Propagandizing Songs: A Historical Analysis of How Chairman Mao Reconstructed Music Before and During the Cultural Revolution

Tyler Prescott Parham


Abstract: Chairman Mao Zedong utilized Chinese music as propaganda to mobilize the Chinese people to carry out his revolutionary agenda for a new China. From the Yan’an Rectification Movement (1942-1944) to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Chairman Mao consistently pushed for a new China based on his personal interpretation of Marxism. By applying a historical approach, one can see how Mao’s reign over the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) before and during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution changed Chinese music, and how Chinese music was affected by the changing of leadership over the course of Mao’s career.


China; Mao Zedong; Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution; Great Leap Forward


Works Cited

Barnouin, Barbara, and Yu Changgen. Zhou Enlai: A Political Life. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2006.

Blake, Fred. "Love Songs and the Great Leap: The Role of a Youth Culture in the Revolutionary Phase of China's Economic Development." American Ethnologist 6, no. 1 (February 1979). 41 – 55.

Brady, Anne-Marie. "Red and Expert: China's "Foreign Friends" in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1966-1969." In China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: Master Narratives and Post-Mao Counternarratives, edited by Woei Lien Chong, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, INC., 2002.

Cheek, Timothy. "The Fading of Wild Lilies: Wang Shiwei and Mao Zedong's Yan'an Talks in the First CPC Rectification Movement." The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs (January 1984): 25-58.

Chesneaux, Jean. China: The People's Republic, 1949-1976. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977. Print.

Dikotter, Frank. Mao's Great Famine:The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962. New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc., 2010

Hamm, Charles. "Music and Radio in the People's Republic of China." Asian Music 22, no. 2 (1991): 1-42.

Jones, Stephen. "Chinese Ritual Music under Mao and Deng." British Journal of Ethnomusicology 8 (1999): 27-66.

Keith, Ronald C. "Socialist Legality and Proletarian Democracy in the People's Republic of China." Canadian Journal of Political Science 13, no. 3 (September 1980): 565-82.

Kuo Mo-Jo, and Chou Yang. Songs of the Red Flag. Peking: Red Flag Journal Press, 1961.

Lei Ouyang Bryant. "Flowers on the Battlefield Are More Fragrant." Asian Music 38, no. 1 (2007): 88-122.

Mao Yu Run. "Music under Mao, Its Background and Aftermath." Asian Music 22, no. 2 (1991): 97-125.

Mao Zedong. "On The Chungking Negotiations: October 17, 1945." Vol. 4. Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung. Peking: People's Publishing House, 1961. Print.

Mao Zedong. "On the Correct Handling of Contradiction." 27 Feb. 1957. Address.

Mao Zedong. "Red and Expert." Vol. 8. Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Peking: People's Publishing House, 1990. Print.

Mao Zedong. Selected Works of Mao-Tse-Tung. Vol. 3. Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1965.

Mao Zedong. "Speech at the Supreme State Conference." Vol. 8. Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Peking: People's Publishing House, 1990. Print.

Mao Zedong. "Talks at the Nanning Conference." Vol. 8. Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung. Peking: People's Publishing House, 1990. Print.

Meisner, Maurice J. Mao's China And After: A History of the People's Republic. New York: The Free Press, 1986. Print.

Pantsov, Alexander V. Mao: The Real Story. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Selden, Mark. The Yan'an Way in Revolutionary China. 210-212. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971

Shao Rong Hong. To Rebel Is Justified. New York: University Press of America, Inc., 1996.

Short, Philip. Mao: A Life. New York: Henry Holt And Company, 1999.

Sparkling Red Star. Film. Directed by Li Jun. 1974. China: August First Film Studio.

Wai-Tong Lau. "Songs Tied onto the Chariots— Revolutionary Songs of the Cultural Revolution of China (1966-1976)."Journal of Historical Research in Music Education 29, no. 2 (April 2008).


  • There are currently no refbacks.