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.
Then, people with bicycles.
Wait, that looks like the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Is that Tiananmen Square? With banners?
Next, a white form rising above a crowd, holding…a torch?
Oh man, is this what I think it is?
Built by students, the 33′ high Goddess of Democracy was assembled in Tiananmen Square on the night of May 29-30. Shelley found this picture in a shoebox.
The words “惊天” (today) are blocked on Weibo right now. Because we all know what today is. If you’re on this blog, you know what today is. Even the least attentive have been counting down to it while going about our daily lives. And now, the time has finally come to take stock, 25 years later.
My entire life has been lived in the looming presence of the Tiananmen Massacre, but I didn’t understand that until I grew up. It’s not just my life, either. All of China lives there, in the shadow of it. The current regime constantly fights to censor it and keep it suppressed, but even where the Party line succeeds you can still see it from the emptiness: the space where it should be. Sometimes I feel like if I traced my finger back along the origins of any crackdown or power struggle in contemporary China I would end up in the Square on June 4th, 1989 every single time. Continue reading