Originally published in:
Chinese Literature 1968, n. 9, pp. 32-40
EDITORS' NOTE: The exhibition in Peking of the revolutionary oil painting Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan has been warmly acclaimed by the broad masses of workers, peasants and soldiers. They pay high tribute to this painting which reflects with the radiance of Mao Tse-tung's thought and hail this new victory of Chairman Mao's revolutionary line in literature and art.
Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan was designed collectively by a group of students of Peking universities and colleges and painted by Liu Chun-hua, son of a poor peasant and twenty-four-year-old student of the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts. We publish below an article by Liu Chun-hua and a discussion by revolutionary miners and cadres of the Pinghsiang Mining Administration who have been attending a national coal mining conference in Peking.
Singing the Praises of Our Great
Leader Is Our Greatest Happiness
The best song is The East Is Red; the greatest leader is Mao Tse-tung. What workers, peasants and soldiers and young Red Guards in their hundreds of millions keenly want is that brushes and paint should be used to delineate the noble image of our great leader Chairman Mao and paintings be used to disseminate the invincible thought of Mao
Tse-tung and sing the praises of Chairman Mao's revolutionary line. This is the most fundamental task and noble duty of us revolutionary art workers.
Chairman Mao teaches us, "In the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines." He also teaches us, "If you are a bourgeois writer or artist, you will eulogize not the proletariat but the bourgeoisie, and if you are a proletarian writer or artist, you will eulogize not the bourgeoisie but the proletariat and working people: it must be one or the other." For a long period of time our art circles, as in the case of all culture, was under the dictatorship of a sinister line opposed to the Party, socialism and Mao Tse-tung's thought. Backed by China's Khrushchov a handful of counter-revolutionary revisionists and reactionary bourgeois academic authorities headed by Tsai Jo-hung and Hua Chun-wu entrenched themselves in the stronghold of the arts and wantonly opposed Chairman Mao's revolutionary line on literature and art. Instead of painting for the workers, peasants and soldiers, they served the bourgeoisie; instead of serving proletarian politics they created public opinion for China's Khrushchov's moves for a restoration of capitalism in China. In the art institutes, they poisoned young people with feudal and bourgeois ideas of art and ranted about "There is no orthodox way in art; originality is the main thing" and talked about "Works of art will not be properly recognized until dozens of years have passed." They were interested in works that are big, foreign and ancient and advocated the various schools of formalism, openly producing sinister paintings which opposed the Party, socialism and Mao Tse-tung's thought. They also adopted rules and conventions which restricted the students of worker or peasant origin and in this way oppressed the new-born forces loyal to Chairman Mao's revolutionary line on literature and art. They would not let us really go among the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers and refused to let us create works singing the praise of Chairman Mao. Like a peal of spring thunder came the great proletarian cultural revolution initiated and led personally by Chairman Mao. We, Red Guards of Chairman Mao, broke through various obstacles and fought our way out. We rebelled against the capitalist roaders
within the Party and rebelled against the sinister counter-revolutionary revisionist line in literature and art.
During the unprecedented great proletarian cultural revolution, Chairman Mao received Red Guards on many occasions. Every time I saw Chairman Mao's stalwart frame appear, a smile on his kindly face and waving his hand to us, my heart would be stirred beyond control and I shouted at the top of my voice, "Long live Chairman Mao! A long, long life to him!" How I longed at such moments to depict with paint and brush the red sun in our hearts. In the past the handful of counter-revolutionary revisionists did nothing themselves to show the glorious image of our great leader, and what was more, they used all sorts of pretexts to prevent us from eulogizing Chairman Mao. Today, we can wield our paint-brushes to sing praises of the red sun in our hearts and no one can stop us. My comrades-in-arms and I rushed out of our institutes and went out into the streets to propagate Mao Tse-tung's thought and his proletarian revolutionary line. We painted many portraits of Chairman Mao and posters bearing his image on street hoardings and these were warmly welcomed by the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers as well as by young Red Guards. In order to follow closely Chairman Mao's great strategic plan, we often painted round the clock. Sometimes, too exhausted to go on, we just stretched out on the ground to snatch a bit of sleep before getting up again to continue painting. Most of our paintings were of course of Chairman Mao. Each time we finished a poster, passers-by would gather round for a look and shout, "Long live Chairman Mao!" This unqualified love and veneration of the broad masses for Chairman Mao educated me further. Chairman /Mao has taught us: "Our culture is a people's culture. Our cultural workers must serve the people with great enthusiasm and devotion, and they must link themselves with the masses, not divorce themselves from the masses." The masses' urgent desire to see Chairman Mao's image on canvas further aroused my creative urge. Their warm feelings for portraits of Chairman Mao have inspired us to take up our brushes to produce more and better ones.
