It’s Time to Talk About ‘Evening Talks at Yanshan’

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On the evening of 17 July 2018, China’s party-state media reported on a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing. Chaired by Li Zhanshu 栗戰書, a member of the ruling Politburo and formal head of the National People’s Congress, the meeting hailed Xi Jinping’s statement that ‘Every era has a narrative arc; people of every generation have a mission’ 一個時代有一個時代的主題,一代人有一代人的使命. The gathering then set to discuss the theme of the ‘Historical Mission, Historical Responsibility and Our Historical Duty’ 歷史使命、歷史責任和我們的歷史擔當.

In an atmosphere of wild speculation and political rumour-mongering related to Xi Jinping’s stature in the Communist Party since his rise to unalloyed prominence, independent observers, both in and outside China, noticed in particular a key element of meeting that otherwise would have passed without remark:

The meeting called for all Party members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to weaponise their thinking with Xi Jinping Thought, to redouble their efforts to internalise the ‘Four Awarenesses’ and the ‘Four Self-beliefs’. In this process they are to be self-motivated in remoulding themselves politically while strenuously abiding by the political discipline and political regulations governing the Party. They are to ensure the absolute authority of Party Central with Comrade Xi Jinping as its Core which Sets the Tone for All 一錘定音 and is the Ultimate Arbiter 定於一尊.


The four-character set expression ‘Ultimate Arbiter’ 定於一尊 attracted particular attention since, although it has been part of Party parole for some time, and it has been employed by Xi Jinping a number of times in various contexts, commentators found it significant that now, to all intents and purposes, it was being used to reaffirm Xi’s prestige (see, for example, Lee Yee 李怡, The Ultimate Arbiter 定於一尊, 蘋果日報, 20 July 2018; and China Digital Times, 18 July 2018).

Since the earliest times ‘Ultimate Arbiter’定於一尊 has been part of China’s political lexicon, for autocrats. As the Grand Historian Sima Qian 司馬遷 of the Han dynasty wrote in his Records of the Historian 史記:

The Emperor having unified All-Under-Heaven
He determines all as Ultimate Arbiter. —《史記 · 秦始皇本紀》

People also noted the continued media absence of Wang Huning 王滬甯, the Communist Party’s preeminent ideologue, the chief architect of Xi Jinping Thought as well as what could be termed Xi’s ‘cult sans personality’. Such speculative tides and eddies will henceforth wash over Chinese life and the global media. As we noted in Deathwatch for a Chairman, the dark arts of China Watching abetted by a new era of Ximiotic Sinology will now be relevant until the eventual retirement, ouster or biological demise (or, for that matter, elimination) of the Core Communist in Beijing.

To help readers interested in the tradition of what could be called commentary in confinement, as well as those who might appreciate China’s grand tradition of cultural and literary political conjecture, allegory and parable, we are introducing one of that country’s important twentieth-century essayists, Deng Tuo (鄧拓, 1912-1966).

The historian Timothy Cheek is an internationally acknowledged expert on Deng Tuo’s life, writings and abiding significance (see his Propaganda and Culture in Mao’s China: Deng Tuo and the Intelligentsia, Oxford University Press, 1997). With Tim’s help, we will introduce more of Deng’s essays in China Heritage. For the moment, in tandem with previously published work like Mendacious, Hyperbolic & Fatuous — an ill wind from People’s Daily, we take Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans) as our initial guide into the world of Deng Tuo, a loyal Party scholar-bureaucrat who fatefully learned the consequences of having said the right thing at the wrong time.


As a student in late-Maoist universities, my encounter with Deng Tuo’s Evening Talks occurred in absentia, that is to say: although Deng’s essays were a not-insignificant part our studies of ‘the history of the two-line struggle in literature and arts’ 文藝戰線兩條路線的鬥爭史, they had been banned since 1966, so we were not allowed to read them. Instead we had to be satisfied with quotations from these ‘poisonous weeds’ 毒草 that featured in the lengthy denunciations included in our textbooks. In effect, we studied literature in verso. When, in 1979, most of Deng’s essays were published in a single volume (based on a 1963 edition which was, as Tim Cheek observes, ‘curated’ so as to cover both additions and deletions) around the time of his formal ‘rehabilitation’, I devoured them eagerly. Combining as they did aspects of literature and history with cultural references, humour and coded political commentary, Deng’s Evening Talks were among the early inspirations for what, many years later, I would call New Sinology. (This and future material related to Deng Tuo will appear under New Sinology Jottings 後漢學劄記.)

