The only known existing photographic documentation of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Photographs and text by Li Zhensheng, with an introduction by Jonathan Spence
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The Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) remains one of the most catastrophic and complicated political movements of the twentieth century. Almost no visual documentation of the period exists and that which does is biased due to government control over media, arts and cultural institutions.
Red-Color News Soldier is a controversial visual record of an infamous, misunderstood period of modern history that has been largely hidden from the public eye, both within China and abroad. Li Zhensheng (b.1940) - a photo journalist living in the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang - managed, at great personal risk, to hide and preserve for decades over 20,000 stills. As a party-approved photographer for The Heilongjiang Daily , he had been granted unusual access to capture events during the Cultural Revolution. This account has remained unseen until now, except for some eight photographs that were released for publication in 1987.
Red-Color News Soldier includes over 400 photographs and a running diary of Li's experience. The images are powerful representations of the turbulent period, including photographs of unruly Red Guard rallies and relentless public denunciations and Mao's rural re-education centres, as well as portraits prominent participants in the Cultural Revolution.
Jonathan Spence, Yale Professor and pre-eminient historian of modern China, presents a rigorous introduction. In it, he states: 'Li was tracking human tragedies and personal foibles with a precision that was to create an enduring legacy not only for his contemporaries but for the generations of his countrymen then unborn. As Westerners confront the multiplicity of his images, they too can come to understand something of the agonizing paradoxes that lay at the centre of this protracted human disaster.'
This book excels as a volume of both compelling photography and riveting historical record. It is truly unique - in terms of both its artefactual value and its deconstruction - and indispensable for anyone interested in modern Chinese history or the powerful cultural role of photojournalism.
Li Zhensheng was born in Dalian, China, in 1940. After studying film, he joined The Heilongjiang Daily as a photojournalist in 1963 and documented the Chinese Cultural Revolution in its entirety. In 1987, a collection of 20 of his photos were released, bearing the title Let History Tell the Future, and won the Grand Prize at China's National Press Association Photo Competition. Since 1996 he has been a visiting scholar, lecturing on the Cultural Revolution at at the universities of Harvard and Princeton. His work has appeared in major magazines worldwide including Time, The New York Times Magazine, Der Spiegel, and Le Nouvel Observateur.
Jonathan Spence is Sterling Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of a distinguished body of work on the history of modern China, including the seminal book, The Search for Modern China (1990). His book The Gate of Heavenly Peace The Chinese and Their Revolution 1895-1980 (1981) was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. Spence was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1988 and is established as one of the foremost experts on the history and culture of modern China.
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