The blogger Shi Yan Wu Tian provided a [Chinese-language] synopsis of excisions made to the edition which was printed in Beijing in 2006. Some of the cuts, especially in the first few chapters, seem intended simply to speed up the exposition. But most of the cuts affect passages of a political nature and appear tendentious. Below I have given a rough paraphrase of these passages. Numbers in parentheses are chapter numbers.
Let me emphasize that this is a hasty and interpretative paraphrase. It aims (relying on the work of Shi Yan Wu Tian) to identify the passages that were cut out from the Beijing edition, not to translate them fully or accurately. [For that, you can buy the book. ;-) ]
Chinese censorship is a complex phenomenon and is often inconsistent. The uncensored text of the novel is available on a number of Chinese websites. And of course the edition which was published in Hong Kong was not censored, though for many mainland readers the traditional characters in which it was printed would constitute an obstacle.
(5) Background of Botanical Institute -- infighting during Cultural Revolution.
(9) Damo’s family had a more difficult time in the New Society than before the Revolution
(13) Damo et al stopped writing each other letters (about their political discussions) when they learned other people had gotten into a lot of trouble this way
The discussion about whether there were more good people or bad people in Mao’s Selected Works, and the account of the young people’s disillusionment after watching scoundrels rise to the top during the Cultural Revolution
Allusion to the parade in which Teacher Wei had been humiliated and the subsequent change in his temperament
Discussion of the way Teacher Wei had been railroaded for his tenuous association with Hu Feng
(22) Teacher Wei’s insistence that those who tormented him were not solely those allied with the Gang of Four, but, equally, those opposed to them.
Reference to the persecution which groups similar to the Qing Ma were subject to
(23) Wry statement that the hopes which dawned at the start of the 80s were dashed after “less than 10 years”
(24) Damo’s remark to his nostalgic friends who’ve returned from abroad: “but we live here, where there is oppression, and we yearn for freedom.”
(25) Teacher Wei likens the declared values of the early Communists to that of the students at Tiananmen.
Teacher Wei runs through a list of the destructive mass campaigns as evidence that something was wrong with the revolutionary impulse of his youth; something vital (perhaps “rationality, concern with design of the system”) was missing from the beginning.
Teacher Wei’s acerbic explanation of how most elderly cadres like himself are afraid to voice their misgivings because they may be denied medical care.
Teacher Wei says that if he hadn’t been purged, he might have turned out like Zhou Yang.
Teacher Wei explains his mixed feelings about the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Teacher Wei recalls how he once found himself humming a line from The East is Red, and says few appreciate the terrible impact which such “art” (and the lack of alternatives to it) had on the cultural psychology of a people.
Teacher Wei distinguishes an individual’s attachment to ultra-leftist art (on account of its associations with his youth) from the manipulative use of such art by the Establishment.
(27) Jiang Xiaoli recalls how her father, at the conclusion of the Ninth Party Congress, burbled enthusiastically about Mao and Lin Biao, his designated successor.
(29) Papa Fox describes a simmering resentment and potential for violence on the part of workers in his State-owned enterprise.
The company at the dinner party talk nervously about the rise in murders, bombings, and kidnappings to which members of their class have been subject.
(32) Damo refers to the problems specific to societies that restrict the free flow of information.
(34) Damo and Ru Yan talk about the true spirit of Communism, and Damo says that those who “talk Communism” today completely lack its spirit.
Ru Yan has observed that Chinese who come back from abroad, especially from Taiwan, are often gung-ho for the CCP and detest Chen Shuibian.
Damo enumerates the rights which have always been denied to people at the bottom of society, and emphasizes the right to know the facts, which he says is treated as a privilege of the elite. He concludes with a biting reference to official misinformation during the Three Years’ Famine.
(36) The book by Maozi which Damo comes across in a bookstore is identified as giving a Marxist interpretation to scattered utterances of ‘a certain leader’ [Deng]. What Damo finds objectionable about this is explained.
Damo says that Maozi’s unannounced induction into the Party was “as if he had joined an underground party.” Damo wants to know when he joined. Maozi tries to avoid answering, but then admits it was at the beginning of the Nineties. Damo is shocked: “You turned that fast?”
Teacher Wei says that what Maozi (the Maozi of the mid-Eighties, before he “turned”) was doing was consistent with the purported values of the leadership, and compares their treatment of him to their rage at Zhou Yang’s resurrection of the “humanistic” Marx.
Maozi’s trips to Beijing [in early 1989] involved signing petitions, marching, writing essays, giving lectures.
