Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 1 year 2 months ago

In Phase 0, I thoroughly analyzed some topic choices for my Inquiry Project, and chose Wall Propaganda for my final topic. In Phase 1 and Phase 2, I will continue my work based off of the background research I have done here. It will serve as a well of information and sources to refer to should I need them during the Microcampus learning process. All my research here is separated into these four categores: "Background Information from Phase 1" (research I have done prior to the trip, so that I can better understand the Cultural Revolution events that caused Wall Propaganda), "Information from 3-to-5's" (brief 3-5 minute interviews), "Information from Local Contacts", and "Answers to Previous Questions". The sources that have provided me with those pieces of information are listed under "Sources".

Background Information (from Phase 1):

The Cultural revolution was mostly caused by Mao's communist dream for a nation without the division between socio-economic classes. It invoked a brutal and long-lasting war, one of the most significant and memorable events in Chinese history. Then and now, people had and have different opinions: some say it was an unnecessary and pathetic destruction of a once rich culture and society, and others stick to the strong belief that the changed China for the better [1]. Each side is well-known for its bias against the other, so I purposefully selected a rich variety of sources from other countries as well as citizens of China. I have also put in my best effort to make my information here completely void of opinionated adjectives, but instead remain neutral and factual...

"The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" was the more official name for this event [2]. It all began with the series of events during the mid-1900s, after the Japanese invaded China. There were many names for the advocators of the Cultural revolution during this time period, but the leader was just one man from a poor farming family, named Mao. He decided that China was being ruined by the capitalists and anti-socialist, richer high-class members of society [1, 4].

By the mid-1960s, Mao had devised several solutions, mostly Socialist-Communist ideals, that would all be implemented to address these issues. He wanted to bring change to the ways of everyday life, thought, emotions, and behaviors for all citizens, so he forced a re-education into the lives of young and old people throughout China. He brought back the "Four Olds" : Old customs, cultures, habits, and ideas [2, 5]. Since he thought people were too indulged in their personal lives and didn't devote enough effort and love towards the nation as a whole, they were directed away from their specialized jobs to manual labor. Children were much too educated academically and didn't spend enough time admiring their country and their leader (Mao), so their usual studies were abruptly put to a stop and replaced with one Little Red Book [1, 2, 5]. Others were sent away to work in factories and isolated farming villages in the countryside [1]. These reform acts was brought together with another revolutionary event called Great Leap Forward [1,4]. His plan caused for families of "capitalist-roaders" and "Bourgeois" citizens to be sent away from their homes and family. Some of the more cruel punishments included denunciation meetings during which wealthy landowners or officials were targeted purposefully and beaten to death [1].

No matter how harsh his actions were, his power still reigned above all and he persuaded many, including the families of the suffragettes, to believe he was a mysteriously wonderful and caring God [1]Lin Biao (林彪), Jiang Qing (江青, Mao's fourth wife), and Chen Boda (陳伯達, a theoritician)were the main advocators of Mao's ideals [4]. In addition, some of the Chinese even acted as his personal assistants in their wishes to be closer to him. These became the Red Guards [1,2,4,5,6]. Red Guards were comprised of mostly children and teens, and they fought for their 'glorious God' on the "front line of the new revolutional upheaval" [2]. However, their idol didn't even give a second thought as many were killed. They were only a fraction of the 1.5 million murders brought on by his revolution [1, 5]. The chaos, depression, lack of education, and many other effects of evolution also contributed to a huge economic crash during the decade [1,5,6]. Industrial production dropped 12 percent in just the first two years [6], Mao's revolution destryoed a horrendous amount of arts, cultural items, traditional values, literature, and much of the Chinese peoples' spirit.

Liu Shaoqi (劉少奇)and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), who later become president, opposed Mao and his beliefs strongly [1,2,4,5,6]. They spoke against Mao's visions of a new and better China "reforms" to practically every aspect of life during that time, including personal education in schools, thoughts and behaviors regarding everyday life, emotional behavior, and family life [1,2,4]. After Mao died in 1976, Premiere Hua Guofeng arrested the Gang of Four, which was another unpleasant Communist force, the radicals led by Jiang, and overtook the Communist Party [1,2,5].  Many other minor battles, the after effects of the revolution, maintained throughout China [1,2]. Finally, in 1979, Deng Xiaoping took on the Chinese government as its president, and did his best to bring a once prosperous nation back into shape. It was a signal that the cultural revolution was over at last [1,2,5].

