The CR up close
Tuesday 12 May 2015, 7.59am HKT
5.51am local time, 25°C (77°F), air conditioner on
T R A C K B A C K T U E S D A Y
A lot of people have told me I should find a way of preserving some of the comments I’ve littered all over the Internet because (not to sound too immodest) they consider my comments rather good.
I’ll buy that for a dollar.
It’s safe to say 90% of anyone under 35 years old who studied Chinese and/or Chinese history have no practical clue about what the Cultural Revolution of 1966–76 was like other than from books.
And their books are mostly from the 1990s on.
They think they know, but they don’t, not really.
What’s worse, those in China truly believe they have a better picture and automatically know more because they happen to be Chinese people.
If their blanket views of today’s Hong Kong are warped enough already, chances are they’ll know next to zilch about the CR.
A couple of years ago, I was reading this:—
A conversation on a little bit of everything — Party loyalty, Chinese world views, and Mao’s height
“I sat down to lunch a few days ago with my co-workers and the hospital president. For some reason, when I had been watching ‘The Founding of the Party’ (a recent propaganda film), a single line had jumped out at me that needed further exploration. The line was ‘Brother Mao, you are so tall.’ ”
Here’s my comment there:—
“I know of Mao’s height from my Uncle Dougie, who was a kind of ‘friend’ of Mao’s back in the 1920s or something. The man’s Shangtungnese — they’re not exactly a tall lot. Madam Tussaud’s in London has a good wax statue of Mao with the correct height — about mine (5 feet 9 or 175cm).
“As to China in Africa, well, it seems to me that those who know, they know and don’t care. Those who don’t, wouldn’t know to care. It’s just fact of life in China, where sinocentricity is even stronger today than it was in my day.
“I will say one thing, though, about the Cultural Revolution in my own small way. When the political chaos was at their height in 1970–73, I sometimes come back to Hong Kong on holidays. We had a second home in Taipo district in New Territories at the time, with the Taipo River (which, alas, no longer exists) running through the back gardens/grounds. I had occasion to see corpses with their hands tied to the back really, really tight with metal wire drifting down the river all 30 kilometres or more from the mainland. All of the corpses I’ve seen had a bullet hole at the back of the head or a couple more somewhere on the body, courtesy of the PLA border militia. I sometimes had to help Ah Pui and/or Ah Yung (our groundsmen) to fish out the corpses, rang the police, who then rang up the fire services to clamp free the wires on the corpses. One doesn’t forget those savage images and memories (and the smell!) quite so easily then.
“So, to me, this business of orthodoxy trumping physical evidence and actual memories in the (mainland) Chinese mindset doesn’t surprise me one bit. So the increased degree of sinocentricity that I’ve seen in the PRC (which even my PRC and Hong Kong friends agree it’s hard to miss) just adds to the selective memory and selective perspective of our cousins across the border here.
“Just my twopence.”
(1 Aug 2011 @ 2.17am)
Someone clearly liked my comment:—
thenakedlistener: That’s a hell of a lot more than just your twopence worth. It’s incredibly sad. You describe it so vividly. Young people in China do not have any real comprehension of the suffering of the older generation. There is no open discussion of recent history. Instead there is this increased degree of sinocentricity that you are conscious of. Sinocentricity is a word which is perfect for this limiting trait.
(2 Aug 2011 @ 7.01am)
Which brought me to this point:—
“Yes, it really is very sad, and I’m sorry to have seen it (or maybe not, as the case may be). Hong Kong is travelling down the same road: schools here used to glance over some of the more inconvenient parts of modern Chinese history, but teachers and books do a fairly decent job at giving the whole picture. Today, school history just try to avoid even British colonial history in Hong Kong (which, I remind people, was only 13–14 years ago).
“What is even more saddening to me is to hear university tutors in their early 30s spewing out various ‘facts’ and prognostications about the Cultural Revolution (among other things) that bear little resemblance to the memories of those who lived through those times (mostly the mainlanders who swam 25–50 miles to get to Hong Kong) or witnessed the chaos from Hong Kong knowing full well there were 150,000 PLA troops over the border.”
(2 Aug 2011 @ 4.25pm)
As to exactly how tall was Mao:—
One commenter reckoned Mao was 5 foot 7 inches (1.70 metres) based on photos of him with foreign dignitaries. Nixon was 5 foot 11½ (1.82m) and Kissinger 5 foot 9 (1.75m), both with a 2-inch higher eye level over Mao, so no way Mao was 5 foot 9 or 10 (1.75m or 1.78m).
Another commenter had it that Mao was 6 foot (1.83m) — from an unflattering biography (“Mao: The Unknown Story” by Jung Chan and John Halliday, 2005) — “photos in the book clearly showed him to be much taller than most Chinese people around him and not much shorter, if at all, than Westerners. Mao’s height is probably the only thing I can defend about him.”
Mao meets Nixon, Peking, 25 Feb 1972 (via 4chan)
The thing is, perhaps not by the time Mao was with Nixon or Kissinger. People shrink down as they get older. Considering the hardships that Mao had during the wartime years and the various other abuses he did to himself afterwards, shrinking 2 inches isn’t bad going actually. I myself shrank down a full inch over the past 10 years, mainly because of working too many nights.
Mao and Kissinger in 1973 (Photo: AFP via The Age)
Yeah, kinda hard to think Mao was taller. But Uncle Dougie knew him personally and that’s who I heard the 5 foot 9 thing from. Uncle D also told us Mao’s family originally came from Shantung, and moved and lived in Hunan for two generations before Mao was born. But Uncle D was careful to say there’s no way to verify this claim. So there.
Besides, photos of Mao with the locals could be fudged, so that needs bearing in mind.
The Naked Listener
Images: Smoking man by Trashness via mix4fun | Seeing Red in China screenshot by author | Shush via macgasm.net | Quotation marks by the author| Mao and Nixon 1972 via 4chan | Mao and Kissinger 1973 by AFP via The Age.