[Before June 1989] Maozi’s boss had hesitated to punish him because it wasn’t clear how the larger situation was going to resolve itself.
[After June 1989] Maozi’s boss realized that Beijing was full of people who were exactly like Maozi, and therefore reluctantly chose not to punish him.
(37) Satirical passage contrasting tolerance of “reputable villains” like KMT bosses with unforgiving contempt for little villains like Maozi’s father the cop, who had nothing anyone could envy.
Maozi felt indebted to Deng Xiaoping for his personal prosperity. “A man must show gratitude to his benefactor” -- and that was an important factor in Maozi’s “turning.”
In Damo’s criticism of Maozi’s rationalizations, references to “cynicism” and “not Marxist Philosophy but Liumang Philosophy” are excised.
Maozi says bitterly that ever since that summer day [6/4], he hasn’t believed in anything. The subsequent exchange in which Maozi claims to be carrying out an ironic “deconstruction” and Damo basically counters, “Who’s fooling whom?”, is excised.
Maozi’s comparison of China to a very ill old man, and the extended medical metaphor, is excised.
Maozi says that on 6/4 the leadership did the most terrible thing in the world, and risked completely losing legitimacy, but Deng did it because he had no choice.
Damo’s riposte comparing Maozi unfavorably to the eunuchs who served under the autocrats of old.
Maozi’s bald declaration that he is grateful for the present era, and Damo’s recitation of a Mao saying about shamelessness.
(38) Damo cites TV presentations of Westerners condemning their governments, and says that although the intention of the [Chinese] media was to make the West look bad, he felt that a government which allowed its citizens to curse it couldn’t be all bad.
Maozi’s reflections on the change of dynasties and fickle loyalties, applied to his expectations after 1989.
Damo: We can’t move forward, but we can’t go back, either. If we were to go back [to Maoism] they’d have to give up their ill-gotten gains.
(40) Damo explains to Ru Yan that the reason she wasn’t allowed to post anything about SARS is that it was true and sets forth the two laws of censorship:
- you know it’s true if they suppress it; and
- the more energetically they try to suppress it, the more serious the covered-up problem must be.
He goes on to express his (and her) sense of responsibility to society and to future generations, and notes that such an attitude is sure to get them in trouble.
(42) Teacher Wei recalls falsehoods in anti-American propaganda during the Korean War, and says that for all its strictures against “irresponsible speech,” the State has felt free to engage in such speech.
(44) A man who’d fought for the KMT reflects on the irony that he is now an honored guest on the mainland, years after his sister (who’d been a battlefield nurse for the Communists) was hounded to her death during the Cultural Revolution.
At the conclusion of his speech on the fear that pervades all parts of society (a passage which, remarkably, is not excised), Teacher Wei cites as evidence the choice of so many to live abroad today, in contrast to the choice of so many overseas Chinese to return to aid their country during the struggle against Japan.
(49) Ru Yan’s posting about the murder of Sun Zhigang elicits three hostile responses from patriotic youth.
(52) Ru Yan, feeling sad in the shower, sings a song about Tibet. [No, the song is neither ‘splittist’ nor religious, but I guess the Beijing editor’s policy was “Better safe than sorry.” - Ed.]
(54) Damo notes ironically that the Americans don’t seem to feel much need to read or listen to official Chinese media, but their government puts no obstacles in their way if they do.
(59) The internecine conflicts of the CCP in City X are recounted, with emphasis on how the mass campaigns furnished opportunities for score-settling.
(60) Setting forth her strategy to Mayor Liang, Jiang Xiaoli says that once the epidemic has run its course the officials will be able to quietly clean up any messes they’ve made.
The powerful conclusion of Jiang Xiaoli’s exhortation to the mayor (her invocation of those in each of their families who died for their country) is, curiously, excised.
(66) The ending of Chapter 66 is excised: Damo’s collection of essays in honor of Teacher Wei, his own contribution to it, the shutting down of the website where it was posted, and the propagation of the documents to other websites around the world.
(69) The ending of Chapter 69 is excised: Ru Yan learns about the hideous death of a child through police malfeasance and feels a terrible pain which nothing will force out of her system. [An important deletion. This passage comes immediately before the brief final chapter. It inclines the reader to a symbolic interpretation of that final chapter as identifying who is ready and who is not ready to deny legitimacy to the current power structure. But without this passage, the final chapter could be read as merely showing an individual “moving on” after a failed relationship. - Ed.]