“Destroy the Four Olds.” This slogan was central to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, launched in Beijing in 1966. What were the Four Olds? Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits and Old Customs. The destruction began simply, with the renaming of streets, stores, and even people, who exchanged their traditional Chinese names for revolutionary ones like “Determined Red.”
But violence soon followed. Red Guards broke into the homes of the wealthy to destroy books, paintings, and religious objects. Places of historical significance were destroyed or forbidden to the public. Cemeteries containing notable pre-revolutionary figures were vandalized, their graves desecrated. Old customs surrounding marriage, festivals, and family life were forbidden. Temples and churches were pulled down or put to secular use.
Why? Why was all this necessary?