Tag Archives: China

Cultural Revolution Stories

maos-lrb-with-school-kids

My fathers stories about the Cultural Revolution were mostly about food. Stories about being sent as a student to work as a farm laborer in the countryside: how the peasant farmers used so much vinegar that the students couldnt choke down their noodles, and how during the watermelon harvest everyone sat in the fields and ate watermelons until they couldnt stand up. My mothers stories about the Cultural Revolution were almost nonexistent.

My parents grew up during the Cultural Revolution, but I didnt know what that meant. As a kid, I thought the Cultural Revolution was a time period, that my dad would say, during the Cultural Revolution, like my friends parents would say during the Kennedy Administration, or during the 70s.  It wasnt until I was older that I understood that being sent down to the villages wasnt a normal thing that every Chinese student did as part of their education, that saying during the Cultural Revolution was actually more like during the war.

Years later, my mother finally told me the story about how she watched her classmates tie up and beat her favorite teacher. She alluded to how my grandfather was accused of being, if not an outright counterrevolutionary, problematic enough to be criticized and their family forced to move across the country. Swept up in the patriotic fervor of the times, she changed her name from white flower to for the Chinese.

When I was 20, my mother found an old copy of Maos Little Red Book, and some Communist Youth League badges that she had worn in school. She burned the book and smashed the badges, efficiently and emotionlessly.

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Filed under Contemporary Chinese History, Uncategorized

The World of Extreme Happiness Is Extremely Unhappy

As I walked out of the theater after watching The World of Extreme Happiness, I was reminded of the time eleven-year-old me tried to watch Schindler’s List by myself because I thought it was necessary for my moral education. I only made it as far as watching the old one-armed man get shot.

The World of Extreme Happiness is a play by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig that just ended its run in Manhattan after playing in London and Chicago. It stars Sunny Li, a girl who is born in rural China, and then literally tossed into a bucket of pig slop to die, because her parents want a boy, and, as her mother says, the life of a girl is misery. It’s implied that her parents have disposed of at least four other girls this way, and that the village midwife habitually kills baby girls as well. Sunny survives because her sunny smile unexpectedly softens her father, who rescues her from the bucket. Continue reading

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June 5: A Day For Tank Man and Reimagining History

Jeff Widener, AP

Jeff Widener, AP

Also known as the “Unknown Rebel,” Tank Man is the nameless protagonist of a stand off with a column of Type 59 Chinese tanks.  His stance, encapsulated in time on Beijing’s Changan Avenue, is determined. He is slight, wiry in the tradition of a wushu hero perhaps. We’ll never know his face: only the set of his shoulders, and his angry strides.

Tank Man is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century, and of course one of the ones most closely associated with the Tiananmen Square Massacre. All over the Internet I’ve seen people attributing the image to June 4th: as if he stood at the front of the Square while the tanks rolled in. Actually, June 5th is his day. And I think it’s important that we remember the distinction. Why? Because June 5th was the day of bald-faced, daylight violence. It was the morning after tanks and troops rolled through Beijing, clearing the Square and shooting residents in their neighborhoods. It’s important because Tank Man saw all of this and stood up anyway. Continue reading

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Filed under Contemporary Chinese History, Current Affairs

Never before seen Tiananmen Square photos found in shoebox

It was a black film canister, rattling around the bottom of an old Naturalizer shoebox labeled “photos.” I opened it, wondering if it was a roll of unused film. Instead, I found a twist of white tissue paper wrapped around tightly rolled black-and-white negatives. I held them up to the light. At first I saw…legs.

Tiananmen legs

Then, people with bicycles.

Tiananmen bicycle people

Wait, that looks like the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Is that Tiananmen Square? With banners? Tiananmen monument

Next, a white form rising above a crowd, holding…a torch?

Goddess_crowd

Oh man, is this what I think it is?

Continue reading

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Filed under Contemporary Chinese History, Uncategorized

People’s Daily demands rectification of parody Twitter account (UPDATED)

Sometimes Chinese state-run media do something so tone-deaf, so ham-fisted, that you wonder if you’ve accidentally been reading the Onion. Like they apparently do. Enter the tweet below.

Some background on this beauty: The Relevant Organs is a parody Twitter account that tweets in the collective voice of the Chinese Communist Party. It’s been running since 2010, and it’s absolutely hilarious in its skewering of Chinese officialdom, Western views of China, and everything in between. Not sure who’s behind it, but guessing a former China journalist(s) who’s amazing at dinner parties.

The People’s Daily, meanwhile, which lists itself on Twitter as “the largest newspaper group in China,” somehow forgetting to mention the whole “directly controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China” thing, seems to have just now discovered the existence of the Relevant Organs. And they are not happy. Continue reading

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Filed under Twitter, Uncategorized

Your Daily Panda: Sad TV panda makes emotional recovery

cute panda selfie

And now, your daily panda. This is Sijia, who made a lot of news last week when keepers at the Yunnan Wild Animal Park installed a TV and playground to help cheer her up. She was depressed after her panda bestie Meixi was moved to another zoo. And what was on TV? My Love from the Star? Actually, it showed videos of Sijia and Meixi playing together. I have to say, as a human, that actually seems like it might be more depressing–reminding you of how much fun you had with your friend, which then just reinforces the fact that you’re all alone now, crying into your bamboo.

But apparently, it works for pandas. As proof, there’s a new set of photos of Sijia looking all sunshiny again, including the one above.

(Source, in Chinese)

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Filed under Uncategorized, Your Daily Panda

The Company Man: a sequel (of sorts) to the FBI’s Game of Pawns

As newbies to the world of FBI-produced docudramas, the China Girls were excited to find out that there is a sequel, kind of, to Game of Pawns. No, we don’t get the further adventures of Voiceover Glenn Shriver. But, we do get to see another American get snagged in the web of Chinese espionage.

The Company Man looks grittier than its predecessor, and the protagonist looks less clueless and more tortured. And if you look closely, you’ll recognize a familiar face in the trailer…SPOILERS…

Yes, it’s Mr. Wu (now Wei)! [Insert obscure Taoist non-action joke here.]

In any case, we look forward to watching and recapping The Company Man…when it eventually comes out. We learned from Sean Paul Murphy, the screenwriter for both movies, that it could be a while before the FBI releases it publicly.

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by | April 22, 2014 · 6:53 pm