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.


Children of Tiananmen

Coming to terms with 1989 as a young Chinese – by Catherine Wang


For a long time, the only significance 1989 held for me was that it was the year when I was born, in the coastal city of Tianjin. By the time I went to university, I had heard about the other thing that happened that same spring. The term used for it when I grew up was not “June 4th”, let alone “Tiananmen square massacre”, but more simply “the student riot”.

“When did our youngest son get married again?” my grandfather would ask my grandmother, when he was flicking through the family photo album.

“The year of the student riot,” grandmother would reply, as if it was just another incident to mark the passage of time.

As a child, I didn’t take it too seriously either.


Qi soup

A Chinese American rediscovers TCM in Beijing – by William Poy Lee


When she escaped China by marriage in 1949 and settled in San Francisco, my mother made eight promises to my grandmother. The seventh promise was to cook the traditional qi soups for her family to protect their mind-body balance and inner energy.

Along with every other American in the 1950s, my brother and I ate Campbell’s most popular soups – chicken noodle, cream of tomato, mushroom, split-pea. But at home, we also gulped down smelly, weird tasting Chinese soups – cow brain with ginseng, turtle, ox tail, four herbs chicken (from a live chicken, throat slit and defeathered in Chinatown). 

As we ate, Mom explained the rationale to us in ways that made no sense at the time.


Songs of Shambala

Glimpses of Shangri La on the tourist trail – by Iain Manley


Dusk gently settled over Shangri La. A mist rose off the grasslands, while music started up in the cobbled squares at the centre of the old town, where men and women gathered to dance. Standing in a wide circle, they repeated the same few steps while edging clockwise, like pilgrims circumambulating a shrine.


Spring City

Lie back and think of Kunming – by Brent Crane


The same security guard sits in his office by the door to my old university dorm. “Remember me?” I ask him. He studies my face. “I studied here three years ago. American.”

His eyes light up.

“I remember! I remember! American! Three years ago!”

His name is Tang Zao’an and he has worked as a security guard at Yunnan Nationalities University in Kunming for eight years one at the front gate, three at the male dorm across the way, and four at the all girls foreign students dorm.