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Voice of Protest: Political Poetry in the Post-Mao Era

Cambridge University Press
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1017/s0305741000024395
  • Poetry
  • People'S Republic Of China
  • Zhengzhi Shuqing Shi
  • Political Lyric Poetry
  • Chinese Cultural Revolution
  • Post-Mao Era
  • Literature
  • Political Science


Poetry in the People's Republic of China during the past 30 years has been dominated by works intensely political in nature – a kind of poetry known by the name zhengzhi shuqing shi (political lyric). The function of this poetry was to eulogize current political movements and to generate public support for them. This phenomenon reached its height during the xin minge yundong (New Folksong Movement) of 1958 when millions of peasants were mobilized to write poetry to praise the Great Leap Forward and the people's commune. Even when the Great Leap backfired and a widespread famine ensued, poetry was still boasting of “commune members piling rice all the way to the sky.” The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–76) proved a greater disaster than the Great Leap Forward, hence, the greater need for poetry to supply optimism. It was also a time of personality cult and xiandai mixin (modern superstition); poetry was therefore obliged to provide eulogies. To meet these demands, large quantities of what poet Gong Liu called “huanhu shi” (hail-to-the-chief poems) flooded the market. Many of them were considered to be little more than “rhymed lies.”

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