Liberal China watchers tend to perceive the ideological-cultural polemics in the Chinese intellectual community as a factional or power struggle between “liberal intellectuals” and “cultural bureaucrats.” In this perspective, Zhou Yang may be perceived as a watchdog within the totalitarian state of orthodox Maoist policy regarding literature and art. He was known for years only as a power-wielding communist “cultural czar.” Some studies go so far as to deny him the status of an intellectual, casting him instead as their enemy. Moreover liberal China viewers tend to see that his writings and public roles in most cultural campaigns well manifest Zhou Yang’s portrait as a blinded spokesman of Maoist vulgaristic mass line for political mobilization and thought reform. This article suggests, however, that Zhou Yang’s life reflects two symbolic currents in Chinese intellectual life: aspirations to the role of officialdom and a sense of cultural mission. Like idealistic intellectuals throughout Chinese history, he faithfully dedicated himself to the socialist revolution, although the methods through which his life expressed this appeared as a contradiction, unification, and finally as a culmination of these two currents. As could also be argued of many other early twentieth-century intellectuals from all parts of the political spectrum, Zhou Yang was committed to the enlightenment of Chinese society, and as an out-spoken and at times heterodox socialist intellectual-cadre, he followed in the moral path of his imperial and Confucian predecessors.