Documenting China’s Lost History of Famine

The famine that resulted at least partially from Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward movement killed tens of millions of people, yet there has never been a full accounting of the tragedy and it is not openly discussed in textbooks or other public forums in China. Now, a Chinese documentary maker is sending young colleagues around China to record the histories of people who lived through the so-called “years of hardship.” The BBC reports:

Armed with video cameras, Mr Wu’s researchers have already travelled to 50 villages in 10 provinces across China.

So far they have collected more than 600 memories from the famine, the result of a disastrous political campaign launched by Mao Zedong.

The Great Leap Forward was supposed to propel China into a new age of communism and plenty – but it failed spectacularly.

Agriculture was disrupted as private property was abolished and people were forced into supposedly self-sufficient communes.

Interviews for this new project reveal that even though the famine happened a long time ago – between late 1958 and 1962 – memories are still sharp.

Read more about the Great Leap Forward via CDT, including efforts by Chinese historian Yang Jisheng and Dutch historian Frank Dikötter to document this period of history.


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