fredag 21. mai 2021

The Village Where Chairman Mao’s Legacy Lives On

At the entrance to the village, a huge red sign looms over the parking lot. “Learn from Dazhai in Agriculture! Mao Zedong,” the banner reads. It’s an unusual slogan to find at a tourist site, but this is the kind of cognitive dissonance visitors often feel when arriving at Dazhai — a small settlement perched high in the Taihang Mountains. Dazhai is one of a handful of “collective villages” that are attempting to straddle two periods of Chinese history. Though they have adapted to today’s market-driven economy, they’ve also tried to preserve the collectivist ethos espoused by Chairman Mao.

Dazhai’s nostalgia for the Mao period is a product of its history. Like other collective villages, there’s a feeling it has been left behind amid China’s rapid modernization. During Mao’s time, Dazhai was impoverished, but locals felt it was at least respected. In 1963, as China was recovering from the Great Leap Forward, the village attracted national attention by building a reservoir and terraced fields in an effort to grow more food. Chairman Mao himself praised the village’s initiative, and urged the entire country to “learn from Dazhai in agriculture.” It became one of the most famous campaigns of the period.