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I decided to stay for another day, because my friends, the Yang Brothers, wanted to take me to a place called Dazhai 大寨 in the south of Yangquan:


I don’t think that a lot of young people in China know about this agricultural showcase from the 60s and 70s anymore.

For the older generations though, it remains the unique place where – according to public belief – a handful of Chinese farmers under the management of one certain Chen Yonggui 陈永贵 transformed a barren hill into one of the most successful farming areas in the country . And all this with little more tools than their bare hands!

Now, the whole site is dedicated to tourism:


To me, it is always interesting to see how today’s people interact with their socialist legacy from only 30 years ago.

Can there be a way to express a mixture of nostalgic and cynical feelings?

Nostalgic: Zhou Enlai 周恩来, respected and beloved first prime minister of the People’s Republic. When he was staying in Dazhai to observe the agricultural methods applied by Chen Yonggui, this was the radio receiver he used:

Zhou Enlai's radio

Cynical: Jiang Qing 江青, publicly despised last wife of Chairman Mao, held responsible for the terrible destruction dubbed “Cultural Revolution” in the 60s and 70s. This was her toilet seat:

Jiang Qing's toilet seat

“In a society of squat-toilets, why would she insist on having a velvet seat like this? Physical problems?”

The tourist guide just shook her head and smiled. No answer.

It’s really hard to grasp, this mixture of feelings I sense here sometimes…

The last thing we did was: one of my friends got an own personal Chairman Mao:


I’ve been talking about it before: the idol and the accessory.

Mao with Mao

And I still find it fascinating whenever I see it.

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