October 2016

“Pissed and lost for words!” – Doorway couplets from Shanghai (1966)

(click on the title to view the document)

In 2002, French scholar Hubert Delahaye published an interesting article in Études chinoises on sociological aspects of the duilian (对联), the so-called “doorway couplets” that have been a fixture of Chinese culture for well over two thousand years. The duilian, he argued, have “a special ability to create links between people and places because of their subtle and balanced form of poetic phrasing and their constant appeal to imaginative thought, cultural references and secret emotions.”

Delahaye’s article did not elaborate on the delicate aspects of how duilian may or may not have figured in Chinese politics since 1949. In a footnote, he indicated that the “political-social aspect goes beyond the scope of this small study.” What our Document of the Month for October 2016 seeks to do, on a very modest scale, is provide historians interested in duilian in the Cultural Revolution with a simple sample source able to serve as a point of departure for a study that, in this respect, might complement Delahaye’s. It is a mimeographed collection of duilian (my personal favorite is #21) that Red Guards from Tongji University presented to the Shanghai CCP leadership in the autumn of 1966. I can no longer recall for certain where or when I got it, but chances are it was part of a larger pile of texts that I acquired in “Bagdad-on-the Whangpoo” back in 1997.