All entries for Sunday 30 October 2005

October 30, 2005

China Revisited

My granny, the absolutely admirable embodiment of a Chinese woman of her age (circa 1920s), pulled out a performance tonight I never expected from her. She started off by singing Peking Opera with her fake teeth removed and only one tooth left in her smoky mouth. Smoky mouth but shiny tooth she had. She sounded enlightened, her spirits lifted and mind drifted into another, a better world. After that stunning and amusing act she sat down on a shabby chair next to my mum, the embodiment of communism in her spirit and soul. They chattered kindly; they picked the most innocent people to be the honourable victims of their after-dinner gossip session. But tonight I was around and I was eavesdropping. They spoke of no one else but my MaJong partner – my third gran (my granny’s third oldest sister). They talk about relatives a lot, but tonight it was especially interesting.

“She had good education…” – my gran informed my mum, “she finished primary school, I think”. “But you know what they say, she was a lesbian!”. My gran gave me a suspicious look and then plainly looked away, as if I wasn’t there. And I sat there in the dark, listening to every single word they said, greedy for more details about this innovative gran of mine, who obviously thought needed to emancipate long before the English had their first gay and lesbian parade in 1970s. “She married unhappily…” – my gran continued, “People say she’d been so vicious with her husband that the poor guy couldn’t handle it and passed away. After that she tortured her son until he had to move out.” Right about there I started feeling somewhat proud of my third granny, whose actions were being condemned by the rest of the family, but silently praised in my heart. I’m not a vicious lesbian/man-hater myself, but I liked that spirit of rebellion. I felt like I got to know my gambling pal at a whole new level. I also had a peep at the so often ignored subculture in the great communist China. It sounds like something really worth exploring.

Back to China yet again…

I remember the first time I consciously settled myself before a telly I had an extensive shock and a repeating feeling of déjà vu. I think it was some decade ago, at 7pm Beijing time. It was much like a scene from 1984: all the channels were showing one the same piece of news, read by the same anchors. A decade later, standard Beijing antenna can receive up to 74 channels, including regional and international channels, and out of those, around 15 channels broadcast children’s programmes, some broadcast classical music, some regional channels show their own home-made soaps and the rest, the rest obediently gives its way to the CCTV news. I can’t believe I’m still shocked by it.

October 2005

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