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The World Turned Upside Down

The World Turned Upside Down

A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Yang Jisheng; Translated from the Chinese and edited by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Yang Jisheng’s The World Turned Upside Down is the definitive history of the Cultural Revolution, in withering and heartbreaking detail.

As a major political event and a crucial turning point in the history of the People’s Republic of China, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) marked the zenith as well as the nadir of Mao Zedong’s ultra-leftist politics. Reacting in part to the Soviet Union’s "revisionism" that he regarded as a threat to the future of socialism, Mao mobilized the masses in a battle against what he called "bourgeois" forces within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This ten-year-long class struggle on a massive scale devastated traditional Chinese culture as well as the nation’s economy.

Following his groundbreaking and award-winning history of the Great Famine, Tombstone, Yang Jisheng here presents the only history of the Cultural Revolution by an independent scholar based in mainland China, and makes a crucial contribution to understanding those years' lasting influence today.

The World Turned Upside Down puts every political incident, major and minor, of those ten years under extraordinary and withering scrutiny, and arrives in English at a moment when contemporary Chinese governance is leaning once more toward a highly centralized power structure and Mao-style cult of personality.



A series of major events occurred before the Cultural Revolution, each the consequence of the one that preceded it. With each event, conflict accumulated until it reached...

Yang Jisheng; Translated from the Chinese and edited by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian

Yang Jisheng was born in 1940, joined the Communist Party in 1964, and worked for the Xinhua News Agency from January 1968 until his retirement in 2001. For fifteen years, he was a deputy editor at Yanhuang Chunqiu (Chronicles of History), an official journal that regularly skirts censorship with articles on controversial political topics. In 2015, he resigned under official pressure. Yang currently serves on the editorial board of Economic Reference, while continuing to write political commentaries. For his groundbreaking work Tombstone (FSG, 2012), Yang won Sweden’s Stieg Larsson prize for journalistic courage in 2015, and the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism, presented by the Nieman Fellows at Harvard University in 2016. Tombstone also won the Manhattan Institute’s 2013 Hayek Prize and the 2013 Lemkin Award of the Institute for the Study of Genocide. Yang Jisheng lives in Beijing with his wife and two children.

Stacy Mosher learned Chinese in Hong Kong, where she lived for nearly 18 years. A long-time journalist, Mosher currently works as an editor and translator in Brooklyn.

Guo Jian is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Originally trained in Chinese language and literature, Guo was on the Chinese faculty of Beijing Normal University until he came to the United States to study for his PhD in English in the mid-1980's.

image of Yang Jishengo
(c) Yang Jisheng

Yang Jisheng

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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