Below Simon Leys notes one still-important aspect of Deng’s writing:

Deng Tuo reminded the intellectuals of their responsibilities and their mission. Their duty was to right wrongs, as the wandering knights [遊俠] used to do. They had to shout the truth aloud and “meet the tyranny of the wicked with indomitable resistance”, even at the risk of their lives; they had to remain attentive to the world around them, and politics had to remain their constant concern. Their studies and their teachings had to be opened to political commitment; in their writings, they had to learn every means possible of making the truth heard, directly or indirectly.

From the time of Deng Tuo’s suicide in May 1966, China’s thinking people have faced this challenge in many different ways. Establishment intellectuals once more must deal with a dilemma that scholar-bureaucrats have confronted throughout Chinese history. Over the forty years China’s post-Maoist economic and social evolution, many outspoken writers and activists have paid a heavy price for their devotion to the truth. Now, confronted with a globalised Chinese authoritarianism and the rise of strong-man politics elsewhere, Western academics and intellectuals may also wish to consider Deng Tuo’s undeniable challenge.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
20 July 2018


Deng Tuo’s collected Evening Talks at Yanshan. Beijing: Beijing Chubanshe, 1979, (re)published after the long-dead author was exonerated

Deng Tuo 鄧拓
Ma Nancun 馬南邨

Pierre Ryckmans


Deng Tuo belonged to the younger, more progressive-minded generation of Communist leaders: people who were as committed to revolutionary ideals as their older comrades, but who had benefited from a higher education and showed a broader, more urban-oriented and internationalist outlook. After 1949, their qualifications should have enabled them progressively to take over the Party. With their revolutionary credentials and their intellectual sophistication, they could have considerably eased China’s entry into the modern world. However, through the Cultural Revolution, Mao managed to wipe out early all of this small enlightened elite, thus inflicting upon the country a grievous harm whose ultimate consequences are still to be fully assessed.

The son of a successful Mandarin from Fujian Province, Deng Tuo taught school for a time before he began his Party activity in the Shanxi-Chaha’er-Hebei guerrilla zone, where he was editor of a newspaper, Resistance News. After 1949 his political and journalistic career rose swiftly. By 1952 he had become editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily. In 1959, however, he had to relinquish his influential position; it was a political setback on the national scene, but it did not prevent his ascent inside the Peking municipality, where, under the protection of [Peking mayor] Peng Zhen 彭真, he bacame one of the secretaries of the municipal Party committee. As a member of the Academy of Sciences (department of philosophy and social sciences) and regular contributor to various newspapers and journals (Beijing Daily, Beijing Evening News, Guangming Daily, Frontline, Historical Research), he remained very active in the fields of culture, education, and journalism. In the spring of 1966, his influential paper column brought disaster upon him and his close associates, Wu Han 吳晗 and Liao Mosha 廖沫沙 [they were collectively known as the ‘Three-Family Village’ 三家村]. Unable to bear the severe persecution, Deng killed himself in May of that year. Wu Han, an accomplished historian and for many years vice-mayor of Peking, also committed suicide. Thirteen years later, both Deng and Wu were publicly exonerated.

