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China and its Past: Return, Reinvention, Forgetting

The Threatened History and Collective Memory of the Cultural Revolution’s Lost Generation

Michel Bonnin


Since the Communist Party of China published its brief official version of the Cultural Revolution in 1981, few works on the history of that period have been approved for publication, even if they have kept strictly to the orthodox line. Still, some research work and eye-witness accounts by Chinese people outside the official apparatus have appeared, mostly in Hong Kong and Taiwan but also on the mainland. In spite of official attempts to bury the memory of that time, and against the grain of unreliable nostalgic recollections of some of their contemporaries, some former Red Guards and educated youth have managed, against all the odds, to put together an authentic and critically aware "people's" memory. These scattered islands of memory of China’s “lost generation” are under constant threat of submersion, but they are worth our attention, not only because they are essential for the future of China but also because the Cultural Revolution was an event of global significance.

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Electronic reference

Michel Bonnin, « The Threatened History and Collective Memory of the Cultural Revolution’s Lost Generation », China Perspectives [Online], 2007/4 | 2007, Online since 30 December 2010, connection on 11 December 2017. URL :

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Michel Bonnin

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