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.

[All your favorite Cultural Revolutionary Memories]
Who wouldn't want one of these beauties in their home?
In the pottery section we found some definitely cool - I'm not exactly sure what to call them... I guess the best name would be "Cultural Revolutionary Figurines" These things weren't antiques, but they were recreating the imagry of the Cultural Revolution. I'm not exactly sure who buys these things. The Cultural Revolution was really a horrible time, and I'm pretty sure almost everyone in China now realizes that, but apparently there is still a market for these things (besides for tourists who happen to find it hilarious that these things still exist.

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.

I am the gigantic Mao!  Obey me!  I command you to leap!] []
Mao and his midget jeep driver.
The banner reads something like "Chase America, Keep up with England"

Another really cool find were "Wushu comic books." We passed by a table of books for sale, and as usual I scanned the covers for anything that caught my eye. I noticed a stack of small books and the one on top and I was like "hey, that guy looks familiar" - then I read the title - Nan Quan Wong - Southern Fist King! For those of you who aren't familiar with Nan Quan Wong, it is in fact the best wushu movie ever made (in my opinion at least). It is a total old school movie made in China in the early 80s. It has absolutely no wires and its all kickass wushu fightin'. Turns out that this was a novelization of the movie! So I ended up barginning with the guy for the two volumes of the story, only 5 yuan for both. Thats like $0.60, can't go wrong right? I think the seller guy was amazed when I explained that I practiced wushu and really liked this movie. I also think he had been trying to sell off these books for several years (they were all like 15 years old and way dusty). So as soon as I bought the two I want, he was like "buy the rest!" He grabbed the whole stack (like 10 books) and was like "30 yuan!" I wasn't THAT interested so I was like, "no thanks" and he was like "no you have to buy them! I'll give you a good deal, how much do you want to pay?" I told him 10 yuan, he dropped to 25, I said 15. Meanwhile he had already stuck them in a bag and so he said 20 and tossed them across the table to us, forcing me to catch it (a deceptive way to make your customer accept your price). But we one upped him, we said "no way, 15 or else" and when he hesitated I wound up to peg the bag back at him, so he capitulated, complaining about how much we were taking advantage of his generousity. Just the normal way of doing business in China.

[This now holds my pens]
A drawing from the Revolutionary Era Play "Sha Jia Bin," which translates to "Sha family Stream" as near as I can tell.
I did find a few really awesome Cultural Revolution related items. I got a cup/pencil holder kind of thing with a picture from one of those post revolution operas they did (you know, sort of like traditional Peking Opera except with guns. On the back was some quote by Mao about the workers. My number one find were the clocks. Its an old fashioned wind up clock, with a picture of a rally of Mao's Red Guard on the face. When the clock ticks the arm on one of the zealous guard member waves her little red book back and forth. I can't believe people really used to own things like this. Imagine waking up to the morning to the ringing of the bell of your Red Guard clock. The only antique thing I bought was one of those old Chinese locks (you see them in movies), this one was unique because it was actually a combination lock, with different Chinese characters on the three dials. Even cooler was the fact that it was in the shape of a dog. I'm thinking I'll be the coolest guy in the locker room at the gym with this baby.

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.

It's a dog, it's a lock, it's a dog-lock!

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.

[You can relive the experience every morning.]
My prize possession, the Red Guard clock. The woman in front waves her little Red Book as the clock ticks.

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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