Curating China
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Living Underground, by Ana Fuentes | ChinaFile

Living Underground, by Ana Fuentes | ChinaFile | Curating China | Scoop.it

They are called rats, and they have become a symbol of Beijing’s red-hot real estate market. Because of soaring housing costs, there are at least a million people living underground, only able to afford a rented room in the basements of skyscrapers or converted bomb shelters in their nation’s capital. Obsessed with the possibility of a Soviet nuclear attack, in 1969 President Mao Zedong ordered the construction of underground shelters that would stretch for eighteen miles beneath the city, able to accommodate half of the population if war ever broke out. The subterranean city center was rife with holes from all the tunneling, like a giant Swiss cheese. A half-century after their construction began, parts of this underground city have been converted into living quarters. This is the only housing option for many students, waiters, hairdressers, office workers, the newly divorced starting their lives over, and many others trying to eke out a living.

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On China’s State-Sponsored Amnesia, by Yan Lianke

On China’s State-Sponsored Amnesia, by Yan Lianke | Curating China | Scoop.it

IN March 2012 I met Torbjorn Loden, the Swedish professor of Chinese language and culture, in Hong Kong. He told me that while briefly teaching at Hong Kong’s City University he asked the 40 students from China in his class what they knew about the June 4 Incident, the pro-democracy movement that ended in bloodshed in 1989, and if they were familiar with the names Liu Binyan and Fang Lizhi, two prominent democracy advocates of that era. All the students from China looked around at one another, mute and puzzled.

 

That reminded me of something another teacher told me. She had asked her students from China if they had heard about the death by starvation of 30 to 40 million people during the so-called “three years of natural disasters” in the early 1960s. Her students responded with stunned silence, as if she, a teacher in Hong Kong, was brazenly fabricating history to attack their mother country.

 

After we exchanged these stories, Professor Loden and I sat sullenly in a quiet Vietnamese café, speechless. Ever since, thoughts about the loss of memory in China on a national scale, a phenomenon that people have long been discussing but only in private, remain lodged in my heart like thorns. From time to time, guilt — along with painful memories of the past and thoughts about losing the memories — torment me and refuse to leave me alone.

 

Have today’s 20- and 30-year-olds become the amnesic generation? Who has made them forget? By what means were they made to forget? Are we members of the older generation who still remember the past responsible for the younger generation’s amnesia?

 

The amnesia I’m talking about is the act of deleting memories rather than merely a natural process of forgetting. Forgetting can result from the passage of time. The act of deleting memories, however, is about actively winnowing out people’s memories of the present and the past.

Yunkai's insight:

Bravo! A brilliant essay written by Yan Lianke, and a must read.

 

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 2, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune.

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‘Hi! I’m Fang!’ The Man Who Changed China, by Perry Link | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

‘Hi! I’m Fang!’ The Man Who Changed China, by Perry Link | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books | Curating China | Scoop.it

In China in the 1980s, the word renquan (“human rights”) was extremely “sensitive.” Few dared even to utter it in public, let alone to champion the concept. Now, nearly three decades later, a grassroots movement called weiquan (“supporting rights”) has spread widely, and it seems clear that China’s rulers are helpless to reverse it. Even people at the lowest levels of society demand their rights. No one brought about this dramatic change single-handedly, but arguably no one did more to get it started than Fang Lizhi, the Chinese astrophysicist, activist, and dissident, who died a year ago this week. We were friends for many years; here are eight of my favorite memories of him.

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Changing China through Mandarin, by Teng Biao

Changing China through Mandarin, by Teng Biao | Curating China | Scoop.it

Even in Robinson’s world of one man, his life required information, reflection and memory. Human society not having information is even more impossible to imagine. It may be said that a person is moulded by the information he or she comes into contact with and masters; a society is the same.

 

Thinking and memory cannot be separated from language. Modern philosophers have paid more and more attention to the extreme importance of language in human societies. The thinking human (homo sapiens) exists first and foremost as a language human (homo loquens). Society and language have not stopped interacting for a blink: regardless of whether philosophy is concerned, or whether politics or society is concerned, language not only is a tool for expression and memory — language itself has a huge capacity to create reality.

 

Because of this, all systems that want to control and transform society attempt to control and transform language. (Do you remember “Newspeak” from Oceania?) Movements to transform thinking are at the same time movements to transform language; the education to keep people in ignorance is at the same time an education that promotes a language system designed to keep people in ignorance. The highest effect of controlling language is ensuring that a person cannot produce heterodox thinking, and to ensure that persons cannot become their true selves. Because totalitarian ambitions are not only to transform public politics and transform private lives, but also to transform spirits (“Wreak revolution in your innermost soul”); they are surely aware of the deep effects of this revolutionary tool, language, and know how to achieve the greatest effect.

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