Information from 3-to-5's:

Mr. T

Mr. T told me some great ways to find the best resources. He said if I just stopped and investigated a propaganda, natural teachers would often come by and start chatting with me about the message and meaning. To get the best information, it is always important to be patient during a conversation and gradually lead the person to give answers, instead of jumping right in and demanding them. He also said messages near schools, at the dangerous road intersection in Si Fang Jie, and at Ren Li Yi are usually the best. These pieces of advice will definitely help me proceed with my interviews. 

  • Current government crisis in China almost as bad as cultural revolution period
  • Purpose of most propaganda is to influence/persuade peoples' minds [11]

Ms. Mai

Ms. Mai was very helpful with recommending me helpful resources and amazing advice. For one, I should always take pictures of propaganda and adjust the contrast in Photoshop in order to analyze messages more clearly. She also mentioned that I should visit houses with wooden signs that meant they were being protected by the government. [7]

Ms. Zhang (Linden Center teacher)

Ms. Zhang was also very helpful with advice about the process of interviews. Her most significant piece of advice was to gather information from both older and younger folks, because the younger people are more educated even though older people experienced events first-hand. She also said I should work questions very specifically and guide them along the conversation slowly, otherwise the person I interview would not be able to come up with thoughtful and deep responses. 

  • Older folks are more pro-China
  • Younger folks are more educated [10]

Mr. Zhao (Yang Zhuo Ran security guard)

Mr. Zhao was quite opinionated about cultural revolution propaganda - he often largely agreed with them, especially when they promoted Mao. I was glad that he had such a strong perspective on propaganda, because the topic I am focusing on is mostly based on perspectives and different viewpoints on Xizhou's propaganda. During my 3-t conversation with Mr. Zhao, he actually didn't give me as much contacts as others, but his information was in abundance. He had a lot of personal experience about the denunciation meetings and was affected academically by the revolution at just 12 years old. Even then, he though Mao's actions were fantastic other than "his few small mistakes".

  • Any mistakes would lead to denunciations, so they could not speak their minds at all
  • Before revolution -- Xizhou pop. was poor, made up entirely of farmers, merchants, tea pickers
  • Cultural revolution impact hit Xizhou 1965
  • Mao helped give Xizhou villagers land for farming, better housing, higher salaries
  • stopped school in 6th grade because cultural revolution
  • very complicated, chaotic
  • After revolution -- less jobs, had to travel far to work
  • Believes Mao was an amazing person overall, did great deeds for his family and country, and the difficulties along the way were "small mistakes" [9]

Ms. Zhang (Sophie's ayi)

Everything Sophie's ayi, Ms. Zhang, mentioned corresponded well with what Mr. Zhao had told me.

  • Bai minority mostly merchants, used to have lots of international merchants
  • During revolution, adults worked out of town and could not interact w/ children [8]

Information from Local Contacts:

*(Note: The CR stands for the Cultural Revolution, The GLF stands for stands for the Great Leap Forward, the LR stands for the Land Reforms.)

Ms. Dong

(5/5/16) I came across Ms. Dong quite accidentally while jogging for wellness, yet she happened to become my first local contact. You can read about the details of our meeting in my journal Day 6: Open Doors. She lives with 7-8 other families in, which is how I met some other ladies, Bei Nainai and Duan Nainai. Inside her home, many walls were plastered with obscured 50+ year old messages. There were a few difficulties regarding clear communication, so I couldn't understand what the propaganda messages meant; Ms. Dong admitted to be unable to read, and her friend Duan Nainai spoke too quickly and with heavy accents. However, this is what I did learn:

  • greatly impacted by land reforms and appreciated and grateful for them
  • land reforms made landowners split their land to Ms. Dong and other lower-class farmers (like Ms. Dong herself)
  • she thinks the faded propaganda on her walls were painted by land owners from before/during the revolution [12]\


