Andy Warhol Exhibit Opens In China, But His Chairman Mao Portraits Are Forbidden

Andy Warhol
The Power Station of Art in Shanghai has opened a new exhibition by Andy Warhol, but the famous pop artist’s portraits of Chairman Mao have been left out of the picture.

Agence France-Presse reports that the Andy Warhol Museum, which created the traveling exhibition, was told by the Chinese government that images of Mao would not be needed. Warhol painted many pictures of the Chinese revolutionary leader, such as this one hanging in Berlin shown here courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As everyone knows, China has been reinventing itself as a capitalist superpower while still maintaining its Communist leadership. Images of Chairman Mao have been steadily disappearing from public display because the new China doesn’t jive with his idea of a peasant revolutionary Communist state. Bringing up memories of his Cultural Revolution, which saw countless works of art destroyed, also doesn’t sit well with Shanghai’s new image as a center for the arts.

The traveling exhibition, titled “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal,” has already been to Singapore and Hong Kong and will run in Shanghai until July 28, at which point it will continue on to Beijing and Tokyo.

Video: Inside A Traditional Village In China


China is a fascinating place to visit. While we’re always hearing about the country’s booming cities, there are still plenty of traditional rural villages like the one shown in this video.

The traveler, who sounds Canadian, takes us on a tour through a thousand-year-old village. One stop is the Longevity and Health Well, which enjoys enough local fame to have the restaurant next to it sport its image on its sign.

I like the little details in this video, like the Chinese city kid struggling to draw water from the well, the straw brooms leaning against the wall, the meat hanging outside the restaurant and the traveler wondering if the birds in the birdcage are food. It’s worth watching more than once to catch things you didn’t notice the first time. The amateur filmmaker really captures the novelty, fun and confusion of travel, and gives us a glimpse of a quiet life in China away from the smog-covered factories and noisy cities.

The Great Walls of China

China, Great Wall of China
There was more than one Great Wall of China, a Chinese archaeology team has discovered.

Several portions of the wall are actually double, triple, or quadruple walls running closely parallel to one another. This was a common feature in many ancient fortifications because it made the position harder to take. Often the troops would be garrisoned between the walls for protection against surprise attacks from the rear. The land between the walls also offered a protected area for flocks and farmland to provision the troops.

The Chinese team found that the main wall was larger than the others. The investigation continues.

Several walls were originally built starting in the 5th century BC or perhaps earlier. Under the Emperor Qin Shi Huang in c.220 BC, the earlier scattered walls were linked together to make a continuous fortification to protect China from nomadic tribes to the north. The Great Wall was lengthened, added to, and rebuilt several times in later centuries. During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) there was a major expansion during which 5,650 km (3,511 miles) of wall were built. A recent survey found the entire wall, with all of its branches, runs for 8,852 km (5,500 miles). This figure will have to be reassessed now that parallel walls have been found.

[Photo courtesy Francisco Diez]

Pyramids and monasteries among the many ancient monuments under restoration

pyramids, pyramid
Around the world, ancient monuments are crumbling. As our heritage wears away through neglect, “development”, or simply the harsh treatment of time, some countries are doing something about it.

The pyramid of Djoser, the oldest of the pyramids of Egypt, will be the object of a major restoration effort. The government recently announced that funding has been earmarked for restoration after the people previously working on the site put down their tools, saying they weren’t getting paid. The money that’s owed to the company would be paid and workers would be assured their salaries, said Mohammad Abdel-Maksoud, Egypt’s new Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The famous Zahi Hawass was let go during the recent revolution. Hawass was briefly replaced by Abdel-Fattah al-Banna, but al-Banna quickly resigned amid criticisms of his lack of credentials.

The Djoser pyramid at Saqqara was constructed from 2667 to 2648 BC and is a step pyramid rather than a true pyramid. It now suffers from numerous structural problems and a crumbling facade.

In Tibet, the Chinese government is investing almost $9 million to restore monasteries and homes of the 10th century Guge Kingdom. Among the attractions in the ruins are some colorful Buddhist murals, caves, palaces, and pagodas. BBC News has an interesting video showing of the site here.

It’s not all good news, though. Many treasures of the past are under threat. While Rome’s Colosseum is being restored, several structures in Pompeii collapsed last year. In Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, volunteers and experts had to clean away graffiti sprayed on Native American rock art. In England the Priddy Circles, a collection of Neolithic earthworks from 5,000 years ago, were half destroyed when someone bulldozed them.

It’s nice to see some governments working hard to maintain their monuments, but lack of funding and simple human stupidity are making their job difficult.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

China’s “red tourism” commemorates 90th anniversary of Communism

red tourismCome up with a wacky tourism concept, and they will come. For the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding on July first, enterprising operators throughout China are creating a new crop of cultural and commemorative “red” tours.

On the idyllic island province of Hainan, visitors young and old alike travel to rural Qionghai, to visit Pan Xianying. At approximately 95 (Hainan isn’t so great at archiving old birth records), Pan is one of three remaining members of a famed, all-female Chinese Communist army unit. As such, she’s a living attraction on a “red” tour of Hainan, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Pan was about 15 when she joined the unit in 1931; the battalion was formed by a Hainanese Communist to promote gender equality. The unit was disbanded after several years, when Nationalist forces drove local Communists underground. In 1949, the women gained national attention after Chairman Mao overtook China. The battalion is now the subject of several films and a song.

Enterprising authorities in Qionhai are now offering tours of the unit’s former training ground and meeting spots, and offering hikes, during which one can experience the thrill of following a difficult route once used by Red Army soldiers. Adding a further note of authenticity: guides wear era-appropriate green hats adorned with red stars (also available as souvenirs), and hikers willing to cough up an extra 100 yuan can even slog in full soldier regalia. The hikes are said to foster “army-style camaraderie.” Does that mean dysentery is included?

Not surprisingly, there has been official encouragement behind revolutionary tours, although red tourism isn’t new. Mao’s home city of Shaoshan in Hunan province, as well as the Communist base of Yan’an in Shaanxi province attract tourists, and authorities in places like Chongqing encourage the learning of “red songs” printed in local newspapers or on websites.

Chen Doushu, head of the agency organizing the Hainan tours, says red tourism reflects a desire by many to look back fondly on the past, after more than 30 years of focus on the future during China’s rapid recent modernization. “Chinese people cannot forget their history, and the best way to do that is to go and remember it, to study it. That’s where red tourism comes from.”

Apparently, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

[Photo credit: Flickr user xiaming]