Website Review

Morning Sun

Morning Sun is a companion website for a documentary film of the same name about the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" in China (1964-1976). The film is only available through the Center for Asian American Media, either to rent or for purchase (it is cost prohibitive for individuals). The documentary film was created by the Long Bow Group, who also created "The Gate of Heavenly Peace," a film and website about the 1989 events in Tiananmen Square.

Unlike the companion site for "The Gate of Heavenly Peace," Morning Sun does not contain any segments from the film, which is a major drawback of this site. If the documentary film is unavailable (as it is to this reviewer), then the site should be able to stand alone, however this is not entirely the case. The site has a wealth of primary and secondary sources, as well as video and audio clips created by the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. The site does not express a narrative of the Cultural Revolution; rather it presents the resources created, and leaves analysis and interpretation up to the viewer.

The site, which relies heavily on the use of Java, Shockwave Flash, and Quicktime, is divided into five major sections, each with its own topic. Living Revolution includes very brief clips from radio and television shows, readings, and even lessons taught to school children. The English Lesson is particularly interesting, giving the students an opportunity to study English and learn about racial inequality in the United States at the same time. Direct translations of what is said in the clips is available, but there is no context to help viewers understand the placement of the scene within the larger film, or its overall plot or purpose.

Smash the Old World contains writings about the Red Guard and the destruction of the "Four Olds" ("Old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits"), including "reviews" of older revolutionary films written by Jiang Qing (Mao's wife). These reviews condemn the revolutionary attitudes and attempt to steer the reader toward a more acceptable form of behavior and attitude.

Reddest Red Sun and Stages of History are dedicated to the architects of the Cultural Revolution: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Jiang Qing, and Lin Biao. Reddest Red Sun tackles the cult of Mao, although again, with little in the way of explanation or analysis. There is a video showing how Mao was able to "cure" deaf-mute children (those who had been abandoned by the Nationalist Party as incurable), using ordinary People's Liberation Army soldiers, Chairman Mao's words, and acupuncture. A note at the bottom of the page of this section indicates that the section is incomplete (there are no discernable dates on the site; however the documentary itself was made in 2003).

Stages of History shows how the Communist Party used place, drama and other media to create official histories of the new, revolutionary China. There is a virtual tour of Tiananmen Square as well as photographic essays on Liu Shaoqi, Jiang Qing, and Lin Biao. Of great interest is the section on Mao's Little Red Book. This includes a pamphlet published by the Communist Party with questions such as "What to do when you hear reactionary statements" and "What to do when you encounter arduous and hard work," all of which can be answered by quotations from Chairman Mao.

The site would be of greatest use to teachers as a supplement to a unit on the Cultural Revolution. The site gives the teacher access to amazing video, audio, and readings showing the lengths to which the Communist Party went in order to keep up revolutionary fervor during this time period. However, students will find the content of the site bewildering if they are not given either a narrative or an analytical guide.

How to Cite This Source

"Morning Sun," in Children and Youth in History, Item #474, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/website-reviews/474 (accessed August 28, 2014).

The site has a wealth of primary and secondary sources, as well as video and audio clips created by the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution.