chapter  7
The sieve of memory
Chinese coming to terms with the past and parallels in European cultures of remembrance
WithC. K. Martin Chung
Pages 25

Collective memory theorists such as Maurice Halbwachs have long argued that particular individual remembrances are evoked only within particular social groups or relationships. In other words, group meetings such as class reunions have the real potential to bring back suppressed or “forgotten” memories of one’s perpetratorship. One obstacle to collective repentance in the Chinese context – aside from official obstruction – is the concept of repentance itself. Though the recent wave of public apologies by former Red Guards since the late 2000s is relatively easy to trace, the larger phenomenon of post-wrongdoing expression, including apologies and confessions made publicly or privately to the victims of the Cultural Revolution, is more difficult to date with precision. The legacy of Wenge includes not only human suffering and the loss of social trust, but also the further estrangement from the cultural and spiritual wellsprings that had hitherto nourished the nation.