Jiang Qing publicly attended a political event on September 29, 1962, the day after the opening of the 10th Plenary Session of the 8th CPC Central Committee.
This was when Hatini Sukarno, wife of Indonesian President Sukarno, visited China. On the twenty-seventh Liu Shaoqi and his wife Wang Guangmei went to the airport to meet and entertain Mrs. Sukarno. Mao and Jiang Qing then met with Mrs. Sukarno. On the 30th the People’s Daily published a photo of the meeting, showing Mao and Hartigny shaking hands, with a smiling Jiang Qing in the middle. Behind Jiang stood Deng Yingchao in the distance. In the distance behind Mao, with only half of his face showing, is Zhou Enlai.
Before this, the People’s Daily had published several photos of Wang Guangmei, and Jiang Qing’s public appearance drew the attention of the general public. From then on, Jiang Qing broke the rule of the Communist Party that Jiang Qing was not allowed to participate in politics in the name of Chairman Mao’s wife. This public appearance was a precursor to Jiang Qing’s rise to power in the political arena. She would single-handedly manipulate China’s political culture and art, setting the stage for proletarian politics and the Cultural Revolution.
After Jiang Qing’s involvement in politics, her neurosis gradually disappeared, and my life was relatively much better. She seldom complained to me anymore, or sought me out to mediate quarrels between her and the nurses. But Jiang Qing’s hatred for me remained, and political power gave her the opportunity to take revenge.
In early 1963, Jiang Qing and I had another confrontation.
This was when Zhao Yanman, a famous actress from the Beijing Theater, performed a new adaptation of the Peking opera Li Huiniang. Prominent literary figures wrote articles in praise of the play, the most prominent of which was Tian Han’s (a famous literary playwright) “A Bright Red Plum”, which analyzed the defiance and revenge struggle of the Chinese woman toyed with in the play “Li Huiniang”. Another article by Fanxing (Liao Mosha, director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture, under the pseudonym of Fanxing), “The Theory of Harmlessness with Ghosts”.
The play is called “Red Plum Pavilion” in the traditional Beijing opera. When I was a child in Beijing, the famous actress Xiao Cuihua was very famous for this play. The adults in my family once took me to see this play, but after so many years, I have no memory of it at all. In my memory, it seems that the actor danced in a long white silk shirt. I can’t remember anything else.
After Zhao Yanman’s performance, I really wanted to go see it. But working in a group, I couldn’t help myself, so it was impossible to take time off to see the show.
Coincidentally, after the party on Wednesday, Mao took a walk back to the group and said to me on the way that there was nothing particularly attractive in the Peking Opera repertoire of Qing Yi and Hua Yi. Unlike the old-school plays, many of them are very good. I told Mao in passing that Zhao Yanman was performing a new historical drama, Li Huiniang, and said that I had seen this play when I was young, and the little memory that remained seemed to have an unreal and ethereal feeling.
Mao said, “Let’s do it this way, perform it once at Huairen Hall and let everyone see it. You tell Wang Dongxing to arrange it.”
So Wang Dongxing set up a performance at Huairen Hall. Because Mao went to see the performance, all the leaders of the Central Committee went to see it. Hsien also went to see the performance.
When the performance came to Jia Sidao with his concubines touring the West Lake, and met Pei Sheng on the boat, Li Huiniang said “beautiful young man”, I knew it was not good. West Lake happens to be Mao’s favorite place to go. Next, Jia Sidao, who was furious, killed his favorite concubine Li Huiniang. I remember a scene in which the actor danced in a white shirt, but it turned out to be the episode in which Li Huiniang, who was not yet willing, turned into a ghost and took revenge on Jia.
I saw a change in Mao’s demeanor. Mao rarely let his displeasure show outside, except for the occasional tantrum. But I learned to observe the change in his mood: locking his brow, eyebrows raised, body stiffened. I thought to myself that a taboo had been violated, as if a theatrical performance had been put on to mock his womanizing and old age absurdity. This episode reminds us of the time when Mao forbade the secret agent to marry her lover, who then called Mao a “typical bourgeois womanizer”.
At the end of the show, the actors thanked the curtain, although Mao also stood up to applaud, but a serious expression, only three or four applause, then turned around and walked away. On the way back to the group and after arriving at the bedroom, Mao seemed to be in deep thought, not a sound.
Following this, the Shanghai Wen Wei Po published an article criticizing Meng Chao (the playwright of Li Huiniang) and the above-mentioned article affirming the performance of the play, saying that the play insinuated that the Communist Party was “using dead ghosts to overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat” and that it was “a serious class struggle”. Plays with the appearance of “ghosts” were banned nationwide. Mao also severely criticized the theater work, saying that “the Ministry of Culture is the Ministry of Emperors and Generals, the Ministry of Talent and Beauty, and the Ministry of Foreigners and the Dead. The Peking Opera, which I had inadvertently recommended to Mao, suddenly became a political and ideological debate, representing the constant struggle of the new China that Mao had in mind.
I thought to myself that this was about the end of the matter, and was glad that I had not been drawn into it.
