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Red-color news soldier : a Chinese photographer's odyssey through the cultural revolution / Li Zhensheng; edited by Robert Pledge; additional text by Jacques Menasche; introduction by Jonathan D. Spence

Main Author Zhensheng, Li Secondary Author Menasche, Jacques
Pledge, Robert
Spence, Jonathan D., 1936-
Country Reino Unido. Edition 1st ed Publication London : Phaidon, 2003 Description 316 p. : il., fot. ; 26 cm ISBN 0-7148-4308-3 CDU 951 77.044(510)
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

The Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) remains one of the most catastrophic and complicated political movements of the twentieth century. Almost no visual documentation of the period exists and that which does is biased due to government control over media, arts and cultural institutions.

Red-Color News Soldier is a controversial visual record of an infamous, misunderstood period of modern history that has been largely hidden from the public eye, both within China and abroad. Li Zhensheng (b.1940) - a photo journalist living in the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang - managed, at great personal risk, to hide and preserve for decades over 20,000 stills. As a party-approved photographer for The Heilongjiang Daily , he had been granted unusual access to capture events during the Cultural Revolution. This account has remained unseen until now, except for some eight photographs that were released for publication in 1987.

Red-Color News Soldier includes over 400 photographs and a running diary of Li's experience. The images are powerful representations of the turbulent period, including photographs of unruly Red Guard rallies and relentless public denunciations and Mao's rural re-education centres, as well as portraits prominent participants in the Cultural Revolution.

Jonathan Spence, Yale Professor and pre-eminient historian of modern China, presents a rigorous introduction. In it, he states: 'Li was tracking human tragedies and personal foibles with a precision that was to create an enduring legacy not only for his contemporaries but for the generations of his countrymen then unborn. As Westerners confront the multiplicity of his images, they too can come to understand something of the agonizing paradoxes that lay at the centre of this protracted human disaster.'

This book excels as a volume of both compelling photography and riveting historical record. It is truly unique - in terms of both its artefactual value and its deconstruction - and indispensable for anyone interested in modern Chinese history or the powerful cultural role of photojournalism.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Although chronicling different revolutionary periods and locations, both of these books portray revolution in China. As a photographer for the largest newspaper in northern China, the Heilongjiang Daily, Li covered the years 1964 to 1978-the period directly before, during, and after the Chinese Cultural Revolution-precisely documenting events in a cold and isolated region of the country and hiding his work under the floorboards in his apartment. Li shows the destruction of sacred temples, carried out to smash Old World ideals, and public executions aimed at destroying "the enemy within." What is most surprising is the lack of emotion among the subjects in these photos. In the introduction, noted China scholar Jonathan Spence states that Li's work "encourages us to keep on asking questions about the meaning of what we think we are seeing." Unlike Li, Life photographer Birns covered the Chinese Communist Revolution from December 1947 through May 1949 in cosmopolitan Shanghai, where the Nationalist (KMT) forces eventually and uneventfully surrendered to the Communists (CCP). With writer Roy Rowan, he continued to submit stories about "the grim everyday lives of people who had endured a century of warfare," but, according to Birns, the magazine's owner, Henry Luce, was "a devout Christian, staunch Republican, and supporter of Chiang Kaishek" who refused to publish photographs showing the diabolical activities of the Nationalist forces. Birns now publishes these photos, along with narratives from prominent China scholars Wakeman and Orville Schell, to show the bloody execution of Communist prisoners, lines of Chinese "comfort girls," child corpses, urban strikes, and other dreary scenes of poverty and city life. In contrast to Li, Birns captures a great deal of emotion-from rage to sorrow. Both books are recommended for all large public and academic libraries.-Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Rockville, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Li's black-and-white photographs document the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) at Harbin, Heilongjiang. The photographs were gleaned from tens of thousands of original negatives that Li hid at great risk for nearly four decades. As photographer for the Heilongjiang Daily, Li was in a unique position to witness and document the events of the convulsive decade from 1966 to 1976. The text includes a brief narrative of Li's life and career at the daily. Li lets his photographs show the GPCR as a spectacle of human cruelty, mob psychology, and blind ambition. The GPCR made adversaries out of family members, relatives, Communist Party members, government officials, colleagues, friends, and anyone who simply wanted to even a personal grudge. Even founding members of the regime fell victim to false charges and innuendos. The book focuses on Harbin, but it is representative of China at large. As an unintended benefit, the photographs also illustrate the political campaigns of the early 1950s. There are two small maps and a short chronology from 1911 to 1980. No Chinese glossary. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels/collections. H. T. Wong emeritus, Eastern Washington University

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Li Zhensheng was born in Dalian, China, in 1940. After studying film, he joined The Heilongjiang Daily as a photojournalist in 1963 and documented the Chinese Cultural Revolution in its entirety. In 1987, a collection of 20 of his photos were released, bearing the title Let History Tell the Future, and won the Grand Prize at China's National Press Association Photo Competition. Since 1996 he has been a visiting scholar, lecturing on the Cultural Revolution at at the universities of Harvard and Princeton. His work has appeared in major magazines worldwide including Time , The New York Times Magazine , Der Spiegel , and Le Nouvel Observateur .

Jonathan Spence is Sterling Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of a distinguished body of work on the history of modern China, including the seminal book, The Search for Modern China (1990). His book The Gate of Heavenly Peace The Chinese and Their Revolution 1895-1980 (1981) was awarded the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. Spence was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1988 and is established as one of the foremost experts on the history and culture of modern China.

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