The Four Olds or the Four Old Things (simplified Chinese :四旧; traditional Chinese :四舊; pinyin :sì jiù) was a term used during the Cultural Revolution by the Red Guards in the People's Republic of China in reference to the pre-communist elements of Chinese culture they attempted to destroy. The Four Olds were: Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. The campaign to destroy the Four Olds began in Beijing on August 19, 1966 (the "Red August"), shortly after the launch of the Cultural Revolution.
The term "Four Old" first appeared on June 1, 1966, in Chen Boda's People's Daily editorial, "Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons", where the Old Things were described as anti-proletarian, "fostered by the exploiting classes, [and to] have poisoned the minds of the people for thousands of years".However, which customs, cultures, habits, and ideas specifically constituted the "Four Olds" were never clearly defined.
On August 8, the Central Committee used the term at its 8th National Congress. The term was endorsed on August 18 by Lin Biao at a mass rally, and from there it spread to Red Flag magazine, as well as to Red Guard publications.
Calls to destroy the "Four Olds" usually did not appear in isolation, but were contrasted with the hope of building the "Four News" (new customs, new culture, new habits, new ideas).The idea that Chinese culture was responsible for China's economic backwardness and needed to be reformed had some precedent in the May Fourth Movement (1919), and was also encouraged by colonial authorities during the Japanese occupation of China.
The campaign to Destroy the Four Olds and Cultivate the Four News (Chinese:破四旧立四新; pinyin:Pò Sìjiù Lì Sìxīn) began in Beijing on August 19 during the "Red August". The first things to change were the names of streets and stores: "Blue Sky Clothes Store" to "Defending Mao Zedong Clothes Store", "Cai E Road" to "Red Guard Road", and so forth. Many people also changed their given names to revolutionary slogans, such as Zhihong (志红, "Determined Red") or Jige (继革, "Following the Revolution").
Other manifestations of the Red Guard campaign included giving speeches, posting big-character posters, and harassment of people, such as intellectuals,who defiantly demonstrated the Four Olds. In later stages of the campaign, examples of Chinese architecture were destroyed, classical literature and Chinese paintings were torn apart, and Chinese temples were desecrated.
The Cemetery of Confucius was attacked in November 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, when it was visited and vandalized by a team of Red Guards from Beijing Normal University, led by Tan Houlan.The corpse of the 76th-generation Duke Yansheng was removed from its grave and hung naked from a tree in front of the palace during the desecration of the cemetery in the Cultural Revolution.
Red Guards broke into the homes of the wealthy and destroyed paintings, books, and furniture; all were items that they viewed as part of the Four Olds. [ citation needed ] The Chinese government stopped short of endorsing the physical destruction of products. In fact, the government protected significant archaeological discoveries made during the Cultural Revolution, such as the Mawangdui and the Terracotta Army.Many families' long-kept genealogy books were burned to ashes.
Many artists and other cultural professionals were persecuted by vigilantes, although some cultural advances came about because of the period, including the integration of "new" western instruments and ballet into Peking opera. Traditional Chinese medicine also advanced despite the Four Olds campaign, most significantly by the derivation of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin from the qinghao plant.
Upon learning that Red Guards were approaching the Forbidden City, Premier Zhou Enlai ordered the gates shut and deployed the People's Liberation Army against the Red Guards. After this incident, Zhou attempted to create a more peaceful code of conduct for the Red Guards, with the support of cadres Tao Zhu, Li Fuchuan, and Chen Yi. This plan was foiled by the ultra-leftists Kang Sheng, Jiang Qing, and Zhang Chunqiao. Although many of Zhou's other initiatives to stem the destruction failed because of their or Mao's own opposition, he did succeed in preventing Beijing from being renamed "East Is Red City" and the Chinese guardian lions in front of Tian'anmen Square from being replaced with statues of Mao.
No official statistics have ever been produced by the Communist party in terms of reporting the actual cost of damage. By 1978, many stories of death and destruction caused by the Cultural Revolution had leaked out of China and became known worldwide.
Starting in the 1990s and continuing into the 21st century, there has been a massive rebuilding effort under way to restore and rebuild cultural sites that were destroyed or damaged during the Cultural Revolution. This has coincided with a resurgence in interest in, and demand for, Chinese cultural artifacts.
The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement in China from 1966 until 1976. Launched by Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC), its stated goal was to preserve Chinese Communism by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Mao Zedong Thought as the dominant ideology in the CPC. The Revolution marked Mao's return to the central position of power in China after a period of less radical leadership to recover from the failures of the Great Leap Forward, which led to approximately 30 million deaths in the Great Chinese Famine only five years earlier.
The Gang of Four was a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and were later charged with a series of treasonous crimes. The gang's leading figure was Jiang Qing. The other members were Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen.
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Zhu De was a Chinese general, warlord, politician, revolutionary and one of the pioneers of the Communist Party of China. Born poor in 1886 in Sichuan, he was adopted by a wealthy uncle at age nine; this prosperity provided him a superior early education that led to his admission into a military academy. After his time at the academy, he joined a rebel army and soon became a warlord. It was after this period that he adopted communism. He ascended through the ranks of the Chinese Red Army as it closed in on securing the nation. By the time China was under Mao's control, Zhu was a high-ranking official within the Communist Party of China. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In 1955 he became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the principal founder. Zhu remained a prominent political figure until his death in 1976. As the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1975 to 1976, Zhu was the head of state of the People's Republic of China.
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