The book Colors of the Mountain by Da Chen is about the his experience in China during and after the Cultural Revolution. Chen walks us through what it was like to be a child during the Cultural Revolution and how it felt to be under the rule of Chairman Mao. His accounts are each shocking and strike a chord with the audience. Not only does he talk about Mao’s reign, but he discusses life after his death, and his own pursuit of education. Three of the Cultural Universals I found in this book were Themes, Recreation, and Political Organization. The first theme I found was in chapter 8.
During the Cultural Revolution, Ping-Pong became a very popular pastime for Chinese. This followed China’s multiple wins at the 1973 and 1975 World Table Tennis Championships. In the book, Chen gets interested in Ping-Pong and even practices at home. He soon becomes a relatively good Ping-Pong player and describes it in writing. “In the early 70’s, Ping-Pong became the rage of the country because Liang Geliang had won the world cup championship for China. In PE class, instead of the regular running and jumping in the dirt field, we would sit in the classroom and listen to the live radio report of the World Cup match in progress. (Chapter 8)
This shows how invested China was in Ping-Pong. China was excited that they won the championship and it carried even more importance at the time because it shows how they beat out Western countries, who at the time, they were not on good terms with. I chose this as a recreation Universal because it shows what many Chinese were doing in their pastimes. The second Cultural Universal I found was in Chapter 11. In this chapter, Chen describes the effects that the Cultural Revolution had on education. These effects were mainly put in place by Chairman Mao, under his idea that a leaf needed to be turned over in Chinese society.
He wanted to forget the past and move on to the future. At this time, religion was banned, many historic relics were destroyed, and many educational institution were either restricted or shut down as a work mentality was promoted. “Fifth grade classes were made up of three categories: labor, politics, and self-study. We dug up the playground and turned it into vegetable plots so that young kids could labor under the scorching sun and have empty but healthy minds” (Chapter 11) This shows the effects of Mao’s rule on even the youngest of people.
It reveals how Mao wanted people to work to support the country, this was under the communist ideal Mao followed. Many people were either denied school or trained in something useful for the country. I decided to put this under the political organization Universal because I thought that this showed Mao’s direction and implementation of his ideas, which led the country. The third Cultural Universal I found was in Chapter 13. After Mao’s death, the country was deeply saddened and mourned for the loss of their leader.
Many people, especially children, had been conditioned to worship Mao as almost a god. The was especially true since religion was not allowed at the time, to keep loyalties with the government. Chen describes his experience after Mao’s death and how he was not allowed to go to the funeral, which upset him. “Even though my parent’s generation hated him, I had embraced in my own way. I didn’t know any better. A cult mentality had been forged on me, and it hurt me deeply to be separated from such an event. ” (Chapter 13) This shows the extent of the control Mao had over China.
You could argue that Mao had some degree of mind control over his people, getting them to worship him as almost a god. The only modern-day example that is similar to this is with North Korea and Kim Jong-un. In Korea, Kim Jong and his staff control most of what North Koreans see, do, and eat. This forms a great fear of the government in the people. This is an example of a theme Universal because it shows what the Chinese (at that time) valued and cared for. In addition to this, societal pressure was put on the Chinese people to worship Mao, which embeds him even deeper into the Chinese culture.
In this book, I learned about the struggles endured by the Chinese during the cultural revolution, as well as new aspects of culture I hadn’t thought about before. Recreation, political ation, and theme Cultural Universals are apparent in this book, along with many others. Overall, I enjoyed this book’s message and enjoyed learning about life in China during the cultural revolution and even after. This book can educate people for the future and warm them of the dangers of an overlypowerful leader and its effects on the people for generations to come.