[Photo Gallery:] the old Licun Chinese Prison

A literal stone’s throw from the south wall of the Rockcity Mall (伟东) in Qingdao’s Licun (青岛李村) sits the last remnants of the old Licun Chinese Prison (李村华人监狱). It’s surrounded by construction fences, but you can get in through the loosely chained construction site gate on the north side.

The walls inside and out are covered in barely legible Mao Era slogans, which, along with its history, make this a fascinating stop for urban explorers. But unless the authorities have plans to turn it into a museum, I doubt it will be standing for much longer. Along with the Binhe Lu Christian Church (滨河路基督教堂) and, until recently, Licunji (李村集,the canal bed market), this prison represents the last wisps of tangible history in a fast-developing district.

According to Baidu, German imperialists built the Licun Chinese Prison in 1897 (they had a separate prison on Changzhou Lu 常州路 for foreigners). Around 1939 it underwent major restoration. In 1941 during the Japanese occupation there was a famous prison break, commemorated with a photo. After Liberation most of the original structure was torn down and rebuilt.
iron&wood
In 1954, criminals were given three months of winter thought reform training in the “3 Destroys, 3 Erects”:

“Destroy reactionary thinking, erect socialism thinking;
Destroy exploitative notions, erect the glory of labour;
Destroy old bad habits, erect new morals.”
反动思想社会主义思想
剥削观念劳动光荣
恶习道德

That slogan and many others are still visible on the prison walls — I’ve translated all the legible ones in the photo captions below (with much help from my Weixin pengyous). (The most recent writing I found was a posted notice from January 2007 listing sanitation duties.)

These photos were taken on December 12 and 14, 2016. Click a thumbnail to get started!


I found two other photo collections: one from August 2013, and one from April 2016.

Chairman Mao on working out

I’m on my third Chinese gym in three years. The first one got kicked out by the landlord (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees). The second one operated with no electricity for over a month before the management suddenly locked the doors and disappeared (and didn’t refund the remainder of our membership fees).

But my third and current Chinese gym has Chairman Mao speaking English:
发展体育运动增强人民体质
I was sold.

It was also the cheapest by far of my remaining options.

But it turns out this quote from some calligraphy by Chairman Mao in 1952 is famous, and was used in propaganda posters:

发展体育运动,增强人民体质
fāzhǎn tǐyù yùndòng,zēngqiáng rénmín tǐzhì

Here’s a little collection of posters and images I scrounged from the internets (click one):

Chinese restaurant irreverently spoofs the Cultural Revolution

Friends picked this restaurant for a meal a while back. They had funny edited posters everywhere, mostly Mao Era propaganda stuff. Here’s a couple:

Restaurant propaganda1
开饭啦吃饱力气减肥?!
Dinnertime!
If you don’t eat up, how will you have the strength to lose weight?!

Restaurant propaganda2
不是想吃就吃 就是想吃就吃路上
If you’re not going to Eat As You Wish, then you’re going to the Eat As You Wish road

Good Luck Mao

Chairman Mao and Laughing Buddha
I Heart Mao
Patriotic Police
Shiney Mao
See also:

“Communist” China summed up in one bumper sticker

Passed this on the way out this morning:


我们的目标
Our goal: look to money, look to thick profits

Chairman Mao, as some stories have it, refused to even touch money. After his death, Deng Xiaoping launched China’s ‘Reform and Opening’ and ‘Modernization’ Era under the slogans: “Liberate thinking, seek truth from facts, join together and unanimously look forward” (解放思想实事求是团结一致). He probably meant “look forward” to mean something like, “let’s not dwell on all that nonsense of the past few decades, but instead get on with making a better future.” The bumper sticker simply switches out “front” (前 qián) for “money” (钱 qián), turning “look forward” into “look to money” — both phrases are pronounced exactly the same: xiàng qián kàn.

There are a million anecdotes to illustrate the way Mainland Chinese unapologetically prioritize money. The most recent one is from some study reported in a magazine (I forget which), indicating that Chinese tie material wealth to happiness at more than twice the global average.

P.S. – I suspect there’s more to the bumper sticker, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

P.P.S. – Here’s a Chinese forum thread admiring the same slogan on a custom license plate: 我的目标-向钱看-向厚赚-牛B720

P.P.P.S – What would the equivalent bumper sticker say in your home country, if it were equally honest?

P.P.P.P.S. – Like Propaganda?

Chairman Mao the good luck god

Walked out to the street market at the entrance to our neighbourhood to get some bǐng before dinner yesterday. The late afternoon sun was sparkling brightly off the superstitious dashboard ornaments of the cars that clog our complex. First a Guānyīn,

then a prayer wheel,

and then a…

…Chairman Mao.

Mao as a part of Chinese folk beliefs isn’t anything new, of course. But I thought it was funny the way it just fell across my path today. For more about Mao’s current status in China’s popular spiritual imagination:

Why they still love Mao: “Liberation”

If you’ve ever wondered why so many Mainlanders still love Mao, this quote explains it more or less the same as our friends and teachers in Tianjin do (except our friends in Tianjin are less negative toward Mao).

An American-born Chinese female general, born in 1930, who worked 40 years in military education:

I feel that the Liberation of China in 1949 really was a fantastic event. And I include Mao Zedong in that. Even though Chairman Mao did a lot of wrong, and even committed crimes — I do acknowledge that. But we have to recognize Mao Zedong’s contribution to the revival of the Chinese nation as a whole. He was actually a great historical figure and his name will go down in the annals of history. He’s like the Emperor Qin Shi Hung Di, who burned books, buried Confucian scholars alive and tyrannized the people, but this can’t obscure his achievements in uniting China, setting up the legal code, developing commerce, and even building the Great Wall, one of the wonders of the world. Mao Zedong gave the Chinese back their self-respect as a people after the Opium War, and that achievement can never be wiped out.

What does Liberation mean? The greatest liberation has been for the working people. Previously in China, workers and peasants had absolutely no status; now, they may still be poor, but it’s not the same. At least now, society and the media and officials have to show respect for them, whether they mean it or not, and they’re supposed to be the masters! Before Liberation, the expression “Chinese people” didn’t include them. The difference between then and now is really huge. That’s why I tell you we are the most fortunate generation, because we have seen with our own eyes the difference between before and after Liberation. We have seen the whole process — from war, starvation, poverty and unrest, to the imposition of order, our growing strength and the development of a humane society.

(Quoted from pg. 286 of China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation by Xinran, a collection of interesting personal interviews with members of China’s most fascinating generation.)

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