The ‘Three-Family Village’ essayists: Deng Tuo, Wu Han and Liao Mosha

The disastrous column Deng wrote [using the nom de plume Ma Nancun 馬南邨] under the title “Evening Talks at Yanshan” was published in the Beijing Evening News in 1961-1962. It became tremendously popular among intellectuals. Foreign observers were puzzled: why should these modest little articles dealign with various historical literary anecdotes arouse such enthusiastic interest? The answer was provided in 1966, with the first stage of the Cultural Revolution. Violent attacks were launched against Deng Tuo as part of a broader offensive aimed at Peng Zhen and the Peking clique, which led to the downfall of Liu Shaoqi [the early champion of Mao Zedong Thought, formerly Mao’s successor and President of the People’s Republic] and most of the Central Party leadership. The attacks included a detailed exegesis of Deng’s writings, identifying the hidden meaning of each of his articles. Actually they had constituted so many parables, transparent to the initiates, which daringly criticized the person, style, and policies of Mao Zedong.

When reading Deng Tuo, Westerners may feel that his short essays hardly reach beyond the level of commonplace and commonsense observations. However, in a totalitarian system, banality can become the last refuge of sanity and decency; to make commonsense observations requires the greatest courage, since it challenges directly the ideological dogma. Deng Tuo did it with unparalleled daring, wit, and elegance. In affirming that intellectuals owe their first unconditional allegiance not to the Party but to truth, in asserting the primacy of rationality and informed criticism over raw political power, he committed the ultimate sin, the unforgivable crime … he questioned the absolute authority of the Party.

The following article, first published in Beijing Evening News on August 24, 1961, and later collected in the five-volume Evening Talks at Yanshan, bore the brunt of the attack in 1966. Without specifically saying that Deng had identified Wang Anshi 王安石, the Song Dynasty prime minister in the article, with Mao Zedong, the Party-directed critics condemned Deng for inciting people to oppose the Party’s General Line and the Great Leap Forward. [See the denunciation below.]

— Pierre Ryckmans in Kai-yu Hsu, et al, eds,
Literature of the People’s Republic of China,
Bloomington; Indiana University Press,
1980, pp.762-763

Romanisation converted to Hanyu pinyin and
Chinese characters added. — Ed.


Deng Tuo, ‘Farewell to Comrades at People’s Daily‘, a poem dated 12 February 1959

The poem reads:


Deng Tuo
Evening Talks at Yanshan

Simon Leys


It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that to future historians who approach this period of bureaucratic tyranny, people such as Wu Han and above all Deng Tuo will appear as those who, throughout these shameful years, really saved the honour and dignity of the Chinese intellectuals. The price which they eventually had to pay was heavy. They knew this in advance, but they did not shirk their mission. Deng Tuo took as his moral pattern the scholars of Donglin 東林黨 (a group of intellectuals at the close of the Ming period, who risked the worst kinds of torture by making political criticisms of a corrupt imperial regime), and foresaw his own destiny in the following lines:

Do not believe that men who wield the pen only know how to chatter emptily 莫謂書生空議論,
When they are under the executioner’s axe, they know how to show their red blood! 頭顱擲處血斑斑。

… Resorting to historical parables in order to criticise the present is a Chinese tradition which is as old as historiography itself (even the “Chronicle of Springs and Autumns”, which is attributed to Confucius, was read by the old commentators as a kind of coded message, with each word concealing scathing judgements on political morality); through centuries of autocracy and imperial censorship, Chinese scholars have had little more than this with which to challenge orthodoxy and make unconventional opinions heard.

This form of parable, which is the traditional weapon of Chinese polemics, was used with a superior dexterity and verve in the political writings of Deng Tuo. From the beginning of 1961 until September 1962, Deng Tuo published a series of short articles in various Peking newspapers (Beijing Daily, Beijing Evening News, Guangming Daily and the periodical Frontline). Under the guise of moral fables and historical anecdotes (sometimes serious, sometimes humorous), literary and artistic commentaries and various other pieces, they present a devastating critique of Maoism. These articles deal with a wide range of issues, but certain broad themes can be distinguished.

