The renowned author Wang Meng once said: ‘Who is able to explain and advance our ability to sum up, from either a political or scholarly perspective, the decade of the “Cultural Revolution” that began in 1966? Chinese people ought to be taking on this task. The Communist Party of China ought to be taking on this task. Chinese academics ought to be taking on this task. The Chinese people have this responsibility to history and the world. China is duty-bound to do this. To accurately, and without the slightest bit of obfuscation, evaluate the “Cultural Revolution” from every angle — this would also be China’s contribution to the history of humankind.’
The ‘task’ of which Wang Meng spoke has a great allure for me, and I have long been eager to tackle it. Although this is an exceedingly complex and dangerous territory, once I started I was filled with excitement. This ‘task’ turned out to be of monumental scale; it has taken all I can give just to lay down a small patch of brickwork.