One thing I really wanted to get in China (besides knock off Adidas) was some authentic Chinese Cultural memorabilia. I'm not talking about those ancient chinese Antiques which seem to be everywhere, I'm talking about post-revolutionary stuff! I find the Cultural Revolution era of Chinese modern history to be quite fascinating. I've read a lot about the post-revolutionary period in China the personality cult around Mao Zedong and wanted to find a little bit of it to take home. My pal Mike told me of the best place in Beijing to get Cultural Revolution and Mao related stuff (also known as Maomorabilia), the Panjiayuan antique market.
This is a pretty huge place across town from where I was living. We had to get there early in order to beat the crowds - the tour buses apparently show up at like 9am... we got there by 7. The place is pretty huge, with all kinds of stuff for sale. The first part was all art supplies, apparently the Beijing Art community frequents this place too. After that it was antiques, then it was pottery and other crafts. The tourists mostly come looking for the "authentic" antiques (I'm sure most of them aren't at all authentic). But not us, if its pre-rev, we're not interested.
|Who wouldn't want one of these beauties in their home?|
First we saw the 'Mao in the Jeep' one. Man, he was like twice as big as the guy driving! A little further on we hit the gold mine. It was a booth totally full of these figures. There were tons of different ones: Mao giving a speech, Mao and Deng Xiao Ping chillin' in a couple of Lay-Z-Boy chairs, The Industrious Worker, The Red Guard member reading Mao's little red book. These were mostly benign, somewhat patriotic, but there were a couple really disturbing ones. One was a man on his hands and knees with a Red Gaurd member stepping on his back. Another was of a group of the Red Guard standing over a man (probably a teacher) who was kneeling, a dunce cap on his head and a sign around his neck. This was a common scene during the Cultural Revolution - educators, doctors, administrators were rounded up by over zealous youth and persecuted, often they were also beaten and a number of people died during this period. I can't imagine who would want to "memorialize" this with a figurine to put in your living room. Their were also some bizarrely nationalist statues. The most extreme (and funny) one was the two workers sitting on top of the missle. As much as I really wanted to buy one, I knew these things would be destroyed in my luggage so I passed on them, settling for taking a few photos of them instead.
|A drawing from the Revolutionary Era Play "Sha Jia Bin," which translates to "Sha family Stream" as near as I can tell.|
We left by about eleven with another bag full of goodies just as it started to rain. A week to go on my trip and I had been slowly but surely building a huge pile of stuff to take back with me. One of the hard things about a trip to China is trying to make sure you bring stuff to give to the people there and to find stuff to give to people when you get back. I was doing OK.
When I got back to the dorm at the sports center, I showed Zhang Shifu, one of the workers there what I had bought. She thought it was kind of strange that this American kid found the Cultural Revolutionary period so interesting. She was in her late 30s or early 40s, so she grew up during the that period. Unfortunately my language skills weren't good enough for me to really talk to her very indepth about her experiences, but she did communicate how back then everything was pretty crazy and they stopped going to school for a while, Mao's book was all you needed to study. I wonder how she felt about that period, as compared to the dramatic changes that China has undergone in the last few years. I'll have to ask her next time.
This chapter might not have been too exciting wushu-wise, but it was actually one of the most memorable experiences I had on that trip. Only about a week to go, I've seen most of the sites, bought most of what I wanted, whats left?
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