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  • How the “Red Star” Rose

How the “Red Star” Rose

Edgar Snow and Early Images of Mao Zedong

Ishikawa Yoshihiro ‧Translated by Joshua A. Fogel

English , 2022/01 The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press

Tags: History, China Studies, Politics

229 x 152 x 45 mm , 352pp ISBN / ISSN : 978-988-237-207-8

  • US$70.00

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The fact that Snow did not sneak into “red China” to gather information constituting the basis of his Red Start over China all alone is in many instances misunderstood even by scholars.

Mao Zedong’s biography has been the subject of an international mountain of commentary in China and elsewhere. Biographies praising Mao and those slandering him are all based on the American journalist Edgar Snow’s (1905–1972) account in Red Star over China for the route Mao traveled from early childhood through his youth.

How the “Red Star” Rose introduces the image of Mao and the biographical information made known to the world through the publication of Red Star, and with its publication the circumstances which they fundamentally undermined. Ishikawa Yoshihiro uses Mao Zedong as raw material to examine from whence and how ordinary historical information and images which we habitually use unconsciously come into being. He desires to help readers to reconsider the historicity of the generation of not only Mao’s image but of that of “historical materials.”


With a title that evokes Gao Hua’s seminal study of Mao Zedong’s rise in the Chinese Communist Party, Ishikawa Yoshihiro asks two critical questions—What did the world know of Mao before the publication of Edgar Snow’s Red Star over China? How did Red Star change that understanding? With the meticulous research, careful documentation, and fair-minded judgment that characterizes all of Ishikawa’s work, he shows how little even Moscow and the Communist International knew about Mao before 1936. This study is full of unexpected insights into the origins of early visual images of Mao, the background to Snow’s historic trip to northern Shaanxi, and the evolution of the classic study that he left. In a world where balanced judgment of the rise of Mao is increasingly difficult to find, Ishikawa’s scholarship stands out as a rare model of judicious balance.

Joseph W. Esherick,  
Emeritus Professor, Hwei-chih and Julia Hsiu Chair in Chinese Studies, 
University of California, San Diego

This book is, first, an exquisite excavation on the enabling infrastructures in the writing and publishing of one of the most iconic works in journalistic interviews in the 20th century, a text that broke through a wall of intelligence blockade to give to the world, in an autobiographical voice and with a striking image, the debut of the revolutionary Mao while holed up in a mountain base area. It is, in addition, a history of the reading of the book in multiple languages including Chinese that is indexed to the rise of the Mao cult thereafter. Ishikawa captures a moment of a past gearing up in anticipation of a future that never came. This book is a must-read for all with an interest in Mao, journalism, and the history of books.

—Wen-hsin Yeh, 
Richard H. and Laurie C. Morrison Chair Professor in History, 
University of California, Berkeley

Ishikawa offers a challenging reflection on how historical information and images that we take for granted come into being through the twin case studies of images of Mao Zedong before Edgar Snow’s famous biography in 1936 and then how Snow’s images of Mao were translated, and transmuted, into Chinese, Russian and Japanese. Joshua Fogel’s careful translation brings this impeccable example of Japanese sinology to the English reading public.

—Timothy Cheek, 
Professor and Louis Cha Chair in Chinese Research, University of British Columbia

Ishikawa Yoshihiro 石川禎浩 is Professor at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University. He specializes in the history of the Chinese Communist Party, the history of modern Chinese thought and politics, and the history of Sino-Japanese exchanges. His representative work, The Formation of the Chinese Communist Party (2001), has also been translated into English (2012) and Chinese (2006; expanded edition, 2021) respectively. In November 2021, he was awarded the 25th Ryotaro Shiba Prize for his outstanding research on the Party’s centenary history.

Joshua A. Fogel, historian and translator, is Canada Research Chair Professor in modern Chinese history at York University. Trained initially in Chinese history, he developed an abiding interest in Japanese history and, after many years of language study, found a way to integrate the two: the study of cultural and political Sino-Japanese relations. He is the founding editor of the Sino-Japanese Studies journal. His most recent book is A Friend in Deed: Lu XunUchiyama Kanzo, and the Intellectual World of Shanghai on the Eve of War (2019).

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