  1. A plea for the rehabilitation of Peng Dehuai 彭德懷 [the Minister of Defense ousted in 1959 by Mao and denounced in a campaign led by Liu Shaoqi for his frank appraisal of the devastation of Communist Party’s Great Leap Forward policies], under the guise of sketches of various historical figures who had incurred the displeasure of the sovereign by attempting to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
  2. Attacks against the person and style of Mao: his taste for hollow slogans, his tendency to substitute words for reality, his thirst for personal glory, his vanity, his intolerance of criticism, his lack of realism, his inability to listen to the advice of competent people, his blind obstinacy. It is false that Mao is a “great man”. He is a “whining Zhuge Liang”, an amnesiac who forgets his own promises and goes back on his word; he should, as a matter of urgency, “keep quiet and take a rest”, or he will find that his psychologically unbalanced nature has turned to “wild insanity”.
  3. A criticism of the Maoist political line. Mao, with his subjective and arbitrary political line, resembles the emperors of former times surrounded by their little circle of corrupt eunuchs; his policies are worked out without any consideration for suggestions from the base, and he ignores and despises the opinion of the masses. Lacking specialised knowledge and practical experience, Mao pursues unrealistic chimeras; he substitutes trickery for real intelligence, and practices despotism which is based on violence and coercion, in defiance of the principles of social and political morality.
  4. A criticism of the “Great Leap Forward”. This was carried through without any consideration for the natural limits of human strength, and imposed too heavy a burden on the peasants. Mao’s dream of a fantastic multiplication of a modest initial capital merely led to the evaporation of this capital; illusion was substituted for reality as the point of departure, and an unrealistic “moral factor” was substituted for objective material conditions, so that the whole enterprise came up against a wall of realities.
  5. On the positive side, Deng Tuo reminded the intellectuals of their responsibilities and their mission. Their duty was to right wrongs, as the wandering knights [遊俠] used to do. They had to shout the truth aloud and “meet the tyranny of the wicked with indomitable resistance”, even at the risk of their lives; they had to remain attentive to the world around them, and politics had to remain their constant concern. Their studies and their teachings had to be opened to political commitment; in their writings, they had to learn every means possible of making the truth heard, directly or indirectly.

Simon Leys, The Chairman’s New Clothes (1972),
trans. Carol Appleyard and Patrick Goode
London: Allison & Busby, 1977, pp.33-35

Romanisation converted to Hanyu pinyin and
Chinese characters added. — Ed.

Study More, Criticize Less

Deng Tuo 鄧拓

Beijing Evening News, 24 August 1961
《北京晚報》, 一九六一年八月二十四日

Translated by Pierre Ryckmans


Study more and criticize less. This is a correct attitude toward learning, worthy of promotion. We must be humble about anything if we lack specific knowledge about it or about its circumstances. We must apply ourselves seriously to studying it and we must never thoughtlessly criticize it, which would often lead to mistakes, exposing ourselves to ridicule, or even causing irreparable damages. It is a lesson handed down to us by generations of scholars in the past through their experiences of learning and working. Whoever chooses to ignore the lesson is doomed to defeat. 多學少評,這是值得提倡的正確的求知態度。我們對於任何事物,如果不瞭解它們的情況,缺乏具體知識,首先要抱虛心的態度,認真學習,切不可冒冒失失,評長論短,以致發生錯誤,鬧出笑話,或者造成損失。這也是我國歷代學者留給我們的一條重要的治學和辦事的經驗。誰要是無視這條寶貴的經驗,就一定會吃大虧。

In general, to sit down and actually write a whole book, or to lay hands on personally on a certain matter, is rather difficult, but it is always easy to an uninvolved spectator and to criticize. Those writers in the past often devoted their whole lives to the completion of their books without feeling that they had done everything possible in their work. Along came the fault-finders, just enough to douse the writers with cold water and make them shudder in despair. Liu Yuanqing of the Ming Dynasty cited an example in his book The Saintly Company to illustrate the problem. He said:  一般說來,實際動手寫一部書、做一件事等等,是相當不易的;而袖手旁觀,評長論短,總是不大費勁的。比如,古人寫一部書吧,往往盡一生的精力,還 不能完全滿意。卻有一班喜歡挑剔的人,動輒加以譏評,使作者十分寒心。明代劉元卿的《賢奕編》中曾經舉過一個例子,最足以說明這個問題了。據說:

