Inscribing the Cultural Revolution in the HK Everyday:
Lü Da, Wen Wei Po, and the Question of HK Literary History

By Shuk Man Leung

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 33, no.1  (Spring 2021), 34-86

This essay sheds light on the influence of the Cultural Revolution (CR) on Hong Kong literature in the mid-1960s. By scrutinizing Lü Da’s 呂達(1930s–?; penname of Li Yang李陽) writings in the column “Trio Opusculum” (Sanren xiaopin三人小品), published in Wen Wei Po (Wenhui bao文匯報) (Hong Kong), and the intertextual relationship between the column and other pages of the newspaper, the author argues that Lü Da attempted to transplant the national literary and cultural products of the CR into everyday Hong Kong situations in three ways: by retelling the revolutionary novel The Song of Ouyang Hai (Ouyang Hai zhige歐陽海之歌) for popular consumption, by reappropriating Chairman Mao’s Quotations as a tool for learning spoken English, and by recontextualizing the national harvest myth in local food culture and shopping culture. Lü Da’s column functioned as an intertextual platform that blended different ideological discourses and disseminated them by localizing them. The construction of the meaning of the local was represented as a fluid space that continuously negotiated with two hegemonic discourses: the CR and capitalist-colonialist ideologies in everyday life in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, the CR’s influence on Lü Da’s column urges us to rethink the forgotten voices of leftwing literature in the 1960s and 1970s in the historiography of Hong Kong literature. By questioning the prevailing scholarly view that the political turmoil of the CR was an obstacle to Hong Kong’s literary development, the author argues that such a view overlooks how sophisticated local applications of the CR were a precondition for developing the city’s working-class culture and, as such, may well represent another facet of Hong Kong literary subjectivity that coexisted with the city’s urban modernity, which Hong Kong modernism in the 1960s and 1970s tended to emphasize.