Introduced by Grace Cai

“Revolutionize the Spring Festival” is a proposal published in 1967 by the Shanghai Workers Revolutionary Rebel General Headquarters. This proposal followed Mao Zedong’s instruction to launch the Proletarian Cultural Revolution to prevent “the small handful of Party-persons in power taking the capitalist road.”[1] Some revolutionary mass organizations called on people to promote production, practice frugality, destroy the “four olds” and establish the “four news,” and made the Spring Festival a target of revolution.[2]

The “four olds” first appeared in People’s Daily editorial entitled “Sweep Away All Ox-Monsters and Snack-Demons” on June 1, 1966. At a mass rally on August 18, Lin Biao used the “four olds” in his speech and appealed to Red Guards to launch the campaign against the “four olds.”[3] The Red Guards were a group of youth organizations that were formed at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. The campaign “Destroy the Four Olds” not only aimed to destroy historical buildings but also targeted traditional customs.[4]

The Spring Festival was treated as a feudal superstitious activity in the movement “Destroy the Four Olds,” thus traditional customs of the Spring Festival have changed starting in 1967. In the early 1950s, Raoyang (a prefecture in Hebei province), most townships held performances by opera troupes in the market during the Spring Festival.[5] Drumming was regarded as an old custom in Wugong, a small village in Raoyang. The residents of Wugong hung drums on the gates and roofs and no one dared save them when rain ruined the drums. Similarly, the sound of firecrackers also disappeared in the 1967 Spring Festival.[6] People gathered together for singing revolutionary songs, watching revolutionary operas and documentaries instead of reunion dinners, playing games, and setting off firecrackers. During the Mao period, the main themes of celebrating the Spring Festival were “remembering revolutionary glory” and “expressing one’s devotion to the construction of a socialist China.”[7] The Spring Festival is the most special symbol for Chinese culture and the Cultural Revolution only changed a few customs, but it was still the most significant festival for Chinese People.

[1] Michael Schoenhals, China’s Cultural Revolution, 1966-1969: Not a Dinner Party (Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 1996), 223.

[2] Ibid., 223, 226.

[3] Jian Guo, Yongyi Song, and Yuan Zhou. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006), 70.

[4] Ibid., 239-240.

[5] Edward Friedman, Paul Pickowicz, and Mark Selden, Revolution, Resistance, and Reform in Village China (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 23.

[6] Ibid., 101-102.

[7] Xiaoyan Xu, “The Construction of a United Great China: A Comparative Study of the CCTV Spring Festival Galas, 1984-86 and 2004-06” (MA thesis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2007), 8-9.