There are those moments when you feel the weight of history pressing on you -- that awestruck realization that a great moment happened here, and now you're bearing witness. Maybe you've ducked into a tower while on the Great Wall. Or you're standing just inside the Lincoln Memorial. The thing is, I never expected to have that feeling while standing in my basement, squinting up at an unidentified roll of film. But that's what happened to me last Sunday, as I was searching through an old shoebox from my parents labeled "photos."
Photo: Catherine Henriette, AFP/Getty Images, via USA Today
Peter Harmsen of the excellent China in WW2 blog has a great write-up of Ernest Hemingway and his then-wife, war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, traveling to Chongqing in 1941. You may have heard this story before -- the couple's distaste of the country and Hemingway's dabbling in espionage, among other things -- but there are a few anecdotes I'd like to highlight from Harmsen's piece, titled "For Whom the Gongs Toll."
In college, I came across the original diaries of two Fuzhou missionaries that had been gathering dust in our library for more than 100 years. I’ve now lived in China for four years, which seems like long enough to revisit the stories of Mary Allen and Carlos Martin.
If you haven't already, watch The Gate of Heavenly Peace, directed by Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton, with writing by Geremie Barmé and John Crowley. The three-hour documentary was released in 1995 to rave reviews -- "the atmosphere of the Beijing Spring is conveyed beautifully in all its pathos, drama, hope, craziness, poetry, and violence," wrote Ian Buruma; "a hard-headed critical analysis of a youthful protest movement that failed," wrote The New York Times -- and remains the best film ever made about the June Fourth Incident, neither gorifying the student leaders nor incriminating the Communist Party, but explaining how a peaceful democracy movement could possibly have resulted in martial law and Chinese troops opening fire on their own citizens.
If you haven’t read Murong Xuecun’s piece about China’s Great Famine revisionists — those who doubt even the textbook figure that around 15 million people died prematurely from 1959-62 due to hunger — start here. Two other stories on this subject are also worth your attention. Foreign Policy, which ran Murong’s declamation, has a slideshow... Read more »
Murong Xuecun, the outspoken Beijing-based writer and anti-censorship champion, calls China an obscurantist system “designed to make people stupid, foster mutual hatred, and degrade their ability to think critically and understand the world” in his latest broadside, penned for Foreign Policy.
The NY Times’s photography blog, Lens, has just published 20 stunning pictures from the Cultural Revolution, a “panoramic view” that includes Little Red Books, an execution, and an elongated dunce cap. The images were taken by Harbin photojournalist Li Zhensheng, “perhaps the most complete and nuanced pictorial account of the decade of turmoil ignited by Mao... Read more »