Each bag symbolizes 1 million drops of blood representing the approximately 72 million citizens who died during Mao’s reign from starvation, beatings/executions, overwork and suicide. These drops are slowly building a monument to these ‘never spoken about’ deaths… the largest democide ever recorded in history. Are we going to just forget about these people?
This performance installation also references Chairman Mao’s refusal for Chou En Lai to receive medical treatment for cancer.
It also makes reference to Ai Wei Wei’s surgery in 2009 to remove fluid on the brain while installing an exhibit in Munich… the result of a beating from Chinese Authorities.
During the Cultural Revolution, all religions were banned and many churches and monasteries were ransacked or destroyed. These classic religious paintings were destroyed to create a stained glass effect with a completely different message mounted onto the cut out portion of an original Cultural Revolution banner dated 1967.8.
Jiang Qing was an amazing orator and would work red guards into a frenzy screaming ‘death by a 1000 cuts… down with Lui Shaoqi’. This was an ancient Chinese method of torture and execution. Jiang Qing’s image has been transfered onto pages of a 1958 Chinese Almanac. This book was banned during the Cultural Revolution due to it’s superstitious content. The image has been cut 1000 times.
Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976) was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, anti-imperialist, political philosopher and leader of the Chinese Revolution. He was the architect and founding father of the People’s Republic of China established in 1949 after defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government during the Chinese Civil War. Mao enacted sweeping land reforms by using violence and terror to overthrow the feudal landlords and warlords. National campaigns for rapid industrialization such as the Great Leap Forward resulted in severe starvation. Anti-rightist movements and struggle sessions led to humiliation, beatings, suicides and executions. The Cultural Revolution damaged the historical culture of China by destroying ancient relics and religious sites in an effort to modernize the consciousness of the nation. Under Mao’s leadership positive changes included promoting the status of women by abolishing foot binding, arranged marriages, polygamy and allowing women to divorce. Literacy improved from 20% to 93% and life expectancy rose from 35 to 55 increasing China’s population dramatically. Corruption was wiped out and the restructuring of feudal and Confucius ideologies ensured China’s sovereignty and status as a major power on the international stage. Mao is credited for laying a foundation for China’s continued development and was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century by Time Magazine. While his rule is believed to have caused the deaths of 40-70 million people, he remains a controversial figure with a contentious legacy that is subject to revision and fierce debate.
Tibet had an ill-defined relationship with the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)…. at times an ally, an opponent, a tributary state, or a region within Chinese control. In 1724, during the Mongol invasion of Tibet, the Qing seized the opportunity to incorporate the Tibetan regions into China proper. Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, the 13th Dalai Lama issued a Declaration of Independence for his kingdom from China… although no other sovereign state recognized the independence. The region maintained its autonomy until 1951 when The People’s Republic of China negotiated the Seventeen Point Agreement with the newly enthroned 14th Dalai Lama’s government. Tibet became formerly incorporated into the People’s Republic of China and was granted autonomy. As farmers were being stripped of their land through Land Reforms, tens of thousands of Tibetans organized themselves into armed resistance groups to fight back. In the wake of a revolt in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India where he repudiated the agreement and has led a government in exile. The 10th Panchen Lama responsible for final selection of the next Dalai Lama publicly supported China’s claim of sovereignty over Tibet. During the Cultural Revolution, between 200,000-1,000,000 Tibetans died and 6000 monasteries were destroyed. In 1962, the Panchen Lama wrote a 70,000-character petition that dealt with the brutal suppression of the Tibetan people. Mao called the petition “a poisonous arrow shot at the Party by reactionary feudal overlords’. The Panchen Lama was publicly humiliated at Politburo meetings and dismissed from all political posts. He was imprisoned for 9 years, 8 months and then house arrest for another 14 years. He died of a heart attack at age 51 but many people including the Dalai Lama suspect foul play.
