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Hu Hua, ed. ZHONGGONG DANGSHI RENWU ZHUAN [Biographies of Personalities in Chinese Communist Party History] 12 vola. {Shaanxi: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe, 1980- ). by Marilyn Levine The Zhonggong dangshi renwu zhuan is a multi-volume set of biographical essays of Chinese Communist leaders. A national collective effort, under the auspices of the Zhonggong dangshi renwu yanjiu hui [The Society for the Research on Personalities in CCP History], which was organized in March 1979, this ambitious project will undertake to produce fifty volumes of biographical essays by 1989.[1] The President of the Society is He Changgong, the former Vice-Minister of Geology; and the Editor of the series is the highranking historian Hu Hua of Renmin University in Beijing, with headquarters of the Society at Zhengzhou University. The first twelve volumes of the series, which are reviewed in this essay, include 133 biographical essays written by individual and collective authors from all over China. Biographical subjects were selected from every region and "class" background, although most were from earlier phases of CCP history. As one would expect, this type of vast collaborative effort has produced some discontinuity in style and format, and yet it allows scholars a unique opportunity to view Chinese historiography in transition. Here I will look at the historiographical underpinnings of this projec~ and will briefly analyze the biographical essays; I will also relate this project to other current biographical trends in the PRC. In his preface to the first volume, Hu Hua elucidated the goals and guiding criteria of the Zhonggong dangshi renwu zhuan. Hu's outline of four significant areas shows that the political tasks of the.project took precedence over the historical tasks: {1.) To show through examples of the revolutionary vanguard that the revolutionary victory was not easy; (2.) To restore the prestige of the revolutionary vanguard from the poisoning by the "Gang of Four"; (3.) To study the history of the CCP itself; (4.) To fulfill the historical task of preserving the feats and sacrifices of the revolutionary vanguard. Invoking the necessity for Marxist thought and scientific materialism, Hu also noted the limitations of the project, particularly the paucity of written materials (either destroyed or non-existent) and the necessity of relying on interviews with relatives and fellow comrades. He pointed as well to time constraints resulting from the advanced ages of many interviewees. The breadth of the project, Hu reminded the reader, made consistency 64 of organization and writing style a goal which could not be reached.(2] The brief regulations for the Society for the Research on Personalities in CCP History appended to volume one emphasized the political guidance of the Marxist/Maoist philosophy and affirmed the broad scope of the project. Four years later, in the afterward of volume ten, Hu iterated many of his earlier remarks, but indicated the increasing dominance of the historical aspect of the project. He noted that the next five to ten years were crucial in obtaining the memoirs of elderly relatives and fellow comrades of the biographical subjects since written materials are not abundant. It is only following this practical historical assessment that Hu claimed the volumes served the inspirational goal of establishing a spiritual basis of the revolutiofiary tradition. Hu proudly recapitulated the historiographical highlights of the project, discussing the participation of thousands of scholars who were involved in the project and mentioning several important individual contributions.(3] In his November 1983 speech at the Third National Symposium of the Society for the Research on Personalities in CCP History, Hu again mentioned the inspirational goals of the project, but he devoted the major part of his attention to historiographical issues, discussing the necessity not only for Marxism and scientific attitudes, but also for accuracy, concentrating on distinctive elements of the biographical material, and a vivid writing style.[4] This subtle change of emphasis from the goals of inspiration to information is important in understanding the ambivalences in many of the volumes' essays and allows non-PRC. scholars to utilize more effectively the Zhonggong dangshi renwu zhuan as a source. It is marked by considerable diversity. Thematic arrangement in some of the volumes can be observed. For example, several essays in volume eleven are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 64-72
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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