Liu Zhuangyu often picked bones [found fault] in Ouyang Xiu’s [1007-1072] History of the Five Dynasties and showed them to Su Dongpo [1036-1101]. Su said to him, ‘When Ouyang completed his Five Dynasties history, Prime Minister Wang Anshi [1021-1082] asked me why I did not take up the history of the Three Kingdoms, something Ouyang should have done but did not. I bowed and declined the weighty assignment. After all, writing a book of history involves collecting data that cover tens or even hundred of years; it is impossible not to miss a minor point here and there. I dared not to accept the assignment precisely because I dreaded the gleaners like you who would follow my footsteps to pick and criticize. 劉壯輿常摘歐陽公五代史之訛誤,為糾繆,以示東坡。東坡曰:往歲歐陽公著此書初成,王荊公謂余曰:歐陽公修五代史,而不修三國志,非也;子盍為之!余固辭不敢當。夫為史者,網羅數十百年之事,以成一書,其間豈能無小得失?余所以不敢當荊公之托者,正畏如公之徒掇拾其耳後。

Chen Jiru [1558-1639], also of the Ming Dynasty, quoted the same anecdote in his A Mirror for Studying, with the comment, 這個故事在明代陳繼儒的《讀書鏡》中,有同樣的記載。陳繼儒並且感慨很深地說:

My teachers told me not to make irresponsible criticism against those ahead of us unless we have read all the books in the world. I rather think that if I could finish reading all the books in the world, I would know better not to criticize those ahead of us casually. 余聞之師云:未讀盡天下書,不敢輕議古人。然余謂:真能讀盡天下書,益知古人不可輕議。

Actually none of us can deny that Ouyang Xiu’s New History of the Five Dynasties, only about half as long as Xue Juzheng’s [912-981] old History of the Five Dynasties, offers many insights. Just the same, there have been fault-finders throughout the ages whose picking would not have convinced Ouyang Xiu at all. Could it be that there are so many people who are born with an addiction to criticizing others but are not necessarily equipped with either the knowledge or the ability men to focus on the real issue? 事實上,歐陽修的《新五代史》比薛居正的《舊五代史》,篇幅少了一半還不止,而內容卻有許多獨到之處。這是不可抹殺的。然而,歷來挑剔是非的人多得很,而且有許多不能使被挑剔者心服,這是為什麼呢?這難道不是因為有許多人學問不深而性好挑剔,評長論短而不中肯要的緣故嗎?

Many people feel sure about themselves, confident about their knowledge, and look down upon those whom they criticize, forgetting that they themselves are never infallible and their targets may be making progress every day. The result is that the critics blunder all too often. Lu You [1125-1210], the poet-statesman of the Song Dynasty, mentioned in his book Notes Taken in the Studio Where I Study Even When Old the instances when Wang Anshi slipped in his criticism against others because of his own carelessness: 儘管有的人自以為知己知彼,很有把握,對於自己的學問覺得滿不錯,對於被批評的人從來看不在眼裡。但是,他可能還沒有想以,自己畢竟不是無所不知的,而對方也不會是老不進步的。因此,他在批評中稍一冒失就發生了錯誤。比如,宋代陸游的《老學庵筆記》中,提到王安石對人的批評,常常因為輕視對方,出語冒失,就是明顯的例子。陸游寫道:

Jinggong [Wang Anshi’s honorific name] had always slighted Shen Wentong, thinking that Shen had not read enough. He sent Shen a poem, ‘You relax pillowing your head on a pile of books / Until sundown when you go home on horseback / …’ And then when Wang wrote Shen’s epitaph, he said, ‘Though he seldom read any book…’ Someone saw it and remarked that perhaps Wang ought to think about that line, after all “Shen had won the number one position in the ultimate imperial examination. Whereupon Wang changed the phrase ‘read any book’ to ‘kept any book in sight’. Once Wang Anshi read Zheng Yifu’s poem on dreaming of an immortal, ‘… He gave me a book written on green jade/ In unusual archaic script red and serpentine/ I looked at it but could not understand a thing/ But he had turned and soared up to the purple clouds.’ Wang guffawed and said, ‘This man admits his illiteracy without anybody questioning him about it.’ Yifu said, ‘No! I’m only using Li Bo’s [701-762] line.’  荊公素輕沈文通,以為寡學,故贈之詩曰:翛然一榻枕書臥,直到日斜騎馬歸。及作文通墓誌,遂云:公雖不嘗讀書。或規之曰:渠乃狀元,此語得無過乎?乃改讀書作視書。又嘗見鄭毅夫夢仙詩曰:授我碧簡書,奇篆蟠丹砂;讀之不可識,翻身凌紫霞。大笑曰:此人不識字,不勘自承。毅夫曰:不然!吾乃用太白詩語也。

