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History General

The Heresy of Wu Han

His play 'Hai Jui's Dismissal' and its role in China's Cultural Revolution

by (author) Clive Ansley

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2017
General, General, General, History & Criticism, General
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    Publish Date
    Jan 2017
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At the centre of China's Cultural Revolution in its first stages stands the ambiguous figure of Wu Han. Occupying until the mid-sixties a favoured position among the intellectual elite of the People's Republic, he was the eighth-ranking figure in the Chinese Communist Party, and his Peking Opera Hai Jui's Dismissal was performed all over China. Gradually it became apparent that Wu Han was using Hai Jui to lampoon Chairman Mao Tse-tung and the core policies of the CPP. Other dissidents began to pen articles and plays on similar themes.


For several years Mao chafed under these literary attacks, but in late 1965 he retaliated. A sudden, scathing attack on Wu Han and his play by an obscure newspaper editor marked the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, a cataclysm in which the Party leadership was decimated while Mao regained full supremacy. This volume presents the first translation of Wu Han's plays and helps to clarify the obscure origins of a national phenomenon that was at once intellectual, social, and political.

About the author

Clive Ansley is currently a lawyer at Ansley and Company and is familiar with both Canadian law and Chinese law. Practising since 1983, Mr. Ansley has handled many criminal litigation cases in Canada, and over 300 litigation cases in China. He is also a former professor of Chinese History, Civilization, and Law. He taught at the University of Windsor, the University of British Columbia, the Law Faculty of Shanghai’s Fudan University, and the Law Faculty of Shanghai’s Jiaotong University.

Clive Ansley's profile page