Art, Literature, Music and Culture in Socialist China

Workers' Meeting

Workers’ Meeting

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Art, Literature, Music and Culture in Socialist China

Culture and Education in New China, includes Report on Cultural and Educational Work by Kuo Mo-jo and six other reports, 110 pages. (Peking: FLP, n.d. [but either late 1950 or early 1951]).

To Trumpet Bourgeois Literature and Art is to Restore Capitalism — A Repudiation of Chou Yang’s Reactionary Fallacy Adulating the ‘Renaissance’, the ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Critical Realism’ of the Bourgeoisie, by the Shanghai Writing Group for Revolutionary Mass Criticism, (Peking: FLP, 1971), 53 pages.

A Glance at China’s Culture, by Chai Pien, 106 pages. (Peking: FLP, 1975).

Painting

Selection of Artistic Works by Shanghai Workers, Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 1974, 91 pages. A wonderful collection of paintings, with captions in Chinese.

Shanghai workers’ art selection, a collection of a couple hundred wonderful Chinese political paintings from the later stage of the Cultural Revolution. (Peking: 1975), 110 pages.

Peasant Paintings from Huhsien County, compiled by the Fine Arts Collection Section of the Cultural Group under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, as exhibited in Peking in 1973. (Peking: People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 1976), 85 pages.

An article about these paintings appeared in China Reconstructs magazine, Jan. 1974, pp. 17-20

Wood Cuts and Paper Cuts

The East is Red: Paper Cuts of the Chinese Revolution, with text by Lincoln Bergman and paper cuts by members of a People’s Commune in Fatshan, 56 pages. (San Francisco: People’s Press, 1972)

Papercuts – Tigers, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in color, 7 pages.

Papercuts – Karst Landscape, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in color, 4 pages.

Papercuts – A Cock Crows at Midnight, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in black, 8 pages.

Papercuts – Table Tennis, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in red, 8 pages.

Papercuts – Collective Farm, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in red, 8 pages.

Papercuts – Sword Training, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in red, 10 pages.

Bookmarks – with fish and bird images, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in colour, 9 pages.

Sculpture

Rent Collection Courtyard: Sculptures of Oppression and Revolt, probably the most famous set of works of art in China in the Maoist era. This is a great collection of photographs of these wonderful and emotionally powerful sculptures. (Peking: FLP, 1968), 88 pages.

Introduction to Rent Collection Courtyard, a small pamphlet that accompanied the ‘strip’ version of the sculptures. (Peking: FLP, 1968) 19 pages.

Wrath of the Serfs: A Group of Life-sized Clay Sculptures, powerful scenes of figures showing the pre-revolutionary Tibetan system of exploitation. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 88 pages. (Partial scanner distortion on sheet 17.)

A discussion of this exhibit appeared in Chinese Literature magazine, Feb. 1976, pp. 109-117.

Graphic Histories and Literature (Picture-Stories)

The Old Messenger, by Chun Ching, drawings by Ting Pin-tseng. (Peking: FLP, 1956), 72 pages.

Immortal Hero Yang Ken-sze, story by Wang Hao about a real-life hero in the Chinese People’s Volunteers in the Korean War. Drawings by Ho Yu-chih. (Peking: FLP, 1965), 3rd ed., 140 pages.

Red Women’s Detachment, picture-story by Liang Hsin about the slave girl Chiung-hua on Hainan Island in 1930 who escapes and joins the Red Army. Drawings by Li Tzu-shun. (Peking: FLP, 1966), 148 pages.

Tunnel Warfare, picture-story adapted by Che Mei and Pi Lei about the clever tactics of the masses and people’s militia in Hopei Province during China’s War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945). (Peking: FLP, 1972), 164 pages.

Norman Bethune in China, a wonderful, inspiring work featuring fine ink drawings on every page. The adaptation is by Chung Chih-cheng, and the illustrations are by Hsu Jung-chu, Hsu Yung, Ku Lien-tang and Wang Yi-sheng. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 124 pages.

Storms on the Chinkiang Docks, a story of a struggle on the docks during the revolutionary war. Illustrations by Hu Po-tsung and Wang Meng-chi. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 88 pages.

