The “River Elegy” and the 4 June Tiananmen Massacre

  • C. L. Chiou


During the 1987–8 reform campaign period, on the cultural front the “River Elegy” controversy probably created the most heated debates and attracted the most attention and strongest response from the conservative old guard. Written and produced by six young intellectuals, Su Xiaokang, Wang Luxiang, Yuan Zhiming and others, and with Bao Zunxin as its chief advisor, the six-episode television series “River Elegy” was broadcast by the Chinese national television network in June 1988. It immediately caught fire, in terms of both popularity and controversy. The “River Elegy” reformists, in powerfully emotional words, called for total refutation and rejection of traditional conservative authoritarian Chinese culture based on, and limited by, the poor and backward Yellow River and the yellow earth on the banks of the Yellow River, the mythical and superstitious power of the Dragon, the symbol of the Chinese emperor, and the anachronistic Great Wall, which failed miserably to defend China but succeeded in preventing the Chinese from breaking out and getting in touch with the outside world to learn and absorb the new modern culture from the West. They echoed the calls for “Mr S” and “Mr D” of the May Fourth Movement and advocated complete Westernization of China (Su et al., 1988).


Chinese People Qing Dynasty Political Reform Chinese Intellectual Fourth Movement 
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Copyright information

© C. L. Chiou 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. L. Chiou
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of QueenslandAustralia
  2. 2.National Science CouncilTaiwan

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