  • never learned about Cultural Revolution in school at all
  • only knowledge of Cultural Revolution any children could get would be from older relatives in hushed, secret conversations
  • his grandfather was a teacher and thus suffered from punishments and denunciations (he was locked up in dungeons with murky water and tortured with thick needles in knees)
  • not much big city people settle in Xizhou [13]

A Po Ge Yang 

  • 18 years old at time of revolution
  • hangs out at yogurt place on Si Fang Jie every night (after 6pm)
  • cannot remember specific propaganda messages or their meanings
  • witnessed lots of chaos that randomly broke out between households during revolution
  • red guards would often come around to loot, tear apart, burn down buildings and objects [14]

A Xiu

  • lives with 4 families near Linden Center Xi Ling Yuan
  • Chinese students taught extremely little about Cultural Revolution, avoiding ugly parts [15]

Yang Xu An (nainai)

  • 88 years old, lived through Liberation, Great Leap Forward, and Cultural Revolution
  • spent most of childhood and young adult years working very hard on the farm
  • worked as landowner's servant starting at 16 years old
  • landowner abused her - whipping, beating, cursing at her for even the smallest mistakes
  • landowner starved her and those around her
  • she and other poor farmers were positively impacted by land reforms because landowner no longer had power over her
  • very happy for what Mao did for her and other farmers [16]

Mr. Duan

  • began serving as soldier at 16 years old
  • fought in Vietnam War (1980's)
  • younger siblings were all Red Guards
  • always 3 major types of propaganda: political/military messages, conceptual messages, and scientific advancement messages
  • training very hard in army during Cultural Revolution
  • always starving, aftereffects of revolution made starved people even more because so many debts had to be paid
  • he supported Mao and the Gong Chan Dang as well because his family was farmers
  • land reforms basically meant a switch of power, land, and money from landowners to peasants -> landowners now had to work for themselves instead of peasants laboring FOR them
  • Xizhou was always made of either farmers or merchants
  • propaganda messages during revolution were all in favor of Mao
  • those who went against Mao in any way whatsoever were tortured publicly
  • he really agreed with all propaganda messages, they either said LONG LIVE CHAIRMAN MAO (or GongChanDang) or DEFEAT LIU SHAO QI (or GuoMingDang) [17]

Propaganda promotion Chairman Mao (终生不忘毛主席):

    Mr. Zhang (SFJ)

    • 75 years old, lived through Great Leap Forward (GLF) and Cultural Revolution (CR)
    • The Harvest Lady (THL) was painted by during GLF by farmers who also had artistic hobbies
    • THL's purpose was to encourage people to farm more 
    • THL also symbolized the pride of farmers who were able to harvest/produce so much food
    • everyone was starved; crops all sent to Vietnam and North Korea, who were both fighting America (if Vietnam and NK lost, America would invade China next)
    • believed the crops were sent out for good reason, though always extremely famished
    • GLF biggest impact on Xizhou area = 1959-1960
    • kilograms of food rations received per family depended on type of job of adults of family
    • believes distribution of food rations was very fair, or as fair as could be [18]

    Propaganda of the Harvest Lady carrying a bountiful of crops and other goods:

      Mrs. Zhang (Cheese factory)

      • still visible farmer's work & rations chart at her house, from before land reform (~1940s-50s)
      • kept track of "labor points" and determined how much rice each family earned
      • believes was not fair at all - did not consider amount of children (mouths to feed) per family, nor how able each adult was for labor
      • does not know what other faded propaganda mean
      • many past beautiful artworks on door frames and ceilings destroyed by Red Guards during CR[19]

      Mr. Yang (antique dealer)

      • knows a family uphill with descendants from a landlord
      • landlord was shot in the head and killed during land reform 
      • landlord had not committed any crime whatsoever
      • GongChanDang wanted to kill landlords to express / establish opposition against landlords' rule and wealth, since farmers were always treated horribly
      • murderers wanted it to be a sort of symbol that landlords are sinful, and also to clear the way for lower-class laborers [20]

      Mr. Yin (from Pavilion)