Wang Anshi himself failed to recognize Li Bo’s poetry, and yet he turned to ridicule others, only succeeding in exposing himself to ridicule. 可見王安石自己並不熟識李太白的詩句,輕率地批評別人,就不免鬧笑話。他看不起別人,竟至隨便給別人亂作蓋棺定論,真真豈有此理!

As a creative statesman of the Song Dynasty, Wang Anshi had many innovative ideas but not enough practical experience or knowledge. Zhang Lei of the Song Dynasty wrote in his Miscellaneous Comments on Attainment of Wisdom: 王安石是宋代革新派的大政治家。他有許多革新的思想,但是缺少實際知識和辦事的經驗。宋代張耒的《明道雜誌》說:

Prime Minister Wang Anshi like to talk about irrigation systems for the country. At that moment he was thinking of draining Lake Tai [in Zhejiang Province] to create thousands of acres of fertile land, which provoked much chuckling among others. Wang spoke of it one day with his visitors. One of them, scholar Liu Gongfu, said, ‘That’s easy.’ ‘How,’ asked Wang. Liu said, ‘Just open up another Lake Tai to drain the water into, that’s all you need.’ Everyone laughed. 王荊公為相,大講天下水利。時至有願乾太湖,云可得良田數萬頃。人皆笑之。荊公因與客話及之,時劉貢父學士在坐,遽對曰:此易為也。荊公曰:何也?貢父曰:但旁別開一太湖納水則成矣。公大笑。

Anecdotes like this about Wang Anshi’s blunders are legion. All of them point up one fact: Wang was impractical and arrogant — his two failing traits. 在王安石當政時期,類似這樣的笑話還有不少。這些無非證明,王安石有許多想法是不切實際的。特別是他很不虛心,這一點可以說是他的大毛病。

The Song dynasty statesman’s draconian reforms remain controversial. Despite the devastation of rural life during his rule, Wang found favour with Mao Zedong. Wang Anshi’s Reforms, comic book cover, n.d.

We need to derive from past experiences the principle that we must maintain a humble attitude to learn more and criticize less about anything and everything. How much more and how much less is, of course, a relative matter. To us, we should be ready all the time to study more about Marxism-Leninism and humbly learn from the masses through actual practice. Here I am not talking about the resolute struggle against any and all erroneous and reactionary things; that is a separate question. 我們從古人的經驗中,必須懂得一個道理,這就是:對一切事物,要多學習,少批評,保持虛心的態度。當然,這裡所謂多和少,只是從相對意義上說,不應該把它絕對化起來。但是,對於我們說來,任何時候都應該更多地學習馬列主義理論,並且虛心地向群眾學習,在實踐中學習。至於對錯誤的以反動的東西必須進行堅決的鬥爭,那已經超出我們所說的問題的範圍,又當別論了。

Let us all honestly own our ignorance when confronted with what we do not know and openly admit our error when one has been committed. Chen Jiru, who also wrote, What I Have Heard and Seen, said, 但是,我們如果遇到不懂的事情,總要老老實實承認自己無知;發現自己有錯誤,就不要怕公開承認自己的錯誤。明代陳繼儒的《見聞錄》說過一個故事:

