Day 65 - Amateur Chinese History

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Really glad I prepped that shake for this morning. When I work too close to bedtime, I tend to resist sleep and am not able to shut off my mind. So many things to think about, particularly anything but what I’ve been working on all night.

Classes go well, Aurora is watching again, and the kids are being their usual selves. I don’t know if I’ve ever really gone into detail about these “eye exercises” that they have in the mornings. They play this eerie tune, like mischief is taking place, while counting from 1-whatever in Mandarin. We open the door so they can hear the counting better, and they all close their eyes, massaging themselves in the way they all know. Massage the ear lobe, just beneath the eyes, the forehead, press on various parts of the skull. There are several stages, and some of the kids take it seriously, particularly the ones that voluntarily police the class.
A Student's Fashion Project
Catch lunch with the regulars: Jen, Wendy, and Aurora. We talk about the article I saw, the one with China having the most number of obese people in the world. I suggest the progression of a society goes like this: prosperity makes more food available. As more food is available, more junk food is available and competing the newfound wealth. As more people get sucked into that delicious, terrible food, they start collectively gaining weight. Society notices declining health and problems, thus they start focusing more on fitness, spawning a fitness movement/culture. The West appears to be in the later stages of the fitness culture, with healthy options everywhere and gyms easily accessible. Here, however, their out-of-home food options are almost exclusively less healthy. Seems they're in the beginnings of the fitness culture.

We also covered the two-child law.
The Two-Child Law (Formerly One-Child Law) Remember the one-child rule where everyone could only have one child? Well, it’s slightly more complicated: you can have more kids, but you have to pay a fine for doing so. How much? Well, it depends on where you are, along with some other factors. Aurora’s Uncle lives in a small, rural town and had to pay ¥30,000 for his second daughter. That’s roughly $6k CAD, or $4,650 USD. Now, however, if two people get together to have children, and they’re both only-children, then they can have 2 of their own without harassment. What fun!

Another Part of his/her/their exhibit
Back in the office, I have a little bit of Chinese culture explained to me. It may or may not be entirely accurate, but this is what I remember:

Brief History

Chairman Mao introduced The Great Leap Forward, which was what caused The Great Famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people. After the famine, they proposed The Hundred Flowers Campaign, which was followed by the brief stint of the Red Guard, lasting couple of years. 

It's better tasting than it looks, trust.
The Great Leap Forward

The Great Leap Forward was where each commune grew their own food, and then handed it off to the government for redistribution. Problem: each kiss-ass wanted to look good for those in power, and purposely over-estimated their yield. And so did everyone else. Guess what happens when you think you have a lot more food than you do? That's right: horrendous amounts of people starved to death.

The Hundred Flower Campaign

The Hundred Flowers Campaign was something like this, and I’m paraphrasing:
"hey, let's pretend that ideas are flowers. Let’s get a loooot of flowers, dude, I mean, like, maybe even 100! Then, let's make the best gosh-darned bouquet with the best ones! It'll be, like, totally rad"

After collecting the flowers they were all, "woah, dude, some of these flowers are really beautiful. I mean, so beautiful that they make our current flowers look like total pieces of trash. Ouch! Some have thorns! You know what, I don't like this. Disqualify those gardeners and put them to use in whatever profession is the furthest from botany. I dunno, brick laying or something stupid.”

Translation: they took all the intellectuals who criticized the government and had given advice - probably great advice - and then "reeducated them" through labour in the farmer's fields.

Shamelessly taken from Wikipedia
The Red Guard

OK so, overestimating the food leads to the famine, then Chairman Mao loses power, and, finally, the 100 flowers. Caught up? Mao somehow gets back into power and decides that China has lost it's rebellious, militant spirit. Thus, he declared this paramilitary group called the "Red Guard" who were supposed to defend/promote communist interests and ideals. Who do they report to? No one. It’s entirely their own discretion. What is their directive? Protect and promote communism.

Did I mention that they were 14-18 year old students with guns and imbued with power directly from the dictator himself? Can’t see that going terribly wrong. Nope! Not like we're going to have children turning their own damn parents in and terrorizing whoever teenagers everywhere like to terrorize. I’m sure it worked out wonderfully. That's probably why it only lasted for 2 years.

Those red guard, by the way. are only in their 60's today. Because of that, the Chinese have a phrase: "
The old people aren't becoming bad, it's the bad people that are becoming old."
Pretty sure a student painted this
Student Armbands (1-3 stripes)

I asked about those armbands. The Director explained that the children’s ranking bands were a relic from the Communist party, and that the things that motivate people here are different from back home. To be respected and have a position of prestige is highly prized. Cool, as we know it, is not the same as here. Think about cool in the West: anti-establishment, and often apathetic. Here seems to be the exact opposite.

I wandered to the bus, my head crammed full from that history lesson.

The rest of the night was boring, doing work to get caught up and grabbing two pancakes for dinner. ¥16 for two, not bad. Remember: they’re like really large, thin pancakes filled with stuff. Yum!

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]

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