The Lacquer Cracker Barrel Movement Seen in Lin’an – Miscellaneous Memories of the Cultural Revolution (2)

The activities of the Lin’an People’s Hospital were carried out spontaneously during the “sweeping the four olds” campaign at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. At that time, people everywhere were trying to understand what was the Cultural Revolution and what was the culture of feudalism, capitalism and revisionism with their own ingenuity. Their ingenuity led them to think that the patterns on the cookie cones that every household had should belong to feudalism and capitalism. The Cultural Revolution as understood by the local people was nothing more than that. Where did they think that it was Mao Zedong who wanted to get rid of Liu Shaoqi!

In those days, in order to protect the cookies from moisture, they had to be put in cookie cones. Good cookies were sold in tin cookie cones to protect them from moisture. Unlike today, as long as the cookies or egg rolls in a sealed plastic bag can be. People’s lives were much more complicated then than now! Because there were no plastic food bags in China. Shanghai’s big stores will be a transparent plastic bag filled with water hanging in a high place for decoration, so that customers look surprised – the plastic bag will not leak!

Back then, people were so poor that it was hard to buy a whole tube of cookies because it cost so much money. Often, the whole tube of cookies was bought just to have a nice cookie cone. If you didn’t have a cone at home, you had to buy one. But you can also ask a rich friend for one. People use cookie cones to store food, such as store-bought cookies and other snacks that are afraid of moisture. Those bought cookie cones were beautifully painted, just like the present-day boxes of cookies and chocolate candies. Due to the poverty in the early years, many families used it as an interior decoration. Having a few beautiful cookie cones in the house was even a symbol of the family’s wealth. After the liberation, life was simple and it was rare for the average citizen to have a few nice things in their home. Because the patterns on the cookie cones were often rather foreign, they were loved by people. Besides, only rich people would buy the whole cone of cookies, so people often took the cone as a symbol of their wealth. People get the satisfaction of vanity from the indoor cookie cone arrangement.

I don’t know how the revolutionary masses in Lin’an People’s Hospital were thinking at that time, but at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution they treated the patterns on the biscuit cones as the Four Olds of the feudal capitalism. They could not afford to smash them all, not to mention the fact that they could not live without the cookie cones. So at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, there was a self-revolutionary campaign to paint cookie cones in the hospital. I don’t know if other units in Lin’an did the same, using such actions to show their anti-imperialist and anti-revisionist revolutionary stance. So in the hospital every household painted cookie cones in a big way.

Chairman Mao was also too busy to make it clear to everyone that the four olds like feudalism and revisionism that he wanted to oppose did not actually include the ideology of cookie cones. In this way, the only cookie cone that Mann had in our house, a golden chicken cookie cone painted with a big rooster with a rising red sun in the background, was also painted red as a representative of feudalism. The paint was provided by the public. But not much was used, because the cookie cone was also basically red. The paint was really ugly.

On the night when the situation was most critical for Mann – she was ineligible to join the Red Guards and was treated as a deviant, and the Red Guards might raid her home. She felt nervous, not to mention the fact that she was from Shanghai and was a family member of a rightist. Shanghainese are often seen as more “foreign” in small towns. And foreign is not good – at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, in small places, it was seen by the rebels as feudalism and foreign slavery! She had to secretly tear up a few of her favorite middle school music textbooks (songbook printed in pentameter) and burn them, because pentameter is also a curse – wasn’t it not taught in schools after liberation?

She also took the initiative to surrender several Western knives, forks and spoons to the rebels, because they were not only foreign, but some had the US inscription on them. That was the old household goods of the army sold during the war in the United States. In addition, there are two foreign goods “foreign bowl” (the Czech Republic produced enamel bowl, the Czech Republic is also considered to repair the brand), foreign at that time is necessary to avoid, because people with a foreign atmosphere means that the foreign pander to foreigners. The rebels gave receipts, showing that they are very serious about it. Those pieces of tableware were only returned by the hospital’s rebel faction when people later understood that the intent of the Cultural Revolution was to get rid of Liu Shaoqi and his team.

Because of my relationship, even Mann was not eligible to join the Red Guard organization in the first few years after the Cultural Revolution began. And by the time the Cultural Revolution had run out of steam, she got the Red Guard’s red cuffs. The real (and loud) rebels who had already joined the Red Guards were no longer wearing them – they were not so fashionable. What was popular among the young women rebels in Hangzhou during that period was to roll up the hem of their shorts, leaving their bare legs exposed for an extra inch of light. I don’t know if this is also true in foreign countries.