Flying Eagle Cliff, adapted by the Kwangtung People’s Publishing House, drawings by Kuang Ming-yin, Tso Yi, Liu Wei-hsiung and Chung Hsien-chang. It is not clear if there is a historical basis to this story, or if it is just literature. Either way, it is a fine and moving story which is especially good at bringing out that the Communists can’t do what the masses must do themselves; to arrest the class enemies before the masses are aroused would be useless. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 164 pages.

Literature

A Brief History of Chinese Fiction, by Lu Hsun. (Peking: FLP, 1964), 2nd edition, 524 pages.

Lu Hsun – Great Revolutionary, Thinker and Writer, a loose-leaf collection of color paintings, (FLP: 1975), 36 pages. English:

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 1, (Peking: FLP, 1956), 488 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 2, (Peking: FLP, 1957), 378 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 3, (Peking: FLP, 1964), 358 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 4, (Peking: FLP, 1960), 326 pages.

Selected Stories of Lu Hsun, by Lu Hsun. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 282 pages.

Old Tales Retold, by Lu Hsun. A collection of 8 tales from 1922-1935. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 150 pages.

The True Story of Ah Q, by Lu Hsun. Probably his most famous work. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 5th edition, 82 pages.

Dawn Blossoms Plucked At Dusk, by Lu Hsun, a collection of essays written in 1926 and first published in 1928. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 138 pages.

Wall of Bronze, by Liu Ching, a novel of the War of Liberation. (Peking: FLP, 1954), 300 pages.

The Builders, by Liu Ching, a novel about the struggles over mutual aid, co-operatives, and socialist collectivization in the Chinese countryside. (Peking: FLP, 1964), 588 pages.

The Man Who Sold a Ghost: Chinese Tales of the 3rd-6th Centuries. (Peking: FLP, 1958), 190 pages.

The Battle of Sangkumryung, by Lu Chu-kuo. Novel about a major battle won by Chinese People’s Volunteers in Korea. (Peking: FLP, 1961), 176 pages.

The Seeds and Other Stories, 14 stories by mostly young writers written during the Cultural Revolution. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 204 pages.

City Cousin and Other Stories, 8 stories, mostly by amateurs, about life in China at this time. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 204 pages. [3,685 KB]

Bright Clouds, by Hao Jan, 8 short stories. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 162 pages.

Yenan Seeds and Other Stories, 6 short stories by various writers. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 156 pages.

The Making of a Peasant Doctor, by Yang Hsiao, a novel. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 228 pages.

Poetry

Mao Tse-tung Poems, by Mao Tse-tung. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 1st edition, 72 pages.

Wild Grass, all 23 prose poems of Lu Xun which were written in 1924-26. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 82 pages.

Mountains Crimsoned with Flowers, by Li Ying, 16 poems. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 44 pages.

Battle of the Hsisha Archipelago (Reportage in Verse), by Chang Yung-mei (Peking: FLP, 1975), 50 pages.

Music

Songs and Dances of the Chinese Youth, (Peking: FLP, 1959), 62 pages.

Historical Revolutionary Songs, (Peking: FLP, 1971), 28 pages.

Theatre and Film

On Stanislavsky’s ‘System’, by the Shanghai Revolutionary Mass Criticism Writing Group, (Peking: FLP, 1969), small pamphlet format, 47 pages.

A Vicious Motive, Despicable Tricks – A Criticism of M. Antonioni’s Anti-China Film China, by Renmin Ribao Commentator, Jan. 30, 1974. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 23 pages.

Opera

On the Revolution of Peking Opera, by Chiang Ching [Jiang Qing] and others, (Peking: FLP, 1968), 76 pages. Chiang Ching’s speech only (7 pages).

Red Detachment of Women. This is the most famous of all the model revolutionary Peking Operas created during the Mao era in China. It depicts the liberation of a peasant girl in Hainan Island and her role in the Chinese Communist Party. It is adapted from the original novel based on the true stories of the all-female Special Company of the 2nd Independent Division of the Chinese Red Army, first formed in May 1931.

