From 1958 to 1961, Mao Zedong’s economic marvel known as the “Great Leap Forward” resulted in the deaths of some 45 million Chinese–mostly through starvation or being worked to death in his collectivized farms, mines, and factories. After this disaster Mao looked for ways to deflect criticism and cover his tracks. He couldn’t be blamed, of course; he was the “Great Helmsman” who infallibly guided the state. Amazingly, he found plenty of rabid devotees among the young students at Beijing University and Tsinghua University who still believed in his brand of Marxism and wanted to follow him to the ends of the earth. These fanatical young people he dubbed his “Red Guard”, and armed with his little book of quotations (Mao’s “Little Red Book”), they fanned out across China to destroy anything they thought was a threat to their god, Mao Zedong.
Thus officially began the “Cultural Revolution” that virtually wrecked China and killed millions. From 1966-1976 the Red Guard sought to destroy what they called “the Four Olds”– old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas. They tried to erase the past. They destroyed priceless works of art and literature. Classical music
(both Chinese and Western European) was banned. Monasteries were wrecked or torn down. Anything that offended these leftists was a target. Statues, tombs, shrines, churches, movies, clothing, music, philosophy, religion, humor, anything that is part of the creation of human beings was labeled “reactionary” or “bourgeois” and thus condemned and destroyed. Even the dead were not respected! Ancient Chinese emperors and empresses who had been dead for CENTURIES were dug up and put on trial by the communist fanatics. No one and nothing was safe.
The Cultural Revolution finally died when Mao died in 1976. More rational (but still tyrannical) leaders succeeded him and put China on their new “long march” to an economic boom in the 1980s and 90s. But China today still bears the deep emotional scars of radical murderous leftists who ran wild almost 40 years ago.