      • previous occupations (in chronological order): army logistics department, military (during Vietnam War), crimes detector, police department
      • always well fed, never affected by GLF, because army was prioritized
      • after CR salary and working conditions grew considerably
      • supported Peng De Huai
      • does not have any opinion on GLF or CR events because he was never affected personally [21]

      Mr. Yang, Li (from Pavilion)

      • 82 years old
      • previous occupations (in chrononological order): bank financial manager, 2 other, grains department
      • economy during both GLF and CR kept diving down no matter what method/theories they tried, was a financial disaster
      • extremely starved during GLF, unhappy about food distribution [22]

      Ms. Li (RenLiYi)

      • unable to read; like Ms. Dong
      • Ren Li Yi 1911 propaganda building used to be a shop owned by merchants
      • they moved out of that house a while ago; nobody lives there now [23]

      Mr. Yang and Mr. Wang (friends at pavilion)

      Mr. Yang and Mr. Wang (both from farming families), and were chatting lightly together when I approached and talked with them, so I will cite them and list their information in one group. They have both lived through the revolution: Mr. Wang is 74 years old and says it is important to exercise to stay healthy. Mr. Yang is the same age approximately, and is proud that he has been a teacher before.

      • (they did not actually say this, it is just something they helped me learn as we chatted) - never blame an event in history on one person, like Mao for the CR
      • Mr. Yang was unable to take the high school final test and could not attend college because of the CR
      • Mr. Yang and Mr. Wang both are unhappy about CR and the Gong Chang Dang because it prevented them from doing sports, academics, and many of their dreams
      • had to play basketball and badminton in secret during CR because no public teams allowed [24, 25]

      Ms. Zhang (antique dealer)

      • CR was both good and bad - she thinks Mao and red gaurds were "good-natured" but hated anti-landlords (probably meaning she did not actually really support Mao)
      • grandpa risked his life fighting hard in war, yet was shot 7 times, murdered by GongChangDang just because he was a landlord and took two wives
      • she "hates 房东拍[anti-landlords] so so so so much!" for killing him - it left his two wives and many children uncared for, and they mourned over him, and was just overall unreasonable
      • she grew up without education and cannot even read
      • parents were very poor farmers - father was sick, mother was lazy - and had four siblings
      • all crops her family harvested had to be carried down (very heavy!) to be sent to government
      • now landlords are great, in the past some were indeed very cruel
      • she is so glad about government and is happy that everything (economy, education, business) is just much better now than during her childhood [26]

      [Anonymous source] (from Pavilion)

      • grew up in farming family
      • after land reform land distribution finally became fair
      • around time of CR, economy was much worse, for ex. a Baba would be 0.2 RMB vs. now they are 10 RMB
      • was a red guard in high school, all worked to capture higher class bourgeois people
      • during LR, Xizhou was even more different social classes than in big cities like Shanghai and so complicated- around 20 levels in between landlord and farmer
      • before CR, poor people never got the chance for education and stayed at their social level, rich people always stayed high-class and were prioritized for education
      • GLF was basically a huge competition for steel/agricultural production between different regions
      • everyone worked so hard nonstop and never rested during GLF, if we (me and Ms. Zhao) were to jump back in time to GLF, we would be forced to work in fields immediately
      • during GLF, food was distributed according to how much you worked, though they stopped using work points [27, 28]

      Mr. Gao

      • grew up in farming family, used to be in military, then a manager
      • red guards only brought destruction
      • when working in army, worked to destroy any Guo Ming Dang-related remains
      • also fought in 1940s against Burma for Chinese border protection
      • after LR, poor people would be happy and relieved (got better jobs) while rich people all became afraid and worried and upset
      • stopped school in middle school because CR
      • during LR, all the land was taken by government and split evenly to people of all classes according to amount of people per family [28]

      Answers to Previous Questions:

      Back in Phase 1, I came up with 10 Big Questions and possible answers to them. Here, after doing my research, I have gathered enough information to record my final answers to those questions.

      1. What were some of the events that happened during the few years before the cultural revolution, and did those events cause it in any way?

