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.
In May 1966, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China convened an "expanded session" of the Politburo. Then, in August, the Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee was held, signaling that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution had begun. Through the "May 16 Circular," and the "16 Points," the two meetings declared that Leftist policies would now hold the dominant position. Then, China began the 10 chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution.
At the Communist Party of China's Eleventh National General Congress in August 1977, the Party's Central Committee officially declared the end of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In June 1981, the Sixth Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee issued the "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China," stating that "The 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution' from May 1966 to October 1976 caused the Party, the state, and the people to suffer the most serious setbacks and losses since the founding of the nation."1 It "was an event initiated by a leader's mistake and exploited by counter-revolutionary groups, bringing disaster and civil unrest to the party, the state, and the people."2
The 10 years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution have become the heaviest page in contemporary Chinese history. Since the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution, research into how this movement emerged, developed, and affected the course of China's history has been continuous, and controversy over these questions has been unceasing.
1 Sixth Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, “Guanyu jianguo yilai dang de ruogan lishi wenti de jueyi 关于建国以来党的若干历史问题的决议” [Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People's Republic of China], Link on http://cpc.people.com.cn (accessed September 22, 2017). Translation ours.
Click above to watch the video interview with Haihui Zhang, Head of the East Asian Library at the University of Pittsburgh and creator of the CR/10 Project. Ms. Zhang discusses the meaning of "CR/10," her motivation for creating the project, the distinguishing features of the project, and CR/10's value for researchers in fields beyond Chinese studies.
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. Additional videos will be posted in 2018.
History cannot be quantified. CR/10 does not focus on the number of interviews gathered or aim to assemble a vast collection of interviews that can be examined to find common ground among them. Rather, the project's primary goal is to record and express individuals' different, distinct experiences. Therefore, each interview has its own unique worth.
Through video interviews of approximately 10 minutes, we aim to record how the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution affected different areas and different people in varying ways, as well as to document individuals' present understanding of this historical incident. In this way, CR/10 attempts to document the unequal impact of the Cultural Revolution in China, as well as record how (and whether) knowledge of this history has been passed down to China’s younger generation.
History is complicated. A person's memory varies according to his or her geographic location, age, profession, family background, and many other factors. Different experiences and memories also influence an individual's understanding of a historical incident. The Cultural Revolution was a period of major upheaval in China, and many of the participants in CR/10 faced corresponding upheaval in their personal lives.
CR/10 aims to preserve diverse memories of the Cultural Revolution, which was experienced in vastly different ways by different members of society. By preserving memory, we hope to increase understanding. CR/10 also includes interviews with younger people born after the Cultural Revolution, to demonstrate how historical knowledge may be unevenly transmitted to succeeding generations. This collection preserves a wide range of memories, illustrating how one historical event can be experienced in markedly different ways . It is a valuable resource for teaching and research not only in modern Chinese history, but in studies of political, social, and ideological movements, experiences of trauma, and historical memory.
Even given several days and nights, participants in CR/10 might not be able to describe everything they remember. Therefore, each video interview is limited to approximately 10 minutes. The interviewees are asked to discuss the experiences that left the deepest impressions on them—what they most want to share with the audience, given a limited amount of time.
By giving interviewees 10 minutes to speak freely, we hope to create an archive of video interviews that will be useful for those studying this era from various angles—for example, individual, collective, or intergenerational:
The video below features short selections from interviews conducted in the first stage of CR/10 (2015-2017). It offers a sample of the diversity of memories and thoughts shared in CR/10. Included are memories and opinions from individuals who experienced the Cultural Revolution themselves, as well as thoughts and impressions from young people born after the Cultural Revolution. Please note that some interviewees' faces and/or voices have been disguised at their request.
Mouse over the map to display individual interviews. A list will appear, displaying the titles of interviews from the selected province, classified by the interviewee's self-reported geographical area type. Interviews with those who experienced the Cultural Revolution are listed under both the interviewee's birthplace and his/her location during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Interviews with individuals born after the Cultural Revolution ended are listed under the individual's birthplace.
Browse the timeline to view video interviews from the CR/10 collection. Interviews are positioned on the timeline according to the interviewee’s decade of birth. The CR/10 collection includes interviews with people who experienced China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), as well as with young Chinese people born after the movement ended. The Cultural Revolution lasted 10 years, and each interview lasts approximately 10 minutes, hence the name of the project, CR/10.
You may browse by clicking the right/left arrows beside the timeline to view a thumbnail and brief description of each video. Click on the video's title to view the full video. You may also drag the timeline and click on an interview title to view its thumbnail, description, and link to the full video.
Click on a video title in the collection. To play the video, click the play button in the top left-hand corner of the video viewer. You may also click the gray play button to the right of the first line of the transcript below the video viewer. After clicking either play button, the video will begin to play and the English subtitles will appear within the video viewer while the transcript scrolls below.
Click on a video title in the collection. Click the "Transcript" tab above the video player to read the entire transcript.
We have created a glossary of terms mentioned in the CR/10 interviews, along with our preferred English translations for them. Please click here to download the translation glossary. The glossary will be updated periodically as we add more terms.
For more information on these terms, see Jian, Guo, et al. The A to Z of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Scarecrow Press, 2009. (Link to PittCat+ listing)
We welcome your participation! Please email us here.
We welcome your participation. Please contact us for information concerning specific interview guidelines.
You are welcome to stream videos from the CR/10 website for classroom viewing.
You may stream portions of videos from the CR/10 website in your presentation. Please provide an appropriate citation of our website. For citation information, see above.
Thank you for your interest. We welcome you to share our link for noncommercial purposes. Please use the URL http://culturalrevolution.pitt.edu for our main website, and https://digital.library.pitt.edu/collection/chinas-cultural-revolution-memories-the-CR10-project for the digital collections page.
You are welcome to embed the CR/10 trailer and the interview with the creator of CR/10 in websites for teaching and research purposes. Sharing is limited to noncommercial use.
Embed code for CR/10 Trailer:
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Embed code for CR/10 Interview:
<iframe src="https://pitt.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Embed.aspx?id=3098229c-eb77-438f-928c-2ba2e031b315&v=1" width="720" height="405" style="padding: 0px; border: 1px solid #464646;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen allow="autoplay"></iframe>
This project was created with the assistance of Annie Wang, Sandi Ward, Athena Xu, Willow Ma, Ellie Su, Joan Zou, Jade Atwill, Yue Shu, Jia Yin Tang, Julie Wang, Weijun Yuan, Hsi-Chu Bolick, Lily Kirkhoff, Cassie Liu, Ying Zhang, and Kari Johnston.
Those who experienced the Cultural Revolution as well as members of China’s younger generation are welcome to participate in a 10-minute interview to share memories, reflections, or opinions. Interviews may be conducted in person, or via Skype. Interviewees' names will be kept confidential, and identifying features may be disguised in the videos upon request. Please contact us.