China Research Workshop 中国研究讲座 RSVP
Monday, June 4, 2018 | 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. | GPS 3106 (Refreshments will be served; no lunch)

"Cultural Sensibility and Habitual Following: State Censorship and its influence during the Cultural Revolution"

Presenter: Peidong Sun, Associate Professor of History at Fudan University; current national fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

This paper studies the dynamic relationship between censorship and readership in the cultural governance of China. Using previously untapped CCP documents, private archival collections, oral history, personal and work journals, I examine the motivations, mechanisms, impact, and evolution of state censorship on personal readings during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Specifically, I explore how books that were labeled “fragrant flowers” (香花) and “poisonous weeds” (毒草) evinced the state’s “cultural sensibility” and its interactions with official censorship. On the one hand, through “singing red and striking black” (唱红打黑), the system of cultural governance was both normative and punitive: official censorship and self-censorship induced “political side-taking” (政治站队) and “habitual following” (习惯性紧跟) within the society, which in turn normalized political power and transformed censorship into a cultural norm. On the other hand, a thriving literary underground, as seen in the hoarding of forbidden titles and their partial unbanning since 1970, suggests the limitations of censorship and shows how networks of information percolated through official politics and entered everyday life through reading and writing.


CRW provides a forum for the presentation of original research by China scholars from around the country in social science and humanities, sponsored by the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China. To view archive and upcoming workshops list, visit:

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