A few months later, Wang Dongxing came to talk to me. Wang said, “This is a big problem now. The first thing I did was to get to know the people in the city. The president will not be able to see the play himself, Jiang Qing said. The central comrades in charge never which one to the chairman of the door to talk, except Chen Boda (one of Mao’s political secretaries) occasionally home to talk with the chairman, no one else will come. It must be able to see the President, can talk with the President, and the person himself knows a bit of theater people, will encourage the President to see this play. I think she is referring to you.” ++
“The company’s main business is to provide a wide range of services to the public. The President said he couldn’t remember. Jiang Qing asked me to look it up and asked me who it was. I said, I do not know, the President asked me to organize a performance, I organized, I do not understand whether it is a good play or a bad play. Jiang Qing refused to do it and must find out who came up with the idea.” ++
“The company’s main goal is to provide the best possible service to its customers. This time she will not let go of the past easily.”
Wang and I had to find a way to deal with Jiang Qing in the past. We discussed with Mao and said that Mao had read Tian Han’s article and thought of watching the play, and Mao agreed. The first thing I did was to show the article to Jiang Qing. We did not expect that this excuse would lead to a disaster for Tian Han, and Jiang was now caught attacking Tian on the topic.
After reading the People’s Daily that Wang brought to her, Jiang said to me, “You have nothing to do with the theater, it’s the literary circles that made this happen. Good, let these bastards show their heads, caught, can not escape.” She was going to Shanghai to start a series of criticism with Ke Qingshi and others by name.
But before she left, she still wanted to use the “lure the snake out of the hole” method on me and set me up again.
Before she left, Jiang Qing asked me, “Did you go to see the last performance of Li Huiniang? What do you think of this play?”
I said, “This play is an old play, the legend is very strong. It’s the same as the play “White Maiden”.”
Jiang said, “That’s a strange story, tell me.”
I said, “These two plays are about revenge after persecution, and both are women. The only thing is that the “White Hair Woman” is a human being who was persecuted and turned into a ghost. Li Huiniang” is about a ghost becoming a human being after a human being is forced to die.”
Jiang said, “You’re talking nonsense, and it doesn’t add up.”
Jiang also said, “Having ghosts is to promote superstition, which is not good for the people.”
I said, “Drama is a form of artistic expression. The appearance of ghosts only represents the unrealistic fantasy of people. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there are also ghosts, which I’m afraid cannot be said to promote superstition.”
Jiang began to get upset. She said, “There should be no ghosts in opera, ghosts are the propagation of superstition, is the class struggle in the opera, this can be the views of the President. Shakespeare is a dead foreigner, and his plays are not the truth, nor do they represent advanced thinking. You should pay attention, the President has said, literature and literature sector, many problems, the class struggle is very sharp.”
My bourgeois background was too “right” in Jiang Qing’s eyes. Jiang Qing’s words made it clear that if I persisted in my opinions, I would naturally become a target of the class struggle. I was only forty-three years old, but I was already gray-haired in a group of palaces that were constantly tossing and turning and worrying. I had to survive. I therefore did not speak on.
Jiang Qing then went to Shanghai and appointed himself as the “mobile sentry” of the literary world. Ke Qingshi, who was loyal to Mao, naturally helped Jiang. Ke let Jiang meet with Zhang Chunqiao, the propaganda minister of the Shanghai Municipal Committee. It was at this time that Jiang Qing began to run to theaters, theaters, dance troupes, and orchestras every day, saying in her own words, “I am just a small soldier. But a sentry of Chairman Mao, in the ideological front often patrol, sentry, what situation to report to the chairman. That’s all I do.”
To her, the world of literature and art was a world full of capitalist corruption and the evil forces of the old society.
On December 12, Ke Qingshi submitted a summary report on the revolutionary reform of the Shanghai opera, and Mao showed it to me. Mao added the following remark: “This document can be read. The foundation of the socialist economy has changed, but the art sector, one of the superstructures serving this foundation, is still a problem, and many sectors are still ruled by ‘dead people’. The achievements of films, dramas, folk songs, art and novels cannot be underestimated, but there are many problems in them, and as for theater and other sectors, the problems are even greater. This needs to be taken up seriously, starting with investigation and research. Isn’t it strange that many Communists are enthusiastic about promoting feudalist and capitalist art, but not socialist art.”
A few days later, Mao attacked the National Federation of Literature. Mao said, “Most of these associations and the publications they hold (there are a few good ones, it is said) have basically (not all of them) failed to carry out the Party’s policy for fifteen years, acted as officials and lords, did not approach the workers, peasants and soldiers, did not reflect the socialist revolution and construction, and in recent years, even fell to the edge of revisionism. If they are not seriously reformed, they are bound to turn into a group like the Hungarian Petofi Club someday in the future.”
In 1954 the young Hungarian workers formed the Petofi Club to fight for freedom and democracy, and the Hungarian government destroyed it.
By this time Mao had also cast his net and was slowly extending the clutches of the Cultural Revolution.