Xu Wenzhen was in Zhejiang examining candidates. One of them had a line in his composition, ‘… Yan Hui [Confucius’ best student] was troubled by Confucius’ lofty wisdom …’ Commissioner Xu wrote a comment on it, ‘Where did you invent this one?’ Upon reading the comment, the candidate approached the commissioner and said, ‘The line, sir, came from the book Fayan by Yang Xiong [53BC-18AD].’ The commissioner immediately responded from his rostrum, saying, ‘Too bad this commissioner passed his exams too early, thus having lost the chance to do some hard studying.’ He then stood up and saluted the young candidate, adding, ‘Thank you for your enlightenment!’ Everybody there was greatly impressed by the commissioner’s attitude. 徐文貞督學浙中,有秀才結題內用顏苦孔之卓語,徐公批云:杜撰。後散卷時,秀才前對曰:此句出《揚子法言》言上。公即於堂上應聲云:本道不幸科第早,未曾讀得書。遂揖秀才云:承教了。眾情大服。

It is true that at the end of the very first chapters of Fayan there is such a line. The prestigious commissioner that day admitted his error on the spot, which act did not cause him to lose face but, on the contrary, earned him much admiration. Isn’t that a great example for posterity to observe? 果然,打開《揚子法言》的第一篇,即《學行篇》,讀到末了,就有「顏苦孔之卓也」的一句。這位督學當場認錯,並沒有丟了自己的面子,反而使眾情大服,這不是後人很好的榜樣嗎?

Translated by Pierre Ryckmans in Kai-yu Hsu, et al, eds,
Literature of the People’s Republic of China, pp.763-765

Romanisation converted to Hanyu pinyin and
the Chinese original has been added — Ed.

The Reactionary Nature of
Evening Chats at Yenshan

Yao Wenyuan


Yao Wenyuan during the Cultural Revolution

They persisted in a reactionary bourgeois line in academic work, preparing the intellectual ground for the restoration of capitalism. They raised the slogan of “learn more and criticize less,” saying: “The attitude to take toward everything is to learn more and criticize less.” They pilloried those holding the revolutionary banner high as “fault-finders,” who “love to resort to censure at the slightest opportunity” and who “are bound to come to grief.” What does the slogan “learn more and criticize less” mean? It means that while they should be allowed to malign Mao Tse-tung’s thought, extol landlord and bourgeois culture, and strive for the restoration of capitalism by their “academic work,” we should not be allowed to criticize the culture of the bourgeoisie and landlord class, and the revolutionary people are to be deprived of the right to criticize them. All this amounts to saying that the culture of the exploiting classes has to be accepted in its entirety and regarded as sacrosanct imperial edicts. The core of their reactionary academic line is attack on the proletariat, support for the bourgeoisie, the strengthening of the control exercised by their gang over academic departments, and encouragement for the unrestrained growth of all poisonous weeds, including the highly poisonous ones of Three-Family Village. 他們堅持資產階級反動的學術路線,為資本主義復辟準備精神條件。他們提出一個「多學少評」的口號:「對一切事物,要多學習,少批評」,惡毒地諷刺高舉革命旗幟的人是「喜歡挑剔」,「動輒加以譏評」「一定會吃大虧」。什麼叫「多學少評」?就是只許他們咒罵毛澤東思想和吹捧地主資產階級文化,只許他們用「學術」去為復辟資本主義服務,不許我們對資產階級地主階級文化進行批判,取消一切革命的人們批評他們的權利;這就是說,對剝削階級文化要全盤接受,奉為聖旨,不能動一根毫毛。打擊無產階級,支持資產階級,鞏固黑店對學術部門的控制權,支持一切毒草包括「三家村」中的大毒草不受任何阻礙地大批出籠,這就是他們反動學術路線的核心。

— from Yao Wenyuan, On ‘Three-Family Village’ — The Reactionary Nature of Evening Chats at Yenshan and Notes from Three-Family Village, May 1966, Shanghai Liberation Daily and Wen-hui Pao, 10 May 1966; reprinted in The Great Socialist Cultural Revolution in China, Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1966. Original: 姚文元, 评“三家村” ——《燕山夜话》《三家村札记》的反动本质, 原载《解放日报》和《文汇报》, 一九六六年五月十日; 转载于《红旗》1966年7期。