The Mao Era in Objects

'It was the capital in late autumn, pleasant weather. All the broad-leaved trees, having lost their leaves, bared their sparse twigs. But the pines and cypresses in the parks and next to the high-rises seemed even more luxuriant than usual. The Fragrant Hills in the far distance seemed to be covered with white gauze, under which their reddish winding contours loomed elegantly. The red colour must have come from thousands of fiery maple trees!

At the time of dusk, the setting sun was resting over the distant Fragrant Hills, gilding the lofty and majestic Qianmen tower with a remarkable golden radiance. The sky was now filled with thick sunset clouds. Crimson, dark purple, they looked like brilliant multi-coloured blossoms and ribbons[…]

Beneath the front-gate tower, all sorts of cars shuttled about in an endless torrent, crowds of people formed another turbulent stream with their clamour and laughter. These scenes were interwoven into a lively collage.

Might as well begin the story I want to tell from here! One day at dusk in the autumn of 1959, a streamlined car of the 'Rhine' brand drove across the crowded Qianmen Avenue, its dark blue shadow unobtrusively and smoothly turned into one of the small streets and pulled over in the vicinity of a small hutong.

After the back door of the car was opened, a tall haggard man in woollen military coat got off the car. He looked around him, sighed deeply and wiped his silver hair. In the dim light of the street lamps, we can see his glistening colonel’s epaulette and a red cross badge.'