Last July, a number of students from Peking universities and colleges helped prepare the exhibition, Mao Tse-tung's Thought Illuminates
the Anyuan Workers' Movement, sponsored jointly by the proletarian revolutionaries in Peking, Anyuan and other parts of Kiangsi. My assignment was to do an oil painting showing Chairman Mao on his way to the Anyuan coal mine in the autumn of 1921. I am a student of arts and crafts and had never been taught oil painting so there was a great deal of difficulty. I was both excited and a little frightened. However, the thought of our dear Chairman Mao and the longing of the masses to see his image, revived my courage. Loyalty to Chairman Mao gives one the determination and boldness to overcome difficulties. The world has entered a new epoch which has the thought of Mao Tse-tung as its great banner. Hundreds of millions of people want to eulogize the great leader; what difficulties are there that we cannot overcome? I am the son of a poor peasant. The fact that people like me can now go to institutes of higher education is a happiness brought us by Chairman Mao. I have been reared on the sweat and blood of the labouring people. I should follow Chairman Mao's teachings and be a faithful spokesman of the people, love what they love and paint what they want. I will devote myself heart and soul to serving the people.
We visited the Anyuan coal mine where Chairman Mao lit the flames of revolution. We were very excited. Before going there we studied Chairman Mao's works on the subject as well as historical material on the Anyuan workers' movement. At Anyuan we visited old workers and came to learn more concretely about the workers' struggle. Chairman Mao crossed mountains and rivers to visit Anyuan on many occasions between 1921 and 1930 to lead the heroic workers of Anyuan in waging revolutionary struggles. It was Chairman Mao who lit the spark of revolution in Anyuan, educated the workers in Marxism-Leninism and founded Party and Youth League organizations there. It was Chairman Mao who made the wise decision to launch a big strike in Anyuan and called on the workers to struggle resolutely. It was Chairman Mao who in Anyuan planned the Autumn Harvest Uprising which shook the world, and it was he who built the first workers' and peasants' army and led it to the Chingkang Mountains, thus opening up the road for encirclement of the cities from the countryside and for the seizure of political power by armed force. The great revolu-
tionary practice of Chairman Mao in Anyuan is an epic of unmatched heroism and grandeur. We look on it as an honour and a joy to be able to depict with our paint and brush an incident from it. Over a long period the Anyuan workers' struggle that Chairman Mao led was claimed by China's Khrushchov as his own contribution. In order to set up monuments to himself and to help realize his aim of usurping Party and state power, he made arrangements for the production of expensive paintings and films and fabricated reminiscences to portray him, a scab and clown, as "the hero who led the Anyuan workers in struggle." This crime of China's Khrushchov has aroused our intense hatred. We, the Red Guards of Chairman Mao, must set right the history that was distorted by China's Khrushchov!
Chairman Mao teaches us that our purpose is "to ensure that literature and art fit well into the whole revolutionary machine as a component part, that they operate as powerful weapons for uniting and educating the people and for attacking and destroying the enemy, and that they help the people fight the enemy with one heart and one mind." With the greatest love for Chairman Mao and burning hatred for China's Khrushchov we started our work. We felt that we were not just wielding our brushes but were fighting in defence of Chairman Mao and his revolutionary line and were exposing China's Khrushchov and dealing ruthless blows at him.
