See R. Witke, Comrade Chiang Ch'ing (1977) and R. Terrill, The White-boned Demon (1989).
Jiang Qing (March 14, 1914 May 14, 1991) is the pseudonym that was used by Chinese leader Mao Zedong's last wife and major Chinese Communist Party power figure Li Shumeng (). She went by the stage name Lan Ping during her acting career. She married Mao in Yan'an in November 1938, and is sometimes referred to as Madame Mao in Western literature, serving as Communist China's first "first lady". Jiang Qing was most well-known for playing a major role in the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and for forming the radical political alliance known as the "Gang of Four". She was named the "Great Flag-carrier of the Proletarian Culture" (无产阶级文艺伟大旗手), and became a prominent leader in state affairs between 1966 and 1976.
Around the time of Chairman Mao's death, Jiang Qing and her proteges maintained control of many of China's power institutions, including a heavy hand in the media and propaganda. Jiang Qing's political success was limited, however, and she was arrested in October 1976 by Hua Guofeng and his allies, and was subsequently accused of being counter-revolutionary. Since then, Jiang Qing and Lin Biao have been branded by official historical documents in China as the "Lin Biao and Jiang Qing Counter-revolutionary Cliques" (林彪江青反革命集团), to which most of the blame for the damage and devastation caused by the Cultural Revolution was assigned.
Jiang Qing was born as Lǐ Shūméng (李淑蒙) in Zhucheng (诸城), Shandong Province in 1914. Jiang Qing's father was called Li Dewen (李德文), who reputedly wanted a son, thus gave his daughter the name Lĭ Jìnhái (李进孩) in anticipation for a son. Jiang Qing, first known as Lĭ Yúnhè (meaning "Crane in the Clouds", Chinese: 李云鹤), grew up in the homes of her courtesan mother's rich lovers. She was an only child who was never doted upon and whose instincts were never curbed. In her early twenties, and after already exhausting two marriages, Jiang Qing went to university and studied literature and drama. Soon, Jiang Qing adopted the stage name "Lán Píng" (meaning "Blue Apple", Chinese: 蓝苹), and became a professional actress. She appeared in numerous films and plays, including A Doll's House, Big Thunderstorm, God of Liberty, The Scenery of City, Blood on Wolf Mountain and Old Mr. Wang. In Ibsen's play A Doll's House, Jiang Qing played the role of Nora, who, after being accused of talking like a child and not understanding the world she lives in, replies, "No I don't [understand the world]. But now I mean to go into that... I must find out which is right - the world or I." Being out of sorts with the world was also Jiang Qing's experience, whose early life was fraught with harsh realities. Jiang Qing first married in Shandong, to a wealthy businessman, but became bored of the closed married life. She escaped to Shanghai, where she began reconstructing an acting career and was involved with Yu Qiwei.
At 23, Jiang Qing left her life on the stage behind and went to the Chinese Communist headquarters in Yan'an, to "join the revolution" and the war to resist the Japanese invasion. There she met Mao Zedong, and eventually married him in a small private ceremony. They had a daughter Li Na in 1940. Because Mao's marriage to He Zizhen had not yet ceased, Jiang Qing was made to sign a marital contract which stipulated that she would not appear in public with Mao as his escort, effective twenty years.
In the 1950s, Jiang Qing was involved with the Ministry of Culture. Backed by her husband, she was appointed deputy director of the so-called Central Cultural Revolution Group in 1966 and emerged as a serious political figure in the summer of that year. She became a member of the Politburo in 1969. By now she has established a close political working relationship with--what in due course would be known as the Gang of Four-- Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen. She was one of the most powerful figures in China during Mao's last years and became a controversial figure.
During this period, Mao Zedong galvanized students and young workers as his Red Guards to attack what he termed as revisionists in the party. Mao told them the revolution was in danger and that they must do all they could to stop the emergence of a privileged class in China. He argued this is what had happened in the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev.
Jiang Qing incited radical youths organized as Red Guards against other senior political leaders and government officials, including Liu Shaoqi, the President of the PRC at the time, and Deng Xiaoping, the Deputy Premier. Internally divided into factions both to the "left" and "right" of Jiang Qing and Mao, not all Red Guards were friendly to Jiang Qing.
The initial storm of the Cultural Revolution came to an end when Liu Shaoqi was forced from all his posts on October 13, 1968. Lin Biao now became Mao's designated successor. Chairman Mao now gave his support to the Gang of Four: Jiang Qing, Wang Hongwen, Yao Wenyuan and Zhang Chunqiao. These four radicals occupied powerful positions in the Politburo after the Tenth Party Congress of 1973.
Jiang Qing also directed operas and ballets with communist and revolutionary content as part of an effort to transform China's culture. The Eight model plays were allegedly created under her guidance. Critics would argue that her influence on art was too restrictive, because she replaced nearly all earlier works of art with revolutionary Maoist works.
Jiang Qing first collaborated with then second-in-charge Lin Biao, but after Lin Biao's death in 1971, she turned against him publicly in the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius Campaign. By the mid 1970s, Jiang Qing also spearheaded the campaign against Deng Xiaoping (afterwards saying that this was inspired by Mao). The Chinese public became intensely discontented at this time and chose to blame Jiang Qing, a more accessible and easier target than Chairman Mao.
Jiang Qing's hobbies included photography, playing cards, and watching foreign movies, especially Gone with the Wind. It was also revealed that Mao's physician, Li Zhisui, had diagnosed her as a hypochondriac. When touring a troupe of young girls excelling in marksmanship, she "discovered" Joan Chen, then 14 years old, launching Joan's career as a Chinese and then international actress.