Jiang Qing (1914-1991), Mao Tse-tung’s 4th wife, became a major power figure with the Communist Party of China. She joined the party in 1933 and was arrested one year later in Shanghai spending 3 months in jail for her political activities. In 1935, she became a professional actress appearing in several films and plays adopting the stage name ‘Lan Ping’. After the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in 1937, Jiang left her acting career to join the resistance in Yan’an. Here at these Chinese Communist headquarters she became personally involved with Mao, nearly twice her age. The party granted a divorce to Mao and permitted the marriage in 1938, but required Jiang to stay out of politics for 30 years. In 1940, they had a daughter named Li Na. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Jiang became the nation’s first lady. She worked as Director of film in the Central Propaganda Department, and as a member of the Ministry of Culture for the film industry. She led an initiative for reforming opera in 1963 that resulted in revolutionary opera and defined works of drama, music, dance and other arts, including outright bans of unapproved works. During the Cultural Revolution beginning in 1966, Jiang was appointed deputy director of the Central Cultural Revolutionary Group and later became a member of the politburo. She was gifted at inciting Red Guards against senior party leaders including Liu Shaoqi, the president, and Deng Xiaoping, the deputy president. She relentlessly persecuted those she believed wronged per in the past. Her rivalry with Chou En-lai led to the arrest, torture and murder of his 2 adopted children by Red Guards. She established a close political working relationship with Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen, becoming known as ‘The Group of Four’. Jiang Qing collaborated with second-in-charge Lin Biao until his demise in 1971 and then spearheaded the ‘Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius Campaign. By 1973, she and Mao lived separately and the party had difficulty knowing how to deal with her with her severe erratic nerves. When Mao died in 1976, the ‘Gang of Four’ were soon arrested and served as a convenient scapegoat for the 10 years of political / social turmoil, and for the deaths of tens of millions of people. During her trial, she was unrepentant and delivered the famous quote: “I was Chairman Mao’s dog. I bit whomever he asked me to bite”. In 1981, she was sentenced to death, which was commuted to life imprisonment. She hung herself in 1991 leaving a suicide note: “Chairman Mao! I love you! Your student and comrade is coming to see you”.
The Cultural Revolution set in motion by Mao Tse-tung, was a social-political movement that took place from 1966 through to 1976. It’s stated goal was to enforce socialism by removing capitalism through the destruction of traditional and cultural elements from Chinese society while imposing Mao orthodoxy in the party. Mao believed that the political hierarchy, still dominated by bourgeois elitist elements, capitalist and revisionists, justified mass purges. All politicians who had any history of being anything other than dogmatically Maoist were almost immediately purged. Liu Shao-chi (Shaoqi), president of the People’s Republic of China, once the most powerful man in China after Mao, was arrested, sent to a detention camp where he later died. This nationwide campaign called upon the students, workers, peasants and revolutionary cadres to carry out the task of transforming society by destroying the 4 olds….. old ideas, culture, customs and habits. Mao’s praise for rebellion was effectively an endorsement for the violent actions of the Red Guards and a ‘stop all police intervention’ was issued. Countless ancient buildings, artifacts, antiques and paintings from museums and private homes were destroyed on the spot. Millions of people were persecuted as spies, capitalist roaders, revisionists, bad elements or coming from a suspect class (those related to former landlords or rich peasants). For 10 years, China’s education system was brought to a grinding halt and most intellectuals and administrators were sent to rural labour camps. Anyone with skills above average were considered petty bourgeois and subjected to humiliating ‘struggle sessions’. On July 27, 1968, the army was deployed to stop the chaos. Mao began the ‘down to the country’ campaign to dismantle the Red Guard factions. They were sent to rural farms in order to learn from the peasants. This led to an entire generation of inadequately educated youths. In any case, the purpose of the Red Guards had been largely fulfilled. Mao had consolidated and regained his political power after his failure of The Great Leap Forward. In Mao : The Unknown Story, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday claim that during the first few years of anarchy as many 3 million people died violent deaths and 100 million suffered in one way or another. The Red Guards killed a small percentage but most killings were sponsored by the state… the direct work of Mao’s reconstructed regime.