Jiang Qing was a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party; wife of Mao Zedong, one of the Gang of Four.
Jiang Qing was born in Zhucheng, Shandong province on March 19, 1914. Her father ran his own carpentry and cabinet making shop. After Jiang's parents had a violent argument, her mother found work as a domestic servant (some accounts cite that Jiang's mother also worked as a prostitute) and separated from her husband.
When Jiang enrolled in elementary school, she took the name Lǐ Yúnhè, meaning "Crane in the Clouds", by which she was known for much of her early life. Due to her socioeconomic status and the fact that she was an illegitimate child, she was looked down upon by her schoolmates and she and her mother moved in with her maternal grandparents when she started middle school. In 1926, when she was 12 years old, her father died. Her mother relocated them to Tianjin where Jiang worked as a child laborer in a cigarette factory for several months. Two years later, Jiang and her mother settled in Jinan. The following summer, she entered an experimental theater and drama school. Her talent brought her to the attention of administrators who selected her to join a drama club in Beijing where she advanced her acting skills.
Because Jiang’s political and personal past were regarded as somewhat murky (she was rumored to have been on intimate terms with members of the Guomindang while in Shanghai，and to have betrayed the CCP in order to get out oi jail) the CCP leadership approved of the marriage only on the condition that Jiang refrained from involving herself in any kind of political work for the next 30 years. Aside from occasionally acting as Mao Zedong’s personal secretary and playing a minor role in the Ministry of Culture’s Film Guidance Committee in the early 1950s, Jiang played no significant role in Chinese politics or culture until the early 1960s, when she launched an attempt to reform Chinese opera along revolutionary lines.
Jiang's efforts to instill the traditional form of the Beijing opera with a modern, socialist revolutionary content met with strong opposition from the CCP’s cultural establishment in Beijing. It did, however, win the support of the Party apparatus in Shanghai, where Jiang established a working relationship with the Propaganda Department Director Zhang Chunqiao and the literary critic and essayist Yao Wenyuan. Another supporter of Jiang's at this time was Minister of Defense Lin Biao, who in 1966 made her a consultant to the People's Liberation Army in matters related to literature and the arts. For the next ten years, the Chinese media referred to JiangJs eight so-called MRevolutionary Model Operas' as the pinnacle of revolutionary proletarian art.
At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Jiang became deputy head of the Central Cultural Revolution Group, a powerful ad hoc organization charged with leading and monitoring the progress of the movement on behalf of the CCP Politburo. Even more important, she also became a leading member of the Central Case Examination Group Mao’s inquisition and in this capacity she mercilessly persecuted, among others, people who knew the truth about her life as a young actress in Shanghai, Party leaders who in the 1930s had opposed her marriage to Mao, and cultural figures and officials who in the early 1960s had opposed her attempts to reform Beijing opera. At the National Day celebrations in Beijing in 1968, she ranked number six among the Party and government leaders present. In April 1969, the Ninth CCP Central Committee elected her onto its Politburo. She retained this position in August 1973, when the Tenth CCP Central Committee held its first plenary session.
In the early 1970s, Jiang became deeply embroiled in factional politics within the highest echelon of the CCP. Together with Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen, she formed a clique (given the name Gang of Four by her husband) whose political program centered around the continuation of the Maoist policies and practices developed since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. The Gang of Four opposition consisted of a group of older politicians headed by Deng Xiaoping, who deeply resented everything the Cultural Revolution stood for Jiang main problem at this time would appear to have been her lack of a broad base of support within the Party. The fact the she was surviving in politics was largely due to the tacit support given her by Mao Zedong.
On October 6, 1976, four weeks after the death of her husband, Jiang was arrested together with the other members of the Gang of Four. The political enemies she had made over the past decade now accused her of having attempted to use the Cultural Revolution to destroy the CCP and to usurp power for herself and her “counterrevolutionary clique. On January 23, 1981, at a major show trial in Beijing, she was branded an enemy of the state and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve (a sentence subsequently commuted to life imprisonment). According to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, she committed suicide on May 14, 1991.
She joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1933, while a member of the Seaside Drama Society in Qingdao.
Politburo, 9th Central Committee of CCP 1969, Politburo, 10th Central Committee 1973. "gang of four” 1976.
In May 1931 she married Pei Minglun, the wealthy son of a businessman. The marriage was an unhappy one and they soon divorced.