      There were indeed many events in the timeline of Early China that led up to the Cultural Revolution. One of these events was the Great Leap Forward, when millions of people starved to death because all of their food was sent away in the competition for agricultural production.[11,18,22] Another event prior to the revolution was the Land Reforms, when land all over China was withdrawn from landlords and landowners by the government, and distributed more evenly, granting farmers with the supplies to make their own livings.[12, 16, 18, 24, 25, 27, 28] I will be elaborating on both of these events in my final product. 

      2. How was the situation in Xizhou before the revolution; was it faring well and how did the people feel during that time?

      In the decade before the Cultural Revolution, China was ruled by Mao and the GongChanDang. Everyone was in a way forced to support it and their ideals, and those who disagreed with the government inside simply could not express their opinions. [17] Mostly, it depended on your perspective. Most of the farmers were happy with the land reforms and practically worshipped the government for their land distributions and higher levels in society. [12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 27, 28] However, people like landlords and higher class citizens who were negatively affected by the reforms and Great Leap Forward really hated the government during that time. [13, 24, 26]

      3. What were some of the Wall Propaganda messages before the revolution and did they show opinions regarding events in China during this time? 

      Most of the the messages were not painted by the locals themselves; they do not even remember who painted them, but they showed support for the idea behind events during the time. [15, 16, 18, 20] For example, during the Land Reforms, the propaganda message translates to "Landlords are sinful, peasants deserve equal shares of the land". In the Great Leap Forward, the unique "Harvest Lady" represented support for the Great Leap Forward as well, by illustrating a woman with bountiful harvests and rich silk blankets. [18]

      4. What were the beliefs of the people in the Xizhou area during the revolution, regarding the propaganda on Mao and his supporters' government and ideals?

      Most Xizhou locals were farmers.[2,8,17] This means they all agreed to the propaganda, because they were the beneficiaries of the events - they received more land, earned higher salaries, and were treated much better during the Land Reforms as compared to before.[12,16,17] It was the same with the Cultural Revolution, because the peasants and low-class people basically switched places into higher-classes. The propaganda all mirrored what their beliefs then. The few people that had a different perspective were those that had relationships with landlords, because they were punished severely, with little to no reason whatsoever. These people included Ms. Zhang (antique dealer) whose grandpa was murdered just for taking two wives even when he had sacrificed his life for China, fighting hard in wars. [26]

      5. I read very much about how the wealthier people were affected by the revolution, and I know that a Socialism is supposed to even out all the social classes in a society. How were the peasants and other lower-class citizens of China treated; did they benefit from the revolution at all?

      The peasants did indeed benefit very much from the revolution. Of all the former farmers in Xizhou, every single one of them supported the Land Reforms, and Cultural Revolution strongly, because they were lifted to the highest levels in society. [12, 15, 16, 17, 20, 27, 28]

      6. According to what I read in Wild Swans: Three Generations of China by Jung Chang, citizens were basically completely oppressed from being able to express their opinions. Was it possible, in any way at all, to evaluate the opinions and sides citizens were on? If yes, what percentage of the Xizhou population was on Mao's side? Deng XiaoPing (鄧小平)'s side? Neutral?

      It is true that citizens were oppressed from expressing their opinions. If anyone spoke up against the government, they would be reported immediately and forced into torture or other sever punishments, sometimes killed.[1, 13, 17] From what I see, most of the people were farmers who were on the benefitting end, so they supported the events. However, there were maybe 1 or 2 out of every 10 people (for example Ms. Zhang) that were negatively affected and only supported Mao and his ideals on the outside.[13, 26] Another 1 or 2 out of 10 would be neutral and largely unaffected (for example Mr. Yin)[21, 22]

      ​7. How did the Wall Propaganda on the walls of Xizhou reflect upon the events during the revolution (especially since Mao oppressed people from expressing their opinions and probably would have had them tortured or killed if the messages were discovered)?

      The wall propaganda in Xizhou reflected positively on the events during the revolution, since nobody dared to write messages against the majority, because they would have been severely punished or killed. Thus, they all said things like "Long Live Chairman Mao, or Defeat LiuShaoQi (leader of GuoMinDang)"  or "We love the Great Leap Forward" or "Landlords are sinful, peasants deserve land!".

