Posts Tagged ‘glossary’

Let the schools do their job

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Each Leaf a Bodhi Tree: My Fifteen Years at Dunhuang (一叶一菩提——我在敦煌十五年, 2010) by Xiao Mo (萧默) is a memoir about the author’s career studying the Buddhist caves at Dunhuang, a fifteen-year period that began in 1963 and lasted until after the Cultural Revolution. I haven’t read it yet (it just arrived this afternoon), but a note at the very end caught my attention:

作者赘言

本稿完成后,有朋友说,你说的这些个“文革”中的事儿,好多年轻人早就不知道了,什么“造反有理”、“横扫一切”、“破四旧”、“无限崇拜”、“三忠于”、“早启示,晚汇报”……等等,现在的年轻人听了都哈哈大笑,以为是笑话,不会懂得,不如加上几条名词解释作为附录。我觉得有理,本来已开始做起来,转而一想,这件事本不该由我来做的,绝对应该是中学历史课本和大学政治课的主要内容之一,我来做,岂非越俎代庖?再说,作者还是对此等事保持点距离为好,要是年轻朋友真想知道,而今互联网发达,一查就能查到;要是不想知道,这整本书他都不会读的,便打消了这个念头。

Superfluous Words From the Author

After completing this manuscript, a friend said, this Cultural Revolution stuff you’re talking about — lots of young people don’t know a thing about it. Things like “to rebel is justified”, “sweep away all [monsters and demons]”, “smash the four olds”, “unlimited worship”, “three loyals”, “morning instruction, evening report”….young people break out laughing when they hear them now, as if they’re a joke. They won’t understand. Why not add an explanation of some of the terms as an appendix? I thought this made sense, and I had already started on it when the thought struck me that it really shouldn’t be my job to do this. It should absolutely be a major part of middle school history textbooks and university politics curriculum, so if I did it, wouldn’t I be meddling in someone else’s affairs? Besides, it’s best for an author to keep some distance from these things. If my young friends want to know, the Internet is quite advanced and they’ll find it if they look for it. If they don’t want to know, then they won’t read this book in the first place. So I gave up the idea.

I’m looking forward to reading it, partly for the history, and partly because Xiao is an interesting, opinionated writer. According to one review, he takes some shots at Gao Er Tai, another Dunhuang researcher with a memoir of those turbulent decades, In Search of My Homeland (寻找家园, 2004).


The book A Glossary of Political Terms of the People’s Republic of China by Li Gucheng (Google Books link), which I used for some of the terms Xiao lists, looks like an exceptionally helpful reference for translating texts from the Cultural Revolution era.