In 1949, the Communist Revolution under Mao Zedong transformed China from the monarchy it had been for centuries, to a Communist nation. The “People’s Revolution” relied heavily on the passion and vigor of China’s young people, and the Chinese government looked poorly on anyone who was critical of China or the Communist Party. This audio story introduces a man who was only three when Chairman Mao came to power. In his 20’s he worked for the Communists in rural Mongolia. His experiences there formed the basis for his hugely successful 2004 novel “Wolf Totem”, which earned him both praise and criticism in Communist China. Listen to learn more about his experiences in Mongolia, the impact of “Wolf Totem”, and about Rong’s criticisms, and hopes, for his country.
Story Length: 7:17
© 2009 National Public Radio, Inc. Used with the permission of NPR. All rights reserved.
AIR DATE: 05/26/2009
History tells us that peaceful empires are very rare. In the 21st century, China is the fastest-growing world power. China claims that its rise is peaceful: it has no plans to invade and conquer new territory. But is it possible for any nation to grow without causing any conflicts? In the 15th century the Chinese explorer Zheng sailed across the Eastern Hemisphere from Taiwan to India to Arabia to Africa. He was on a trade mission, but the kingdoms he encountered were not really free to choose whether or not they would become part of the Chinese trade empire. This public radio story looks at China’s past to draw some conclusions about its future.
Mao Zedong, or Chairman Mao, ruled China with an iron fist from 1949 to 1976. The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) led by Mao was meant to wipe out all things non-communist in China. The Chinese government wanted its people to forget about literature, art, school, professional careers and anything else that China’s communist government considered foreign, elitist or in any way opposed to the communist system. Mao’s communist philosophy changed the government, economy and lifestyle of all Chinese people. A group called the Red Guard helped make this a reality. This public radio story tells how people who were part of the Cultural Revolution are beginning to tell their stories.
In 2005, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi issued an apology on behalf of the Japanese people for its colonial rule and aggression before and during World War II. The apology came at a time of increased tensions between Japan and its east Asian neighbors, including anger over Japanese textbooks that seemed to downplay the atrocities Koizumi was apologizing for. The story touches upon present day circumstances that can limit the effectiveness of such an apology. The story also raises powerful questions about how societies make meaning of the past, the legacy of oppression, and the degree to which history impacts the present day.
Confucius was a philosopher who was born more than 2500 years ago in China, and his ideas have become central to China’s identity. His ideas became Chinese imperial philosophy and they were especially popular during the pivotal Han and Tang and Song Dynasties. Today, China is working to broaden not only its economic and diplomatic power, but also its cultural influence, and is looking back to Confucianism for help. China hopes that extending their soft power will lead to an increase in its ability to export Chinese values as well. But this story finds that Chinese values may not be applicable across all cultures. Listen to hear more about this soft-power powerhouse and how a centuries-old philosopher still leads a nation.
These levels of listening complexity can help teachers choose stories for their students. The levels do not relate to the content of the story, but to the complexity of the vocabulary, sentence structure and language in the audio story.
These stories are easier to understand and are a good starting point for elementary students or English learners.
These stories have an average language challenge for middle and high school students, and can be scaffolded for English learners.
These stories have challenging vocabulary and language and students may need to have some background knowledge to understand the story.