a collection of maps and readings for teachers and students to explore major issues and trends in China's demographic history, from the rapid explosion of the population in history, following the introduction of New World crops, through the period of the One Child Policy to the present challenges posed by declining births to economic growth. Includes discussion questions.
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• Women's Roles in China: Changes over Time [Primary Source]
"Women's roles, responsibilities, and expectations have changed in dramatic ways as Chinese society has transformed throughout different political eras. From family structure, marriage, and childbirth to education, workforce participation, and political activity, women have seen and taken part in historical transformations that have accelerated over the last century." Images of a 19th-century house, propaganda posters, and oral history of a young woman growing up in the PRC are provided with background for teacher and students.
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• Top Ten Things to Know about Tibet Today [Asia for Educators]
An audio-visual presentation with power point presentation for class use, exploring truths and conventional falsehoods about Tibet today. The speaker Robert J. Barnett, Director, Modern Tibet Studies Program; Adjunct Professor of Contemporary Tibetan Studies; Senior Research Scholar Modern Tibetan history, Columbia University. (Sign-in required; registration is quick and free.)
• Top Ten Things to Know about Tibetan Civilization [Asia for Educators]
An audio-visual presentation with power point presentation for class use providing background on Tibetan culture past and present.The speaker is Gray Tuttle, Leila Hadley Luce Associate Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University. (Sign-in required; registration is quick and free.)
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This section is designed to introduce students to contemporary China since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 by exploring what it has been like to live in China under communist rule. In recent years a number of autobiographies have emerged that recount the excitement, exhilaration, chaos, excesses, and human triumphs and tragedies of the socialist revolution and China’s economic modernization efforts. Told by young Chinese, many of whom are now émigrés, they offer a vivid picture of what it was like to be young and involved in the remaking of a nation.
Building Chinese Socialism, 1909-1960s
• Reading Jung Chang's Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China [Asia for Educators]
Wild Swans (1991) is a memoir that traces the transformations of twentieth-century Chinese history through the lives of three generations of Chinese women. This short teaching guide includes a brief synopsis of the plot and discussion questions for students.
Establishing the New Regime: Land Reform, 1949-1953
• Reading Yuan-tsung Chen's The Dragon's Village: An Autobiographical Novel of Revolutionary China [Asia for Educators]
The Dragon's Village (1980) is an autobiography of a young city girl who took part in land reform in a remote mountain village as a teenager. This book will engage students personally while giving them a firsthand account of how the revolution developed. This short teaching guide includes a brief synopsis of the plot and discussion questions for students.
Life in China, 1940s to 1970s
• Book Review: To Live, by Yu Hua [PDF] [Education About Asia, Association for Asian Studies]
• Interview with Yu Hua, author of To Live (Huo Zhe) [PDF] [Education About Asia, Association for Asian Studies]
Note to Teachers Education about Asia
The journal Education about Asia has many excellent teaching resources on-line on all topics related to East, South and SE Asia.
• Teacher's Guide to To Live (Film Based on Yu Hua's Novel) [PDF] [Asian Educational Media Service]
To Live, a film directed by Zhang Yimou, provides an overview of key events in twentieth-century China, moving from the 1940s to the 1970s. American high school students will enjoy contemplating the effect of historical events on the intimate life of a single family.
The Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976
• Reading Gao Yuan's Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution [Asia for Educators]
"Born Red is an artistically wrought personal account, written very much from inside the experience, of the years 1966-69, when the author was a young teenager at middle school." This short teaching guide includes a brief overview of the Cultural Revolution, a short synopsis of the plot of Born Red, and discussion questions for students.
• Reading Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro's Son of the Revolution [Asia for Educators]
Liang Heng’s portrait of life during the Cultural Revolution highlights the effect of its turbulent political campaigns on China’s social fabric. This short teaching guide includes a brief overview of the Cultural Revolution, a short synopsis of the plot of Son of a Revolution, and discussion questions for students.
Hao Ran, 1932-2008
Primary Source w/DBQs • "Date Orchard" [PDF] [Asia for Educators]
• Hao Ran: Writer of the Revolution [Asia for Educators]
An introduction to the life and work of Hao Ran, an author of great popularity in China during the Cultural Revolution period. With discussion questions for students.
The Democracy Movement and Tiananmen Square, 1978-1989
• Reading Shen Tong's Almost a Revolution [Asia for Educators]
"Almost a Revolution is a memoir of China's democracy movement and the June 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident as seen through the eyes of student leader, Shen Tong." This short teaching guide includes a brief introduction to the political situation surrounding the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989 and discussion questions for students.
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• Graphic Arts (of 20th-Century China) [A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, University of Washington]
A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, prepared by University of Washington history professor Patricia Buckley Ebrey, is an excellent resource, with images, questions for discussion, timelines, maps, and suggested readings throughout. This particular unit discusses China's visual culture, which "changed dramatically in the twentieth century with the great growth in advertising, posters, and other mass-produced means of using images to attract the attention of the populace."
• The Chairman Smiles [International Institute of Social History]
"The former Soviet Union, Cuba, and China: three countries where posters played an important political role and received a large amount of artistic attention. This is a selection of 145 political posters, famous masterpieces as well as equally beautiful but unknown examples drawn from the collection of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. ... The Chinese posters include not only a number from the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), with the glorification of Mao Zedong, idyllic scenes in agricultural communes and sharp attacks on political opponents, but also extremely rare posters from circa 1949 to the early 1960s, with the establishment of the People's Republic and the campaign for the Great Leap Forward. There are also posters from the 1980s and early 1990s, the period of Deng Xiaoping and the economic modernization."
• Picturing Power: Posters of the Cultural Revolution [The Huntington Archive, The Ohio State University]
Find more art-related resources for China, 20th Century
at OMuRAA (Online Museum Resources on Asian Art)
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