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It’s Johnny Rockets Meets the Cultural Revolution!

Last updated by davidroyster at 2011/4/19; Destinations:

May 7th:
Early mornings no longer bother me. I rarely eat breakfast but since I got up so early I decided to head to the café and grabs some food.
We learned that duos would be performing skits of the Chinese sentences we learned, I was with Connie, a really funny rising senior who has awesome work ethic. We practiced nonstop in class and even continued in the hallway during our break. It was then when I also met some African students from Uganda who were also studying Chinese at Minda University. I asked him where I would be able to get a haircut, seeing as it was almost time for me to get one. He struggled to explain where he got his, until I figured out that he cut his own hair. Today’s lecture was on Mao and the People’s revolution. I’ve been considering doing my final report on this topic ever since getting here when I noticed that this man had some sort of impact on this country—so much so that his face would be the equivalent to seeing the golden arches back in the states; excessive. Coming to China with no previous knowledge of Chinese history, this lecture was the thing I needed to catch up with the last sixty years of this country’s history. The lecture point out key information including, how and why the communist revolution occurred, Mao Zedong’s objectives, his success in military leadership and his future failures in the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. We also touched on the post-Mao period in which China experienced both economic and cultural changes with the reformation of the economy and the later Tiananmen Square crisis. This was information I previously read about in the coursepack, however I feel like hearing someone speak about it, I grasped more of it. My next step in understanding was finding out more about Mao; a man admired and detested at the same time, most likely a very complex, if not complicated individual.

As soon as we got out of class today we headed to Mao’s Mausoleum. It’s in the middle of Tiananmen Square so I expected to be hot and irritated by the people. That was an understatement. We took public transportation to the square, which is always cool—while taxis are amazing (especially at such a low price) it’s really awesome to get out and do it like the locals, no matter how hot and crowded it is. Those lucky enough to find a seat ended up going to sleep for the long ride. Instead of chatting with the conscious ones, looked out the windows people watching, for the first time realizing just how expansive the city was. It took us about two hours to get back to the Square but once we got there we all jammed onto the line which seemed never-ending. We passed the time on the line by singing 80s and 90s hits and Negro Spirituals; it was another one of those special moments with the group. I entered the hall to Mao’s Mausoleum, astonished by the sea of people sobbing and gently placing yellow daisies under a Lincolnesque marble statue of the Chairman, near are some of the leader’s famous words:
“It is only through the unity of the Communist Party that the unity of the whole class and the nation can be achieved, and it is only through the unity of the whole class and the whole nation that the enemy can be defeated and the national and democratic revolution accomplished.”
Past the big Mao the large group of spectators split into two groups and went through two different doorways. I head right. I head towards the back of the line, letting the Chinese get a closer look at the body. Mao Zedong’s remains lie behind a crystal glass, tucked in a under a red flag with the sickle and hammer symbol on it. His face, waxy in appearance and for some reason very orange, lie still, reminiscent of how he left it thirty-three years ago. I couldn’t quite get over the whole aura of the memorial; from the initial sight of seeing people place flowers down under the effigy, I felt as a guest would at a wake; it felt as though Mao had just died. The tears that many shed for this man, who I still don’t have a clean-cut opinion on, were fascinating. As we were quickly rushed out of the dimly lit room but the intimidating guards I tried to think of who would be worshipped on such a grand stature back home. While we do have large statues of leaders, soldiers and even entertainers, I don’t think any of the visits they receive could match to the monumental crowd that wrapped around the square, waiting hours upon hours for a glimpse of the man known as Mao. I need to find more about the Chairman, he must have been very important in China’s history to have such power; scary power. We almost didn’t make it to the mausoleum, I’m glad we did—not to see Mao, even though that was an event within itself, once again watching the people and viewing their reactions to the stage of Mao were the most intellectually stimulating moments to capture.
After the mausoleum we split up into groups to visit homes of University Professors and make dumplings (Jiǎozi). Our host was a woman in her thirties who didn’t speak English but with the help of Professor Gilmartin was still was able to communicate to the group of six. Our host premade the filling of pork, scallions, leeks, garlic, vinegar and ginger. She then gestured us to wash our hands and get dumpling making. I was pretty awful and ended up making little dumplings that looked like Christmas sacks. At the end of the day we had probably close to 200 dumplings. One thing about Chinese culture, and I’m guessing most other cultures is that it is considered to be rude to not finish a meal, no matter how large it is. I ended up eating close to 20 dumplings and am officially all “dumplinged out”.
Dinner was at Xiang Yang Tun, what most described as a Cultural Revolution themed restaurant. Decorated with large red tables, glowing red lanterns and walls plastered with propaganda-heavy newspaper of Mao’s People’s revolution. It seemed to be the perfect albeit most surreal way to end the day of the topic I wanted to do my project on. We had dinner with intellectuals who lived through the revolution. I found myself somewhat tired or possibly sick, I wasn’t able to capture his whole story or the magnitude that the revolution had on people. News traveled fast around the group that the restaurant might have offended our Li Yan, our TA. I had to find out why. There is much more to be learned about this time period. I feel like there’s so much more that I need to know.