She developed severe degrees of hypochondriasis and erratic nerves. She required two sedatives over the course of a day and three sleeping pills to fall asleep. Staff were assigned to chase away birds and cicadas from her Imperial Fishing Villa. She ordered house servants to cut down on noise by removing their shoes and avoiding clothes rustling. Mild temperature extremes bothered her; thermostats were always set to 21.5°C in winter and 26°C in summer.
Mao began dying on September 2, 1976. By September 5, his condition was critical and Hua Guofeng contacted Jiang Qing. She returned from her trip and spent only a few moments in hospital's Building 202, where Mao was being treated, before returning to her own residence in the Spring Lotus Chamber. On the afternoon of September 7, Mao took a turn for the worse. Mao had just fallen asleep and needed the rest, but she insisted on rubbing his back and moving his limbs and she sprinkled powder on his body. The medical team protested that the dust from the powder was not good for his lungs, but she instructed the nurses on duty to follow her example later. The next morning, September 8, she came again. She wanted the medical staff to change Mao's sleeping position, claiming that he had been lying too long on his left side. The doctor on duty objected, knowing that he could breathe only on his left side, but she had him moved nonetheless. Mao's breathing stopped and his face turned blue. Jiang Qing left the room while the medical staff put Mao on a respirator and performed emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Mao revived and Hua Guofeng urged Jiang Qing not to interfere further with the doctor's work, however Mao's organs failed and the Chinese government decided to disconnect Mao's life support mechanism.
On October 6, 1976, Jiang Qing and three others were arrested for attempting to seize power by setting up militia coups in Shanghai and Beijing. After her arrest, Jiang Qing was sent to the Qincheng Prison and detained for five years. Between 1981 and 1982, she was tried for crimes against innocent people and subverting the government. During her public trials at the "Special Court", Jiang Qing was the only member of the Gang of Four who bothered to argue on her behalf. The defense's argument was that she obeyed the orders of Chairman Mao Zedong at all times. Jiang Qing maintained that all she had done was to defend Chairman Mao. It was at this trial that Jiang Qing made the famous quote: "I was Chairman Mao's dog. I bit whomever he asked me to bite." (我是主席的一条狗，主席要我咬谁就咬谁。). The official records of the trial have not yet been released.
Jiang Qing was sentenced to death in 1981. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1983, allegedly to "give her time to repent". While in prison, Jiang Qing was diagnosed with throat cancer, but she refused an operation. She was eventually released, on medical grounds, in 1991. At the hospital, Jiang Qing used the name Lǐ Rùnqīng (李润青). She was alleged to have committed suicide on May 14, 1991, aged 77, by hanging herself in a bathroom of her hospital.
In 1980, the trials of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four began. The trials were televised nationwide. By showing the way the Gang of Four was tried, Deng Xiaoping wanted the people to realize that a new age had arrived.
Jiang Qing seemed almost defiant as the trial opened. Her jet-black hair was pulled severely back behind her ears; she marched into the courtroom with her head regally erect and then alternately smirked and yawned during the reading of the indictment, apparently to show contempt for the proceedings. Portions of the 20,000-word indictment were printed in China's press before the trial started; they accused the defendants of a host of heinous crimes that took place during the Cultural Revolution. The charges specify that 727,420 Chinese were "persecuted" during that period, and that 34,274 died, though the often vague indictment did not specify exactly how. Among the chief victims: onetime Chief of State Liu Shaoqi, whose widow Wang Guangmei, herself imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution for 12 years, attended the trial as an observer.
The indictment described two plots by the "Jiang Qing-Lin Biao Counterrevolutionary Clique" to seize power. Jiang Qing was not accused of conspiring with Lin Biao, or with other members of the Gang of Four who allegedly planned an armed rebellion to "usurp power" in 1976, when Mao was close to death. Instead, the charges against her focused on her systematic persecution of creative artists during the Cultural Revolution. Among other things, she was accused of hiring 40 people in Shanghai to disguise themselves as Red Guards and ransack the homes of writers and performers. The apparent purpose was said to find and destroy letters, photos and other potentially damaging materials on Jiang Qing's early career in Shanghai, which she wanted to keep secret.
Despite the seriousness of the accusations against her, Jiang Qing appeared unrepentant. She had not confessed her guilt, something that the Chinese press has emphasized to show her bad attitude. There had been reports that she planned to defend herself by cloaking herself in Mao's mantle, saying that she did only what he approved. As the trial got under way, Jiang Qing dismissed her assigned lawyers, deciding instead to represent herself.
Jiang Qing: "You don't need to forge anymore. That has nothing to do with you!"
Witness shouts: "You have no right to talk!"
Jiang Qing: "I have the right to defend myself. I have the right to reveal you."
The judge rings the bell and the witness slams on the table: "You are not allowed to talk!"
This may be true. However, those 'huge amount of evidences', as claimed by you, are merely picking bones from an egg. For instance, a sound record from the National Beijing Opera Institution were played again and again. Also, having me repeatedly appear in court 6 times so far can reveal something too. I understand only too well what you said. What you are doing now is to uglify me, Chairman Mao Zedong, and the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution, in which hundreds of millions of people have participated. I was Chairman Mao's wife for 38 full years, not counting those years when we first knew each other. We have been through wars and hardships together. During the war time I was the only woman who followed Chairman Mao to the frontier! Where were you hiding then?!