      8. How did the new Chinese form of government style change in the years after the revolution, compared to before?

      After the revolution, Deng Xiao Ping took over and established the People's Republic of China.

      9. How did the Wall Propaganda on the walls of Xizhou reflect upon the events after the revolution?

      Wall propaganda after the revolution turned towards other situations such as the One Child Policy or the current government. Throughout all the events in history, the propaganda on the walls in Xizhou always stuck to 3 categories: promotion of government/politic-related ideals, promotion of science and technology, or messages for the good of everyone that gave warnings such as how to prevent fires.[17]

      10. What were some lasting effects, specifically, that the Chinese Cultural Revolution inflicted upon the Chinese (or maybe foreigners) even after it ended, other than the destruction of knowledge and items?

      Many of the locals in Xizhou I have interviewed have been at least a bit uncomfortable when I have gone deep enough to ask about what they felt about the events during their time. The cultural revolution influenced former farmers on the outside in that they got land and higher salaries and better treatment [12, 15, 16, 17, 20, 27, 28], but influenced the economy horribly.[11, 22] But its biggest influence was probably inside, beneath the surface of the society. Even now, several generations later, those who were affected by the revolution are hesitant to discuss their experiences. In fact, the Chinese government is trying harder than ever to wipe the memories of the Cultural Revolution from the younger minds of China. Most young locals have no idea about events of the Cultural Revolution, and even if they did, it was learned in hushed voices behind locked doors.[1, 11, 13, 14] Also, just yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the launch of the revolution, and yet no word was spread. My conclusion is that this means the Chinese were somehow ashamed of the revolution and how it affected them.


      1. Book: Chang, Jung. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of ChinaHarper Perennial: 2004.
       Online: Introduction to the Cultural Revolution:
      3. Online: Cultural Revolution:
      4. Online: The People's Republic of China:
      5. Online: What Was China's Cultural Revolution?:
      7. Mai. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 2, 2016
      8. Zhang. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 2, 2016
      9. Zhao. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 3, 2016
      10. Zhang. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 3, 2016
      11. Tafel, Craig. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 3, 2016
      12. Dong. Informal chat conducted by Grace W., May 5, 2016.
      13. Matt (Linden Centre). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 6, 2016
      14. Xiu, A. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 6 and 7, 2016.
      15. Yang, A Po Ge. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 6, 2016.
      16. Xu An, Yang. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 7, 2016.
      17. Duan. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 7, 2016.
      18. Zhang (SFJ). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 9, 2016.
      19. Zhang (cheese factory). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 9, 2016.
      20. Yang (antique dealer). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 11, 2016.
      21. Yin (pavilion). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 11, 2016.
      22. Yang, Li. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 11, 2016.
      23. Li (RenLiYi). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 12, 2016.
      24. Yang (pavilion). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 14, 2016.
      25. Wang (pavilion). Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 14, 2016.
      26. Zhang. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 15, 2016.
      27. [anonymous sources]. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 16, 2016.
      28. Gao. Personal interview conducted by Grace W., May 16, 2016.

      With this, my information here should be enough for me to move on. I have finished my research on wall propaganda and the perspectives of people regarding the topics of the propaganda. I have 28 sources in total for this phase that have all contributed to my work. In the next step, I will set out the general plan to put together my final product. I will use the information I have gathered here to put together my final product by emerging and sharing ideas concluded from all the information, and organizing my notes into clearer ideas. To view that process, proceed to Phase 4.

      Hi, it's Grace W.! I was a part of the Phenomena group, the best and most wonderful group of all. I am from the Bay Area of California, where I was born and raised before moving to Shanghai in 6th grade. I enjoy activities relevant to creative art, swimming, outdoor adventures, and music -- I brought my violin on the trip. Microcampus has been such an amazing experience, and I what I miss the most about Microcampus and Xizhou are the freedom for exploration, the process of connecting with the friendly and open locals, and the experience of positive impact. I have definitely achieved all the four focuses (personal growth, intercultural understanding, experiential learning, and positive impact) in ways I could never imagine, from my unique experience at Microcampus.