As the most essential thing in creating the painting was to present the warm image and great thought of our great leader Chairman Mao during his youth, everything in the picture should contribute towards expressing this. We had an extensive collection of articles and poems written by Chairman Mao in his youth, reminiscences of his revolutionary activities and historical data about Anyuan. We studied and discussed these materials. To put him in a focal position, we placed Chairman Mao in the forefront of the painting, advancing towards us like a rising sun bringing hope to the people. Every line of the Chairman's figure embodies the great thought of Mao Tse-tung and in portraying his journey we strove to give significance to every small detail. His head held high in the act of surveying the scene before him conveys his revolutionary spirit, dauntless before danger and violence and courageous in struggle and in "daring to win"; his clenched
left fist depicts his revolutionary will, scorning all sacrifice, his determination to surmount every difficulty to emancipate China and mankind and it shows his confidence in victory. The old umbrella under his right arm demonstrates his hard working style of travelling in all weather over great distances, across mountains and rivers, for the revolutionary cause. Striding firmly over rugged terrain, Chairman Mao is seen blazing the trail for us, breaking through obstacles in the way of our advance and leading us forward to victory. The hair grown long in a very busy life is blown up by the autumn wind. His long plain gown, fluttering in the wind, is a harbinger of the approaching revolutionary storm. The sun is rising, touching the Anyuan hills with red. With the arrival of our great leader, blue skies appear over Anyuan. The hills, sky, trees, and clouds are the means used artistically to evoke the grand image of the red sun in our hearts.
Riotous clouds are drifting swiftly past. They indicate that Chairman Mao is arriving in Anyuan at a critical point of sharp class struggle and show in contrast how tranquil, confident and firm Chairman Mao is at that moment. They also portend the new storm of class struggle that will soon begin.
In the process of creating this work we felt that the portrayal of Chairman Mao's facial expression was the most difficult and essential thing. The hazards of past revolutionary struggles have left us very few photographs of Chairman Mao in his youth so that we did not have much material for reference. In addition, the handful of capitalist roaders within the Party who were afraid that Chairman Mao's likeness would be imprinted deep in the hearts of the revolutionary masses had kept strict control over the available photographs. Under the rule of the sinister counter-revolutionary revisionist line in literature and art when the "authorities" and "experts" monopolized the field of art, some works showing Chairman Mao were crudely done and were distortions of his real image. All this combines to give the revolutionary masses a very hazy impression of Chairman Mao in his youth. Under these circumstances it was necessary to find a way to correctly delineate Chairman Mao's facial expression. The key to solving this problem was to grasp Mao Tse-tung's thought and use it as guide. After repeated study and many visits, we became convinced that we
should strive for an expression of the revolutionary far-sightedness and revolutionary heroism of Chairman Mao. We should show his great determination and his whole-hearted devotion to serving the emancipation of China and mankind and reflect his unswerving revolutionary spirit which fears neither danger nor obstacles.
We collected and studied the few available photographs taken of Chairman Mao in his youth and made repeated sketches and studies from them. In this way we did our best to recapture his physical appearance and spirit at that period. We also collected and studied photographs taken at later periods, including those taken during the great proletarian cultural revolution. We blended all we had seen and thought to evolve a representation of Chairman Mao in his youth. In our mind's eye we seemed to see the Anyuan miners in the twenties under the three-fold oppression of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism in an abyss of suffering and filled with wrath, longing for the early arrival of the great leader. We seemed to see them standing in groups looking eagerly eastwards and awaiting the sunrise. We seemed to see streaks of lightning and claps of thunder and a terrific hurricane sweeping the land. During those unusual "crowded months and years of endeavour" a red sun suddenly broke through the dark clouds over the Anyuan hills. We saw Chairman Mao walking toward Anyuan. We were very excited, and felt we must present all this through the medium of our painting.
