Jesse Field

Jesse Field lives in the hutongs and teaches at Peking University Associated High School

Posts by Jesse Field

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Red memories

Touring a Chinese Cultural Revolution museum – by Jesse Field

 

Lack of planning, pure and simple, left me with a day-long layover in Shantou, a city in northeastern Guangdong province which is home to China’s only museum devoted to the Cultural Revolution.

There’s something creepy about setting out in pursuit of trauma tourism. Tripadvisor’s top picks for attractions in Shantou include parks, a Teochew mansion, and a ferry ride out to Nan’ao Island for beach vistas and seafood. Why should a newcomer in town for only one day skip these fine locales to see old pictures of Chinese society tearing itself apart? Chinese nationals are justifiably frustrated when foreigners take a one-sided interest in China’s mistakes. The truth about the history of nations and peoples requires multiple contexts.

The trip to the museum is awkward and somewhat difficult, even if you speak Chinese.

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Awkward Lavender

Trapped in a wedding photo – by Jesse Field

 

"Looking at the flowers” – kan hua'r – was what I was told we'd be doing Saturday afternoon, in a field of lavender up in Huairou, north of Beijing. My newly installed "second year in China" mentality in place, I felt surprise without any real anticipation. I was ready to be jaded. In a sedan with two of YK's friends – a boy and girl his age, Li Ning and Yang Yang, silly in love with each other – I didn’t attempt to make conversation, though I followed theirs well enough, and answered cheerfully any questions they asked.

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