During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong and Lin Biao advocated the destruction of the “Four Olds.” These were old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Mao and his followers believed that China had to totally reform its society and shed the chains of the old imperial culture of the past that had dominated China for thousands of years. Mao Zedong had previously put an end to such harmful customs as foot binding, but now he was going to attempt to completely erase all ideas, culture, customs, and habits of ancient China in order to create a completely new China.

At Mao and Lin’s behest, thousands of Red Guards and Chinese Red Army soldiers stormed and destroyed Buddhist temples, Shaolin monasteries, and Taoist shrines, as well as the occasional Christian mission. Their inhabitants were harassed, beaten, humiliated, and sometimes killed. Old plays deemed to be subversive were forbidden from being shown. Countless priceless artifacts such as sculptures, paintings, and ancient works of literature and poetry were lost forever in the fires of the Cultural Revolution.

Recently, the Chinese government has allowed for the rebuilding of certain shrines and temples destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, as well as lifting the bans on art, customs, and practices associated with the Four Olds.

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