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China and its Past: Return, Reinvention, Forgetting

Utopian Fiction and Critical Examination: The Cultural Revolution in Wang Xiaobo’s “The Golden Age”

Sebastian Veg


The first novella in Wang Xiaobo’s Trilogy of the Ages has in recent years become a genuine cult-work, in particular among Chinese students. The popularity of a text that links the sending-down of “educated youths” to the country with a golden age of sexual liberation in nature can certainly be explained in part by its scandalous aspects. However, it also conceals a sharply ironic discourse directed against the agrarian utopia of Maoism, which is associated with a regression to animal existence. From this perspective, Wang Xiaobo appears as an advocate of critical reflection, encouraging intellectuals to renounce political utopias and engage with society. His often polemical tone, when he refuses to regard past suffering as sacred, has in this way opened a precious space for discussion of the Cultural Revolution, a space that has so far proved elusive outside the area of fiction.

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Electronic reference

Sebastian Veg, “Utopian Fiction and Critical Examination: The Cultural Revolution in Wang Xiaobo’s “The Golden Age””China Perspectives [Online], 2007/4 | 2007, Online since 30 December 2010, connection on 02 April 2023. URL:; DOI:

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