How do political campaigns and literary practice interact? In October 1956, the Sichuanese poet Liu Shahe (1931–2019) wrote a set of short poems entitled "Pieces on Plants" ("Caomupian"). Published in the gazette Stars (Xingxing) in January 1957, Liu's poetry stirred controversy—first in Sichuan and then, after Mao Zedong himself fingered it as a "poisonous weed," at a national level. This paper, by tracing the fates of Liu and of Stars editor Shi Tianhe (1924–), explores the campaigns of 1957 as experienced among the literary circles of Sichuan. It describes the differential power dynamics that existed among the individual, the local, and the central state in the early People's Republic of China. The divergent responses of Liu, Shi, and cadres and leaders of the Chinese Communist Party to the unfolding campaigns show that the year 1957 marked a critical transformation in the way Chinese writers perceived the relationship between their own use of language and the social reality of which, and into which, they wrote.


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pp. 127-147
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