We put aside all the photographs we had collected and I tried to paint Chairman Mao as we felt the scene. Again and again I painted it and solicited opinions from old workers and other comrades as I worked. I wanted to reflect the finest impressions that the revolutionary people have of Chairman Mao. Every time I took up paint and brush my heart was turbulent and stirred. I painted day and night often forgetting to eat. I wanted to impress our deep feelings for our great leader on canvas. With Chairman Mao's image in my mind I recited as I worked his magnificent lines of poetry:
All of us students together and all of us young,
Our bearing was proud, our bodies strong,
Our ideals true to a scholar's spirit;
Just and upright, fearless and frank,
We pointed the finger at our land,
We praised and condemned through our writings,
And those in high positions we counted no more than dust.
The more I painted the more vigorous I felt. We sang and shouted to our hearts' content wishing a long, long life to our great leader Chairman Mao.
Oil painting is a foreign art form which has long served the bourgeoisie. It was regarded as "high-brow art" and the workers, peasants and soldiers did not like or understand many paintings which had as their subjects landscape, still-life or rotten stuff of all kinds. If ballet could be used to serve the workers, peasants and soldiers, why then could not oil paintings also serve them? Chairman Mao teaches us: "Make the past serve the present and foreign things serve China." Comrade Chiang Ching encouraged us to dare to make innovations and not to be afraid of failure, to strive for the unity of revolutionary political content with the highest possible perfection in artistic form. I have never studied paintings in oils and only know the rudiments of this art form. To convey the grandeur of the theme and to do it in a way which would appeal to the masses we took advantage of the richness of oils and the attention to detail characteristic of traditional Chinese painting, to take the best features of both. In the course of our endeavours we met with the scorn of so-called "professionals" and "experts." "You haven't got the right colouring," they said, or "This is like calendar pictures, not art." Some shook their heads after one look and left without a word. But the revolutionary masses gave me their warm approval. Some comrades who did oils helped me to go on with the painting. Chairman Mao has taught us to create a "fresh, lively Chinese style and spirit which the common people of China love." We want to create such forms and styles. We want to take what the workers, peasants and soldiers like as our criterion and present things the way they like them instead of working according to the habits and conventions of bourgeois experts and authorities. Anyway, we are not restricted by old or foreign conventions since we never studied oil painting.
Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan is our first attempt, and some problems remain to be solved in the future. However we are fully confident that with the invincible thought of Mao Tse-tung we are able to storm any and all stubborn strongholds of art.
The eight revolutionary model theatrical works reflecting the thought of Mao Tse-tung which Comrade Chiang Ching herself carefully fostered, and the birth of the piano music The Red Lantern with Peking opera singing all give us great inspiration and education, encouraging us to create new forms of proletarian literature and art. Reproductions of the oil painting Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan have been seen by people throughout China. Credit for this must go to Chairman Mao's brilliant thought and his revolutionary practice which have educated and inspired us, to Comrade Chiang Ching who has shown great care and warm support and to the workers, peasants, soldiers and young Red Guards who have given us patient help. We are fully aware that this is only a beginning in our creative work and the painting still has certain shortcomings. We are still far behind the expectations of Chairman Mao, the Party and the people. We still need to fight indefatigably to fulfil the mission which the great proletarian cultural revolution has set before us. We are determined to hold high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung's thought, do our best in studying Chairman Mao's works and go among the workers, peasants and soldiers and into the storms of class struggle to remould ourselves thoroughly. We will learn from revolutionary drama and musical workers and, with Comrade Chiang Ching as our model, we are resolved to be red artists always loyal to our great leader Chairman Mao, to the invincible thought of Mao Tse-tung and to his proletarian revolutionary line and we are also resolved to serve the workers, peasants and soldiers and proletarian politics all our lives.