Since seizing power in 1949, China’s Communist Party has exerted firm control over all aspects of cultural expression. This policy took its most radical turn in the mid-1960s when Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), aiming to rid the country of bourgeois elements. The composer Zhao Jiping was a student at the Xi’an Conservatory during this period. He graduated in 1970, but was able to continue his studies only when the Central Conservatory reopened in 1978. On completing his studies, he established himself as a composer of folk-inspired music for film and the concert stage. This paper focuses on Zhao’s score for director Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum (Hong gao liang, 1987), a film based on the 1986 novel by 2012 Nobel laureate Mo Yan. While the composer enjoyed only limited recognition beyond China, he went on to score other successful films, among them Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and Farewell, My Concubine (1993), and achieve success as a composer of concert music. The paper connects Zhao’s musical language to the impact of the Cultural Revolution by examining how in Red Sorghum his music was employed to evoke a virile image of rural China.