The End of the Gang of Four (1976-1977)

The Cultural Revolution in Images -- Caricature-Posters from Guangzhou 1966-1977

The Special Collections of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Library contain several caricatures commenting upon the fall of the so-called Gang of Four (四人幫, sirenbang), an umbrella term coined by Mao Zedong in July 1974 to admonish Jiang Qing 江青 (1914-1991), Zhang Chunqiao 張春橋 (1917-2005), Yao Wenyuan 姚文元 (1931-2005), and Wang Hongwen 王洪文 (1935-1992) for their alliance against other members of the Party (Kwok, 1995: 430). After Mao’s death on 9 September 1976, the Premier of the State Council Hua Guofeng 華國鋒 (1921-2008) and the members of the Gang of Four contended for power over the CCP. The intra party struggle ended with the arrest of Jiang Qing, Zhang Zhunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen on October 6 (MacFarquhar and Schoenhals, 2006: 443-449). It was after their arrest that the derogatory term “Gang of Four” became widespread. Major newspapers and journals employed this label during the propaganda campaign to expose their crimes.

Propaganda posters were one of the key tools for the dissemination of allegations against the Gang of Four. Photographs taken around China in the months following their arrest show that posters against the members of the Gang were ubiquitous in public spaces of major cities. For instance, a picture shot in October 1976 portrays demonstrators carrying a large caricature of the Gang of Four during a rally in Guangzhou (Terrill, 1999: 104).

The Special Collections contain several images portraying the Gang in its entirety, but also caricatures of individual members of the group. Jiang Qing was the most popular target of criticism; there were even exhibitions entirely dedicated to images criticizing her crimes, such as the Exhibition of Critical Cartoons against Jiang Qing’s Crimes (批判江青罪行漫畫展, Piping Jiang Qing zuixing mahuazhan) organized in Guangzhou No.2 Workers Cultural Place (廣州市第二工人文化宮, Guanzhou dier gongren wenhuagong), as indicated in the poster “Open the door” (把門開, Ba men kai). Other exhibitions were organized by department stores, such as the Zhongshan 5th Road Department Store (中山五路百貨商店, Zhongshan wulu baihuo shangdian, poster 江青野圖 : 聲討江青反革命罪行 and "四人幫"三句半) or the Strong Wind Clock Shop (雄風鐘錶店, Xiongfeng zhongbiao dian, 文痞姚文元 : 雄風鐘錶店批判四人幫漫畫展, 狗頭軍師張春橋 : 雄風鐘錶店批判「四人幫」漫畫展).

While amateurs produced most of the posters against the Gang of Four, professional cartoonists were also involved in the process of production of propaganda images. The collections hold copies of images of famous cartoonists, such as Ding Cong 丁聰 (1916-2009) (我向老師問好來了, 卒) and Fan Lifu 範立夫 (1911-) (按既定方針辦, 571).


Li, Kwok Sing. A Glossary of the Political Terms of the People’s Republic of China, translated by Mary Lok. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1995.
MacFarquhar Roderik and Michael Schoenhals. Mao’s Last Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006.
Terrill, Ross. Madame Mao: The White-boned Demon. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999.