Falling down the statue of Chairman Mao –Miscellaneous Memories of the Cultural Revolution(1)

In 1966, after the cool of the day, the society was in turmoil, and a campaign was started to make a big deal of Mao’s personal authority, and Mao met time and again with Red Guards from all over the world who came to Beijing to cohere in the Tiananmen Tower. From then on, everyone had to have a red-covered copy of Mao’s quotations, and everyone had to wear Mao’s badge. Every household had to put a plaster statue of Mao in a place that used to be equivalent to a shrine. This is a characteristic of Hangzhou, and I don’t know if it is the same elsewhere. When my parents retired to Hangzhou and lived in an additional house on the workers’ dormitory building in Dongyuan New Village, they also did a copy of the same as required. It was a special visit from the group leader of the residential area (a housewife of a worker’s family) to take care of them.

One day I took time to visit both parents and saw that they also had a plaster statue of Mao on display. Since the room was small, I had to put it on a square table. The idol was nearly a foot high, placed against the wall, light green, with a layer of paint on the outside, saying that it would glow at night when illuminated by a lamp. It was a symbol of Mao’s greatness and holiness. But the plaster layer was simply a thin shell structure, only a thin layer of plaster. I thought, in those days of chaos, it was good to have such a thing in the house. It always indicated that one was submissive and submissive, willing to listen to Chairman Mao and had no intention of opposing him. This was necessary at the time and served as a good citizen’s certificate. I took a moment to look at the large and small bust and reassured my parents with concern, saying, “That’s good.” After some family talk I went back to the dormitory.

My second visit to my parents was a week later in the evening. The door to the old man’s room was closed, and I called out to my mother at the door, who opened the door a tiny crack and let me in, and as soon as I entered the room she immediately closed the door. The two old people had a look of panic, nervousness and anticipation on their faces. As soon as I entered the room, my mother asked me in a somewhat reproachful tone why I hadn’t come for so long. I didn’t know what was wrong, so I asked them in a low voice, “What’s wrong?” They all looked as if a big disaster was coming and whispered to me in my ear, “It’s not good, the plaster statue of Chairman Mao has fallen and broken.” I turned to look at the table, the plaster statue is still intact? I didn’t know what was going on.

Later, my parents explained that a few days ago, when my mother was finishing the table, a careless tablecloth swept the bottom of the plaster statue, which was already light and light-headed idol on the table shook two times, a head fell to the bottom of the table, then also fell to pieces. The old people were at a loss for words and hurriedly closed the door. Under the table was a pile of plaster fragments, they rushed to pack it up with an old newspaper wrapped. At that time, I can imagine their panic, to be a little after the shock of the elderly discussed how to do this. Later, they decided that they had to go and buy (at that time, they had to say “please” instead of “buy”) a plaster statue of the same type to put on it, to hide it from the eyes. But we couldn’t buy it in the neighborhood, because the neighbors would see it and get suspicious. Therefore, my mother went far away to buy an identical plaster statue and put it back in a small travel bag in the same place.

As for what to do with the pile of pieces they were lost. In the case that the Red Guards might break in and raid the house at any time, it was always a curse to leave it at home. Throwing it in the garbage would never work, it would immediately be discovered by the residents and reported, and later it would be investigated from door to door, and found out that destroying the image of Chairman Mao was an active counter-revolutionary crime at that time. According to the rampage seen at that time, the Red Guards did not know what they would do. So they have been worried, day and night looking forward to my early arrival, discussing how to deal with that scourge. So that night I went there, they saw me with a look of panic and eagerness to help. I reassured them that “it does not matter, this thing is easy to do”.

I am familiar with plaster, I have made plaster models before. From the chemical point of view, I also know a lot about plaster, is not calcium sulfate. The plaster used to make the plaster model is called calcined gypsum, which contains half a molecule of crystalline water. Poured into the model, when solidified back to two molecules of crystalline water of raw gypsum. But gypsum with fire over the head will lose all the crystalline water, and become anhydrous gypsum can not be knotted, that is to do chalk material. That has to be completely dissolved and then recrystallized in order to return to raw plaster. So those pieces of plaster statues just burn through on the briquette stove and fall apart.

They were relieved to learn that it was that easy to do. My mother turned on the stove then, and when the fire was up, they watched what I did. I put the pieces on the fire, first emitting an unpleasant smell of burnt paint, and then cooled down after burning through. The pieces were all crisped off when I squeezed them with my hands. Not much time I crushed them all into a pile of powder. The old people were so happy, as if they were saved. It had been so many days since my parents had smiled. When I left, I told them that I would take care of this pile of garbage, and I would throw them far away on my way back.