Video: (in Chinese) Part 1 [54:51 minutes]; Part 2 [45:29 minutes];

The Red Lantern, a model Peking Opera on a contemporary revolutionary theme.

The Red Lantern: May 1970 Script, Hsinhua News Service, Aug. 6, 1970, 18 double pages in teletype font.

Shachiapang, a model Peking Opera on a contemporary revolutionary theme.

The Story of the Modern Peking Opera Shachiapang, illustrated with drawings, 52 pages. (Peking: FLP, 1972).

Shachiapang – Model Peking Opera on Contemporary Revolutionary Theme, screen play with photographs. (Colombo, Ceylon: Afro-Asian Writers’ Bureau, 1967), 86 pages.

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. This is one of the 8 model works of revolutionary Peking Opera created during the Mao era. It is based on an actual event that took place in 1946 during the Chinese Civil War. A young communist reconnaissance team soldier, Yang Zirong, disguised himself as a bandit to infiltrate a local gang, eventually helping the main revolutionary force to destroy the band.

Video: (in Chinese) Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy [1 hour, 58 minutes]

Libretto [Script] in English, October 1969, issued by Hsinhua News Agency (June 20, 1970), 22 double pages.

Miscellaneous Arts

Suzhou Embroidery, a fine hard-cover volume in Chinese with some beautiful examples of art from the Cultural Revolution era. (Shanghai: 1976), 78 pages.

Bookmarks in the shape of leaves with frog designs, non-political but artistically appealing bookmarks from China, probably from the 1970s, 7 pages.

Acrobatics and Sports

Chinese Acrobatics, photo book with introduction and captions in English, French and Swahili, (Peking: FLP, 1974), 126 pages.

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Butrint – a Greek and Roman story in southern Albania

Roman ruins at Butrint, Saranda, Albania

Butrint, Saranda

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Butrint – a Greek and Roman story in southern Albania

An archaeological site that goes back almost 2500 years, Butrint has the imprint of both the Greek and Roman civilisations. Important for its location to both those cultures it was also pivotal under Venetian rule, its decline only really beginning after it fell to Napoleon’s armies at the end of the 18th century.

One of the main visitor attractions in the vicinity of Saranda is the archaeological site of Butrint, about 14km to the south (after passing by the Dema Monument and through the town of Ksamil), easily reached by a regular public bus from the town centre.

One reason that makes it special is the fact that it was occupied by some of Europe’s principal civilizations starting with the Greeks, who first developed the site in the 4th century BC, followed by the Romans from the 2nd to the 6th centuries AD, and then reaching a final period of importance and influence under the Venetians from 16th century until succumbing to the French armies of Napoleon at the end of the 18th century. It was subsequently occupied by a local despot but by that time it had lost its historic importance.

Especially interesting to me was the way the Roman’s just took over the Greek city and adapted, and extended, it to their own particular philosophy and way of doing things. For example, they expanded the theatre, built bath houses and other public buildings and altered the whole atmosphere of the place by constructing a huge Forum, Roman life revolving around that part of any city. culture.

This foundation was then later, literally, built upon by succeeding civilizations, with a development of the fortifications and a strengthening of the perimeter walls as the technology of warfare became more lethal and adept at breaking down a population’s resistance. Yes, the Romans built walls but their primary defence was the threat of total, complete and absolute destruction if anyone dared to attack a Roman settlement, something that was valid until the collapse of the Empire in the 5th century AD.

It’s not a huge site and a couple of hours is adequate to get a good idea of the place, at a reasonable pace. Each time I go there the level of the water seems to get higher and from what I’ve read this was a problem from many centuries ago, forcing the abandonment of some of the lower structures.

At the moment the orchestra of the Greek/Roman theatre seems to be constantly under water, to such an extent that terrapins are regular visitors. What this flooding is doing to the structure of the buildings I don’t know, but it can’t be good news.

So what do I recommend?

The changing manner in which the Greeks and the Romans put one stone on the top of another. There is a very distinct change in the way they constructed their buildings, although they had basically the same use. What I found interesting was the similarity in building style of the Greeks to that of the Incas in Peru. At Butrint, as in Cuzco and Machu Picchu, large, worked pieces of stone are fitted together as in a jigsaw puzzle, so that there are no straight lines, I assume for a similar reason, i.e. there are no lines which provide a weak point in the event of an earthquake.

