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A Letter From China
Image: Jonno: Crossroads; which way to go? - Click to Enlarge Infrequent, irreverent, and irrelevant snapshots of daily life in China
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A Letter From China

The Great Divide - Part Two

By Cynthia Muak

From 1961 (the year I arrived Hong Kong) to 1995 (the year I officially left Hong Kong) two non-personal things in the 1960's left lasting impressions in my memory.

1) Mao's Little Red Book

During the Cultural Revolution in China, it was unofficial requirement, especially during the latter part of Mao's rule (1972-76), for every Chinese citizen to carry at all times this book. If found without the book, a person would be subjected to public humiliation, before being sent to the countryside for many years of hard backbreaking manual labour and re-education.

During the period between 1966 - 1976, teaching and studying of this book was required in schools and in the workplace, be it bank or factory; no one was exempted.

In 1967 during the Leftists riots in Hong Kong, the demonstrators roaming the streets also demanded Hong Kong people do the same. I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people carrying the little red book in my purse. I did not want trouble. I even tried to memorise two of Mao's shortest, easiest quotations in case I was stopped somewhere; at least I would be able to recite something if pressed. They were:
"Women hold up half the sky"; and
"To read too many books is harmful.”

There was one I saved for emergency in case I ever met up with a very aggressive mob:
"An army of people is invincible" (to pander to their egos)

If one was unable to quote from the book, one had to denounce the influence of the 'paper tigers' whoever they were. I did not really understand this but guessed the 'imperialists' were the paper tigers. I had heard them shouting 'Down with the imperialists! Down with paper tigers!'

I remember the little red book I had measured about 3-1/2" by 2", with 64 pages containing about 400 of Mao's quotations, printed in Chinese-English and bound by a red vinyl cover. On the cover was printed a picture of Mao. The title of the book was QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN MAO TSE-TUNG. The picture and title were printed in yellow ink. It was a 1966 edition. The functional compact size would fit into a shirt pocket: easy to carry, could be taken out at any time for practice, learning, and application.

Some ready facts:
Book on Mao's quotations
4 Chinese editions
8 Chinese minority languages in 8 versions
1 Braille version
37 foreign languages
1 bi-lingual Ch-Eng
Total printed:
1.056 billion
No wonder it is claimed this was the most widely printed book in the world. We have not yet taken into account Mao's other works, e.g.
Selected Articles of Mao Zedong (252 mil copies)
Selected Works of Mao Zedong (3 mil copies)
200 Quotations from Chairman Mao (internal party circulation for group education)
Time for a laugh:
On the internet I recently found image of a little red book cover (book design, format and printing similar to Chairman Mao's little red book) made for President Obama, made in jest I am sure by some American joker.

The title was printed in yellow ink on a red background. Title of book was QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN OBAMA.
Unless Chairman Obama intends to march long and hard at least 6,000 km over treacherous and uneven mountainous terrain across north America with at least 160,000 American farmers, I don't think the world, especially China, would take his quotations seriously. (Hehe)

2) Hong Kong's very own 1960s Necktie

Black silk tie woven with diagonal thin red lines across the tie. Woven in between the red lines was a cast of amusing animals.
The symbolism was very straight forward:-
a) The background was black, same as Hong Kong outlook;
b) The dull red line was the Commie propaganda PRC was spewing out;
c) The 3 main Hong Kong inhabitants: the white skinned pig (expatriates), the yellow running dog (Hong Kong people), and the red fat cat.
d) But, if you turn the tie inside out, there was a silk SILVER LINING !!!

This necktie was very popular in the 1960s to the early '70s with the expat community and many of the better educated professionals and those with a subtle sense of humour.

My boss at that time, an American designer, wore one to work every day. A few of us gave him the same design tie that Christmas to make sure he would never run out of supply, for the next few years. He complained about us being wicked! Why?? Because he was a Jew and his religion forbade any association with ‘pig’ or 'pork'. He was a good sport, though. He didn't mind being labelled a white-skinned 'pig'. We had great fun that year, our office like a farm housing pigs, dogs, cats with some 'paper tigers' hiding on the outside waiting to pounce on the fat cats!
No matter what, life goes on as usual!

Only in Hong Kong!

This work including text and associated photographs is Copyright of Cynthia Muak and Jonno Morris (Unless stated otherwise), and may be reproduced for personal and private use under Collective Commons 3 Licence. An email would be appreciated in such circumstances, as would a reference.

You are not allowed to use this information to make money from my work - regardless of how fancy or well paid your lawyers may be.

The views and recollections expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of those of China Expats. Some artistic licence has been used arbitrarily in some of these Letters, and whilst most facts are in essence correct, some personal and literary interpretation may have been employed to greater or lesser degrees.
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Image: Chairman Mao - Click to Enlarge

Image: Quotations from Chairman Mao - Click to Enlarge

Image: Quotations from Chairman Obama - Click to Enlarge

Image: Hong Kong necktie - Click to Enlarge

Image: Amah Ah-Ling wearing typical clothing - Click to Enlarge
Ah Ling and niece,
picture courtesy Tim Roberts

Image: An amah pictured wearing the baggy pants, not black ones though - Click to Enlarge
A typical Samfoo
Image: 'black and white' amahs pictured wearing the baggy pants - Click to Enlarge
2 Shunde 'black & whites'
Image: A bicycle and side-carriage - Click to Enlarge
A bicycle and side-carriage
Image: Typical Black & White clothing, including common hairstyle - Click to Enlarge
2 Shunde 'black & whites'

Image: A silkworm and cocoon - Click to Enlarge
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