Yale historian’s curiosity leads to insight into China’s Cultural Revolution

May 24, 2018

It was a long-standing curiosity about museums — one that was piqued during a fellowship as a Yale undergraduate — that sparked Denise Y. Ho’s desire to write her new book, “Curating Revolution: Politics on Display in Mao’s China.”

Ho, who is assistant professor of 20-century Chinese history, had a lifelong interest in museums, but it was during her time as a Light Fellow in China that she began to see how very different Chinese museums were in presentation, culture, and narrative from those in the United States.

While doing archival research for her Ph.D. dissertation, Ho encountered files about how Chinese cultural officials tried to protect objects of China’s antiquity in the middle of China’s Cultural Revolution. “That is what made me think: ‘What is the story behind this?’” says Ho.

When we think about China during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 — which was a time of great political campaigns, turmoil, and violence — we remember a movement called ‘the attack on the four olds,’” says Ho. “The four olds are: old thinking, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Red Guards — groups of young people encouraged by Chairman Mao to make revolution — took to the streets and smashed things as symbols of the old order of pre-1949 China.”

Read the full article at Yale News.