xiafang, xiaxiang


xiafang, xiaxiang
(sent-down)
Social/political concept
Xiafang, or ‘sent-down’, refers to the process or state in which a person is or has been transferred from a high-ranking unit to a low-ranking unit, or from a large city to a smaller city, or from the city to the countryside. When a cadre is ‘sent down’ in one of the above manners, he or she is referred to as a xiafang ganbu, a ‘sent-down cadre’.
In the context of Chinese youth, however, xiafang has a special significance. It began in 1955 when elementary- or middle-school urban graduates were sent to work in villages. On 22 December 1968, following the zenith of the Cultural Revolution, Mao launched the Rustication Movement, whereby ‘urban educated youth’ (zhishi qingnian) were to be sent to the countryside to receive re-education from the poor and lower-middle peasants. It has been estimated that 17 million city youth were sent to the countryside in this manner. These ‘sent-down youths’ (zhiqing) were typically sent to two different kinds of locations: to remote villages or to border regions such as Heilongjiang, Hainan Island, southern Yunnan, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. In the former, the sent-down youths lived and worked with the peasants; in the latter, they lived a military-style life in Construction and Production Corps. It was not until 1979 that the educated youth were formally allowed to return to their city homes. The Rustication Movement was a disaster, both for that generation and for the nation as a whole, though many writers, filmmakers and musicians have since drawn on their experiences in their work.
Ballew, Ted (2001). ‘Xiaxiang for the 1990s: The Shanghai TV Rural Channel and Post-Mao Urbanity and Global Swirl’. In Nancy Chen, Constance D.Clark, Suzanne Z.Gottschang and Lynn Feffery (eds), China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.
Louie, Kam (1989). ‘Educated Youth Literature: Self-Discovery in the Chinese Villages’. In idem, Between Fact and Fiction: Essays on Post-Mao Chinese Literature and Society. Sydney: Wild Peony, 1–13.
LEUNG LAIFONG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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