Zurück zur Übersicht Kalenderwoche 6: Montag, 06.02.2023 bis Sonntag, 12.02.2023


13.00 Uhr

The Chairman's Voice – Manuscript, Orality, and Lyric Authority in the Cultural Revolution

The Chairman's Voice - Manuscript, Orality, and Lyric Authority in the Cultural Revolution

Lunch Talk

Prof. Dr. Zhiyi Yang, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Sinologie

In 1966, around the time when the storm of the Cultural Revolution was gathering, a collection of “Unpublished Poems of Chairman Mao” was circulating broadly in various forms as manuscripts and later unofficial publications among the Chinese population. A young scientist soon claimed himself to be the real author of most of the poems (19 out of 20-some) and was consequently prosecuted for “counterfeiting Chairman Mao’s poetry.” Nonetheless, these “fake Mao” poems were put on official posters, cited in People’s Daily editorials and CCTV news, inspired the naming of Red Guard factions, and memorized by millions just as the “authentic” ones. And this case is not unique: throughout the Cultural Revolution, multiple Maoesque poems, sometimes written by prosecuted intellectuals, were circulating as Mao’s poetry, though they gained much less traction.

This curious phenomenon begs the question: who spoke in the lyric voice of “Chairman Mao”? Does the classical Chinese exegetical principle shi yan zhi (“poetry bespeaks the mind”), which often dominates the critical literature of Mao’s poetry, is still effective in this case? Why classicist poetry (shi and ci par excellence), a genre marginalized in modern Chinese literary institutions, became the chosen voice of “Chairman Mao” in conveying revolutionary authority? And what did the people hear? In this talk, Prof. Yang argues that the lyric voice of “Chairman Mao” was collectively created and collectively appropriated, for multifaceted purposes; that by combining sounds, words, and imageries, classicist poetry was the chosen media for the mass to connect themselves to the “Chairman”; and that, by rhyming in and resonating with this voice, the Chinese revolution was finally embodied.


Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS)

CATS 010.01.05 (Auditorium)

Voßstraße 2

69115 Heidelberg


Institut für Sinologie

Homepage Veranstalter



Institut für Sinologie