In March the gypsies returned

I have a rule, implied in the text at the top of this page, not just to post links to other stories and websites in this blog. But these crazy American artists are too much fun not to.

“This summer we are building rafts and floating down the Mississippi River. Here’s the plan: We meet in Minneapolis in late July with sections of our raft in tow. We piece together our pontoons and fill them with salvaged blocks of foam. We make it beautiful and tie on anything that floats, adding it to our junk armada, our anarchist county fair, our fools ark. Our precious cargo is everything we hold dear: pieces and parts of the culture we are already creating. Our zines and puppets, sewing projects and poster campaigns. Mutant bicycles and punk rock marching bands. Plus our thoughts and dreams and irrepressible energy. Together we float down the Mississippi river, as far as we can — anchoring here and there to perform, give workshops, and create the big huge spectacle we wished would have stopped in our hometowns. And at each place we invite anyone to contribute performances or workshops of their own.” – Miss Rockaway Armada

I’m reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and this reminds me of the start of that. A quiet distant place, no contact with the world. Until the gypsies returned.

Great firewall

China has a new great wall, which blocks parts of the Internet from its citizens. This is partly done by absolute blocks, for example banning the BBC because it has a Chinese language news site. But it is also done by more subtle means – letting the companies who run forums know that they might be shut down if they don’t remove unacceptable posts, but never quite defining what unacceptable is. That way the companies have to err on the side of caution, and require less direct supervision and enforcement.

Sites I couldn’t access from within China: BBC News Online, Google News UK, Chinese Google News on, Wikipedia, any blog. An expat told me in seconds how to get round some of these. For example, by searching Wikipedia at A9.

In contrast, I was surpised I could access: CIA World Factbook and EastSouthNorthWest (a Hong Kong run blog about China). The restriction really does seem to be only on Chinese language content.

For all that, the most physical censorship I found was of English, in the Economist I bought at Xi’an airport. There was an article about the Cultural Revolution. Curiously, I could read the leader which said “this editorial will probably not be read in China”. Then I turned to the main article – suddenly in shock. Pages 29 and 30 excised with a neat tear. As well as the Cultural Revolution article, one on the back about Japan.

Visions of factories full of censors, desperate to ship the Economist to educate businessmen into booming the economy, eager not to see China insulted by revision of Mao. Carefully turning the pages of the foreign magazine, one by one removing the offending page.

Four more photos of old Shanghai

(For background, read my posts Chinese family history and Child of the atom bomb first)

In Shanghai, Rosemary and I went to a few more places related to our family history. Shanghai has undergone massive development, knocking down of whole areas, building of new skyscrapers. Amazingly, everywhere we went was still there. A hundred year old colonial buildings, with quite different architectures to those surrounding them. And still used in modern China. It was also great that the guards and porters would let us in. When Rosemary went 20 years ago, all she managed to do was peer from a distance. China is opening up, and relaxing.

The red building on the right of the left photo is the school that my grandmother used to teach in. She was a Physical Education teacher, and it was a school for Eurasians, people with one Western parent and one Chinese parent. The date above the entrance says 1893/1894, and it is now the Shanghai Installation Engineering Co, Ltd. The men on the left were arc welding some metal railings together.

The photo on the right is of the back of the hospital where my mother was born. It’s still a hospital. At first they wouldn’t let us in, I think because I’d been taking photos too obviously. Rosemary insisted she wanted to go round the back, I wasn’t sure why. Eventually a kind Doctor who spoke English was summoned, and escorted us round. The gardens were beautifully kept, and the rear of the hospital (photo) better architected. You can see the tall tower of the new wing rising up on the right behind the old building.

The bottom left photo is of the former Jubilee Court, where my grandparents, mother and aunt lived before they were interned by the Japanese. There was a sign on it saying “Monument under the Protection of Shanghai Municipality”. It’s still residential, we chatted to a woman whose mother lived in one of the other flats.

The right hand picture is of Yuyuen Rd camp. It’s where they were first interned before being taken to the Yangtzepoo camp at the end of the war. The camp used to be a school, and now is again. It’s called the Shi Xi High School, and had very well kept grounds. There were some kids playing basketball, even though it was the weekend.