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Heroes of China's Great Leap Forward

Two Stories

edited by Richard King

Publication Year: 2010

Heroes of China’s Great Leap Forward presents contrasting narratives of the most ambitious and disastrous mass movement in modern Chinese history. The objective of the Great Leap, when it was launched in the late 1950s, was to catapult China into the ranks of the great military and industrial powers with no assistance from the outside world; it resulted in a famine that killed tens of millions of the nation’s peasants.

Li Zhun’s "A Brief Biography of Li Shuangshuang," written while the movement was underway, celebrates the Great Leap as it was supposed to be: a time of optimism, dynamism, and shared purpose. A spirited young peasant woman, freed from the restrictions of home life, launches a canteen and wins the recognition of authorities and the admiration of her husband. The story—and the film that followed it—made Li Shuangshuang the greatest fictional heroine of the Great Leap. In contrast, Zhang Yigong’s short novel The Story of the Criminal Li Tongzhong, written two decades later, was one of the first works published in China to suggest a much darker side to the Great Leap. A village official leads a raid on a state granary to feed starving peasants; he is later arrested and dies a criminal. Although Zhang stopped short of portraying the horrors of famine, his tone of moral outrage provides a rejoinder to the triumphalism of "Li Shuangshuang."

The stories are accompanied by an introduction to the Great Leap and portraits of the two writers, including their recollections of that traumatic time and the creation of their very different heroes.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-14

Two celebrated works of fiction, written twenty years apart, present very different pictures of rural China in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This was the time of the Great Leap Forward, the utopian scheme designed to catapult China into the ranks of the world’s leading military and industrial powers ...

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A Brief Biography of Li Shuangshuang

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pp. 15-62

Li Shuangshuang is the wife of Sun Xiwang of the Sun Family Village Brigade of our commune, and is twenty-six or twenty-seven years old this year. Before the establishment of the commune and the Great Leap Forward, there were very few in the village who knew her name was Shuangshuang, ...

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The Story of The Criminal Li Tongzhong

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pp. 63-128

This Party branch secretary was a man who had left the human world nineteen years before. Over the course of those nineteen years, history had brought unimaginable turmoil and played who knows how many terrible tricks! But throughout that time, Tian Zhenshan had never forgotten this man, Li Tongzhong, ...


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pp. 129-132

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About the Editor, Production Notes, Back Cover

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Richard King is director of the Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives and associate professor of Chinese in the Department of Pacific and Asian Studies, University of Victoria. His research is on twentieth- century Chinese literature and the arts, particularly from the Mao era, and Asian popular culture. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780824837594
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824834029

Publication Year: 2010