悼念高王凌教授 Obituary for Professor Gao Wangling

中國農民反行為研究(1950─1980)

Obituary for Professor Gao Wangling

Policy Above Meets Counter-Policy Below (上有政策,下有對策)

by Professor Felix Wemheuer (文浩) 

The death of Professor Gao Wangling on August 24, 2018 at the age of 68 is very sad news for the field of Chinese history, but also for me personally. When I was a foreign student at Renmin University in Beijing from 2000 to 2002, I took several of his courses on the history of collectivization and peasants. Professor Gao was a well-known expert from the Research Institute for Qing History, but he also felt compelled to do research to understand the fate of Chinese peasants under Mao. His own experience as a “sent-down youth” in Shanxi during the Cultural Revolution deeply affected him so that he could not turn his back on rural China. I learnt from him that peasants in the Mao era were not naïve objects of party policies. Below the surface, they carried out “counter-actions” (反行為) such as underreporting of production, theft, organizing black markets or hiding “black land.” During the great famine (1959–1961), they lost the battle against a state that forcibly took too much grain from their villages. Professor Gao argued that peasants in the era of the People’s Commune were forced to react with “counter-actions” against state policies simply to survive. His research helped deconstruct the official myth of unity between the party and peasants.

I remember that during my stay at Renmin University, there were never more than a handful of students in his classes. Professor Gao did not care whether his arguments would please the mainstream or school officials. He encouraged all of us to go to the countryside to carry out interviews with peasants by ourselves. In the villages, we could find parts of society and history that were not mentioned in books. At that time, very few scholars in China would use oral history to conduct research on the Mao era. Following his advice, I started to do interviews with eyewitness regarding the great famine. Without knowing it at the time, I would publish several books on this topic. Professor Gao also encouraged one of his students to do field studies on the extraordinary degree of violence and terror during the Land Reform (1947–1952). This was long before the mainstream in the field started to discover the dark sides of the early 1950s.

Despite his academic proficiency and intellectual brilliance, it took a long time for him to get some recognition in academia. Many of his manuscripts, dealing with sensitive topics such as the great famine and Land Reform, could never be published on the mainland. Renmin University awarded him with the position of full professor only in 2009 nearing his retirement in 2010. One version of this book, Counter-Actions of Chinese Peasants in the Age of the People’s Commune, finally came out with Zhonggongdangshi chubanshe inside the PRC in 2006. Needless to say, in this version, Gao could not include some of his major arguments. A new version (中國農民反行為研究,1950–1980) was published by The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press in 2013. No one should call himself or herself an expert on rural China without studying this book.

With the passing away of Professor Gao, the field of Chinese history has lost one of its outstanding and intellectually challenging scholars.


 Felix Wemheuer (文浩) is Professor for Modern China Studies at the University of Cologne. He has published 饑荒政治:毛時代中國與蘇聯的比較研究 (Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union) with The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press in 2017. and Together with Kimberley Manning, he published an English translation of an article by Gao Wangling, “A Study of Chinese Peasant Counter-Action,” included in Eating Bitterness: New Perspectives on China’s Great Leap Forward and Famine (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011).


上有政策,下有對策:悼念高王凌教授

文:​文浩(Felix Wemheuer)教授

中國人民大學清史研究所退休教授、清華大學歷史系特聘教授高王凌於2018年8月24日在北京逝世,享年68歲。中國史學界痛失一位出色的學者。對我個人來說,這更是一個沉痛的消息。2000至2002年,我在中國人民大學留學,曾修讀過幾門他教授的關於集體化與農民的課程。高王凌教授是清史研究領域的著名專家,但他認為自己有義務研究並理解毛時期中國農民的命運。文革期間下放山西的經歷深深地影響了高教授,使他在研究中無法迴避中國農村這個議題。從他那裏,我瞭解到毛時代的農民並非是單純響應黨的政策,表面之下,他們有一套「反行為」——例如瞞報產量、偷盜、組織黑市或瞞報「黑田」。在大饑荒的三年中(1959–1961),他們無法與強制過度徵收糧食的國家抗衡。高王凌教授認為,人民公社時期的農民採取「反行為」的目的僅僅是為了生存。他的研究有助於打破黨與農民團結一致的官方論述。

我記得在人民大學的時候,修選高王凌教授的課程的學生總是寥寥無幾。但他並不在乎他的觀點是否能夠為主流學界或學校領導所接受。他鼓勵我們每一個人都要去農村親身訪問農民。在農村,我們可以找到那些在書裏見不到的社會和歷史。那時極少有中國學者運用口述史的方法研究毛時代。依循他的建議,我開始採訪大饑荒的親歷者。當時我還不知道,日後我會出版好幾部這一主題的著作。高教授還鼓勵他的一個學生去做關於建國前後土改(1947–1952)中極端暴力與恐怖行為的田野調查。很久以後,主流學界才開始關注1950年代初中國革命的黑暗面。

高王凌的學術水平和才華,在很久以後才得到學界的認可。他的諸多書稿是關於如大饑荒和土改等敏感話題,因此無法在中國大陸出版。 2010年高王凌從人民大學退休,在退休的前一年,他才被人民大學授予正教授職務。其著作《人民公社時期中國農民「反行為」調查》終於在2006年由中共黨史出版社出版。無需贅言,這個版本無法收錄他的一些核心論點。另一個版本《中國農民反行為研究(1950–1980)》於2013年由香港中文大學出版社出版。這本書是中國農村研究專家的必讀書。

高王凌教授的逝世,使中國史學界失去了一位傑出且富挑戰性的學者。


文浩(Felix Wemheuer)教授任教於德國科隆大學東亞學院,主要研究領域是中國當代社會史。他曾在中國人民大學中共黨史系留學,2006年獲得維也納大學博士學位。2008至2010年在哈佛大學費正清中國研究中心擔任客座研究員。

他的英文著作 Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union 由耶魯大學出版社於2014年出版,出版之後廣受好評,中文版《饑荒政治:毛時代中國與蘇聯的比較研究》於2017年由中文大學出版社出版。他還有數部著作,包括德文版的《毛澤東傳》。

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