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Big Trouble in Little School
July 15, 2000

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People gather in teahouses to play mahjong
Abeja and I are here in Chengdu now, the capital of the Sichuan province. There are lots of wonderful things to see here like giant Buddhist temples and the Panda Research Base, but I have to say, what I've enjoyed most about this city is what the locals do in their free time. From playing chess or Chinese games in the park, to lounging around at one of the many famous Chengdu teahouses (like a playroom), old and young alike spend time together passing the day, relaxing whenever they can.

But would you believe that for a time in the late 1960's, you pretty much weren't ALLOWED to relax? Well, not in such public places at least. Sounds crazy I know, but all over China, you could get punished and even beat up for doing something as harmless as playing a game of cards! Beat up for playing cards? Punished for hanging out at a teahouse? Are you as confused as I was? Let me explain:

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How did the Chinese live without their games?
In 1949, there was a teacher named Mao Zedung (pronounced Mow Say-dung) who became the leader of China. He was a Communist and believed that everyone should share what they owned with everyone else. So if you had milk and your friend had popsicles, the two of you would share with each other. Communists also believed that all the teachers and students had to milk the cows for the milk and get the water and the juice for the popsicles together; in other words, everyone does all the work together so that there is enough milk and popsicles for everyone. In the beginning, this was good for the country.

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These young people don't know how lucky they are to be able to lounge at a tea house again
Twenty years later, Mao was making stricter rules because other people were trying to take away his power. Some of these people were using the younger students to have protests against Mao. The new rules that Mao created made life more difficult for the students. Mao also stopped letting the students and teachers read certain books they liked and play games they liked to play. Then Mao took all the students out of their classes and put them in the country to work on farms. This meant that the students didn't get a good education and couldn't get the jobs that they should have been able to get.

During this time, many of the students thought that what Mao was doing was good because Mao was the leader and they thought that the leader is always right. Slowly, though, they began to see that Mao was really hurting them. When Mao died in 1976 people began for the first time to openly speak against his leadership. China then changed a lot as more people thought about different ways of living than the way Mao wanted them to.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Yang-Yang - The Odyssey Makes Magic Happen . . . Discovering Long Lost Family in Wuhan

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