Archaeologists working in Butrint during Socialism

Archaeologists working in Butrint during Socialism

When you follow the path and wooden walkway taking you to the theatre look to your left just as you are about to reach the stage and the bottom of the seating. This is partly under water but there is enough at body level to see the writing in Greek, carved into the stone. Some of these are declarations of manumission made by rich Greeks who gave ‘freedom’ to their slaves in honour of one of the many gods worshipped at the time. Very easy to miss if you don’t look for them but easy to spot if you know where to look. They are referred to in the small museum in the castle complex at the very top of the site.

One place that doesn’t get a great number of visitors, due to the fact that the forum area is in front of it and people don’t make the slight diversion off the main path, and that’s the well. It’s only a small well, but what makes it special is the way that the stone has been grooved by the hundreds of thousands of time, over the centuries, a rope has rubbed against the edge with a heavy bucket of water on the end of it. It looks like a row of badly worn teeth.

The Baptistery would be the place to see if preservation of the mosaic wasn’t the most important consideration. When excavations were made an intricate and very well-preserved mosaic was discovered. But like all mosaics the biggest threat comes from the elements (nobody really steals floor mosaics – they become a somewhat difficult jigsaw to reconstruct) and is permanently covered to protect it. This is a small circular structure to the left of the signed route, not too far from the lakeside.

The Basilica is interesting in the fact that it wasn’t a Roman building taken over by the Christians but one constructed at the end of the 6th century, close to the end of the Roman Empire. This is in the classic cross design which is the basis for most Christian churches and is in a surprisingly good condition. OK there are no walls and the roof has also gone the way of all things, but the main columns still exist and it doesn’t take too much imagination to think what it would have looked like in its heyday.

Continuing along the path it’s worthwhile taking a look at the different stages in the development of the city’s defensive walls. This illustrates the different ways of putting stones on top of one another and demonstrates the importance of the place in times past.

There are a couple of entrances worthy of investigation. The first is what is known as the Lake Gate, dating from the beginning of the settlement. Here take a look at the way the stones in the roof have been worked so they are curved. A little further along the Lion Gate (so-called because there is a carving of a lion devouring a bull’s head on the lintel) shows how the entrance was lowered so that anyone coming through would have to bow their heads. Inside this entrance there is a well and although it’s impossible to make it out now there were some colourful Christian wall paintings towards the top. The dampness of the area (now permanently in the shade) has destroyed whatever might have been there many years ago.

Many discoveries were made during the period of Socialism as research into the country’s past was considered important to get a greater understanding of its present. Butrint started to reveal itself but under capitalism such academic research only continues if a monetary value can be placed upon it. 

The small museum in the castle at the top of the hill is worth a visit. If it’s closed there will always be someone around who will open it up if asked. Here are displayed some of the artefacts found at the site.

One statement particularly attracted my attention when walking around the museum and this was in relation to the inscriptions about the freeing of the slaves down at the theatre. Many of the inscription refer to women who were freeing the slaves and were therefore wealthy and in control of that wealth themselves. It seems in the early Greek days, before what is now called the Classical period, women would inherit any wealth from their husbands, as well as being able to become wealthy in their own right. This position of women in society is considered an ‘advance’. The problem is I don’t believe the slaves would have been too concerned about the gender of their ‘owners’. And in that ‘advanced’ society this equality was still denied to poor women. It wasn’t until the liberation of the country from fascism in 1944 and subsequent years that women truly found a semblance of equality in Albania.

Practical Information:

The public bus leaves from the bus stop opposite the ruins of the basilica and synagogue, just along from the Town Hall (the Bashkia). It leaves, more or less, on the hour and half hour until midday and then on the hour for the afternoon and takes about 45 minutes. Cost is L100 each way.

Butrint is open from 08.00 till dusk, all year round. Entrance is L700 for an individual (although I was charged the reduced group rate, although by myself, of L500 the second time I went there).

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