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68 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 struggle for promotion could be for two expatriate Britons working in China in the late 1920s. While the author must be held responsible for the many shortcomings ofthis volume, those who have encouraged publication should share the criticism. They have done neither Atkins, a predoctoral student, nor the academic community a service by encouraging, shall one say, the premature publication of a volume before the basic research for it has been completed. Steve Tsang St. Antony's College, Oxford Steve Tsang is Dean and Louis Cha Senior Research Fellow in modern Chinese studies at St. Antony's College, University ofOxford. Geremie R. Barmé. Shades ofMao: The Posthumous Cult ofthe Great Leader. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1996. xii, 321 pp. Hardcover $62.95, ISBN 1-56324-678-3. Paperback $22.95, isbn 1-56324-679-1. The study of Chinese political culture is thriving these days. Informed by recent theoretical advances and paradigmatic shifts, investigations in this area look at politics not as a mere reflection of economic and social forces but as a complex cultural system to be understood through its myriad forms ofvisual, rhetorical, symbolic, and iconographie expression. This emergent field stands out as one ofthe most original and fruitful areas ofresearch and writing in current Chinese studies. Geremie R. Barmé's Shades ofMao, a book that is both provocative and entertaining , is a welcome addition to this growing body ofliterature. Barmé's aim is not to paint a broad canvas of China's political culture; instead, he opts for a more focused topic: the posthumous cult ofMao Zedong. Can the rise and fall of this cult in the last two decades be viewed as a reflection of the checkered course of Chinese politics and society? This question lies at the heart ofthe book. In the introduction, Barmé presents an excellent overview ofthe history of the cult ofMao since the Chairman's death in 1976. The cult underwent many transformations, Barmé tells us. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mao's oncetowering image became severely tarnished as the Chinese Communist Party and y m try ^6 natjon began to criticize the Cultural Revolution and attempted to comprehend the colossal magnitude ofits mindless destruction. The Party's ordering of the systematic removal ofthe late Chairman's books, quotations, portraits, and statues from the public domain is a clear indication ofhis fall from grace. ofHawai'i Press Reviews 69 Surprisingly, interest in Mao resurfaced a decade later during the period of economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping. It soon turned into a fad, dubbed by the official media as the "Mao Craze" (the Mao Zedong re or simply Maore). Barmé argues that the new Mao cult was markedly different from the personality cult ofthe 1960s, for it was largely unofficial and spontaneous, and devoid ofclass and ethical dimensions. The reasons for such a revival, Barmé admits, were far more difficult to fathom. For some, especially for those dissatisfied with Deng's new reform policies, which they saw as bringing corruption, nepotism, and a state ofperpetual social dislocation, Mao stood for a happy, bygone era when the public believed that government leaders passionately served the people and the Party wholeheartedly embraced the goal ofcollectivism. "The Maoist past," Barmé comments, "reflected badly on Deng's present" (p. 19). The revival ofinterest in Mao in the 1980s also mirrored the uncertainty of living in an era marked by a "crisis ofbelief." As the key foundations ofthe Chinese Communist state—the Party, its leaders (especially Mao), the government, and Marxism—suffered irreparable damage in the disastrous Cultural Revolution, China suddenly found itselfwithout direction. The country was soon awash in consumerism and capitalistic greed as a result ofDeng's policies, and the Mao Craze became a part ofthis newfound trend toward commercialization. The late Chairman, hitherto viewed as a sacrosanct political icon, was turned by some into an object to be commercially exploited, as exemplified by the appearance ofa market for Mao-era memorabilia (including Mao badges, busts, and books). For others, he was a guardian god who could ward offevil. The popularity ofthe Mao talismans that hung from the rearview mirrors oftaxis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 68-71
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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