The Memory Project

The Memory Project was undertaken by Wu Wenguang's documentary film studio, Work Station, in 2009 to document life in rural China during the mid-20th Century.More »

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About the Digital Collection

Documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang is widely considered a pioneer of modern Chinese independent film. In 2010 he launched the Memory Project to collect oral histories from survivors of the Great Famine that devastated rural China between 1958 and 1961. Officially known in China as the “Three Years of Natural Disasters” or “The Difficult Three-Year Period,” the Great Famine caused the death of between 20 and 43 million people. More recently the project has also covered the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1960, the Land Reform and the Collectivization of 1949-1953, the Four Cleanups Movement in 1964, and the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976. The interviews naturally show regional variations in famine experiences and rural culture. They add intimate detail and humanity to the story of the deaths and starvation of millions of Chinese, providing a unique perspective on the unofficial history of the Great Famine. The accompanying website (http://chinesememoryproject.org/) has some featured interviews (http://chinesememoryproject.org/interviews/), a timeline offering more historical context (http://chinesememoryproject.org/timeline/) and an interactive map providing a visualized access to the interviews (http://chinesememoryproject.org/map/).

Wu’s studio in suburban Beijing, known as the Work Station, is the home for this project. More than 150 young filmmakers have joined the project, and since 2010 they have visited 246 villages in 20 provinces and interviewed more than 1,100 elderly villagers. These filmmakers, many of whom returned to their families’ rural hometowns, developed new intergenerational relationships with elderly relatives they had previously hardly known. During the process of interviewing the villagers, they reconciled the official history taught in schools with each family’s experiences. The notes and blogs written by the filmmakers and the interview footage preserve the fading memories of people who lived through the Great Famine, ensuring that their stories are not forgotten.

The Memory Project digital collection currently consists of interviews done by eleven filmmakers: Wu Wenguang 吴文光, Zhang Mengqi 章梦奇, Zou Xueping 邹雪平, Li Xinmin 李新民, Jia Nannan 贾楠楠, Luo Bing 罗兵, Lin Tao 林涛, Zhang Ping 张苹, Li Yushan 李雨珊, Guo Zhihua 郭志华 and Qu Yufeng 屈玉凤 . Other interviews will be published incrementally as each filmmaker’s material is arranged and described.

Items in This Digital Collection (229)

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Archival boxSource Collection

This digital collection comprises selected materials from the following archival collection at David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

The Memory Project Oral History collection | 民间记忆计划口述史 2009-2016

Collection #RL.10171 | 1464 Gigabytes

ABSTRACT
The Memory Project Oral History collection comprises digital video recordings and written supporting documentation of interviews spanning 2009 to 2016. The interviews were conducted by filmmakers associated with the Work Station, a film studio run by Wu Wenguang in Caochangdi, Beijing, China. Memory Project interviews were conducted with Chinese people about mid-20th century rural life, primarily experiences during the Great Famine (1958-1961), but also the Land Reform and Collectivization (1949-1953), the Great Leap Forward (1958-1960), the Four Cleanups Movement (1964), and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Wu's studio in suburban Beijing, known as the Work Station, is the home for this project. More than 150 young filmmakers have joined the project, and since 2010 they have visited 246 villages in 20 provinces and interviewed more than 1,100 elderly villagers. These filmmakers, many of whom returned to their families' rural hometowns, developed new intergenerational relationships with elderly relatives. During the process of interviewing the villagers, they reconciled the official history taught in schools with each family's experiences.

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