Tuesday, March 15, 2011

LED City Gates for Chongqing. What's Next?

This is rather interesting (from China Radio International English):
Chongqing to Build LED Digital City Gates

Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality is rebuilding its old city gates with LED by virtualization, which would reproduce the ancient scene of seventeen gates of the city at night, the Chongqing Morning Post reports.

The visuals will be cool, I'm sure. What I'm not sure is whether this is 500 million yuan well spent,  or just another scheme of Bo Xilai's to boost his career achievements as a rising star politician, following his push for mass campaigns such as singing "red songs"  and cadres "aiding" the countryside. The "red song" movement is an eerie reminder of the "loyalty-word dances" (忠字舞) during the Cultural Revolution, and the cadres-leaving-town fad has been dubbed as another "up the mountains and down to the countryside" movement (上山下乡).  But if Bo Xilai is fashioning a modern version of the Cultural Revolution, its style has certainly changed from dark Orwell to euphoric Huxley.  Is Bo aiming to be Chongqing's Mao, or George Burns?

Chongqing people singing "red songs" on a replica Great Wall (from mitbbs.com)

P.S. To give you a sense what a city gate in Chongqing is like, here is a photo of the Tongyuan Gate, which I took in spring 2009.  Of the original seventeen ancient gates, this is one of the only two that remain (with some restoration):

Chongqing's Tongyuan Gate (photo taken 2009)


Yong Huang said...

Xujun, I imagine the "red song" movement in Chongqing touches your heart a little differently than most others'. If the singers sincerely embrace it for entertainment and nothing else, with no peer pressure, good for them. If they're old enough to sing the songs now for the second time in their life, again for fun only, congratulations on their transcendence over history. Did some famous person, Pushkin?, say what you had experienced is always lovely in your memory, even if it was hardship? On the other hand, if Bo Xilai organizes these events as publicity stunt, that's as disgusting as the real red song singing forty years ago.

By the way, I wrote about Tongyuan Gate, "Tongyuan Gate at Qixinggang: one of the nine fortified gates of Chongqing city in ancient times, spared of Mongol's break-in by the 1259 mysterious death of Mongke Khan at Diaoyu (Fishing) City, Hechuan, north of Chongqing, but broken by Kublai Khan 18 years later, and again by Zhang Xianzhong's mob at the next change of dynasty around 1644." I only counted the open gates, hence 9, not 17.

Xujun Eberlein said...

Yong Huang, I totally understand what you say about old people singing old songs for pleasure, and I have no quibbles with that (even I sing those songs sometimes). What I'm wary of is the way Bo Xilai pushes it as a mass movement, however fun it might be for the singers. In fact I'm wary of any mass movement.

By the way, did you post your writing about the Tongyuan Gate on your blog?

Yong Huang said...

I only briefly mentioned Tongyuan Gate in my travel diary. If we were to write more about the gate in the context of modern history, its connection to Mr. Yang Angong (杨闇公) would be an interesting topic. Apparently, the British and Americans back then (1927) were pretty nasty.

Rachel said...

Wow, I just stumbled across your blog while doing a search for 'walk-in marriage' for the Mosou culture (just saw a story about it on Channel NewsAsia). What a GREAT blog and good for you giving up the 9 to 5 route to do what you love - write.

I did that a few years ago after moving to Thailand and haven't regretted it for a second.

Xujun Eberlein said...

Good for you too, Rachel! Will go read your blog.

Yong Huang, interesting topic indeed! Hope you'll be writing about it...