Where it's at
Chengdu is the hub of Southwest China in the west
Sichuan plain where the Nan and Fu rivers meet. An ancient
walled city; it was the capital of the 3rd century Shu kingdom.
For its fertile terrains, Chengdu is also known as the
Land of Abundance.
Chairman Mao, leader of the Red Army ruled China with
a rod of steel from the 1930s to 1970s. In the
late 60s Maos Little Red Book containing
the leaders invigorating was the most intensively studied
books in the world.
Mao Mania has had an unexpectedly crazed revival since 2000
throughout China. Tubs of Mao badges, posters and plates emblazoned
with Maos portrait, busts and even alarm clocks with
red guards holding Red Bibles waving from each tick clamber
for attention in many of Chengdus markets. One Mao aficionado
in Sichuan claims to have 18,000 collectibles a veritable
museum of Mao memorabilia. Along with Maos godlike status
some claim he can bring good luck and offer protection, like
the destitute peasants who bought Mao talismans en mass after
last years catastrophic floods. To the people of China,
Mao represented a golden age of stability and political ideology.
Mao mania has more in common with capitalism than communism;
street traders know that Mao means money. However, The Mao
pop culture phenomenon is a kitsch affair with a notion of
high camp. The Mao ideology is diffused to a bauble or cheap
key ring, as a backhand slap against the austerity of Maoism.
Where to bag a bargain
Like most Chinese cities, Chendus stores are thematically
clumped together. Local handicrafts include Sichuan brocade,
Sichuan embroidery lacquerware and porcelain body bamboo ware.
Bazaars (or free markets) are popular among tourists with
the city divided into open air markets and open walk in shop
fronts on the streets.
What's It worth?
At a recent Sothebys auction, a bilingual edition of
Maos little red book exceeded $200, but
it costs a mere $2.50 on the streets of Beijing, where Mao
busts will retail at around $12. If youre in China,
less is more for Mao kitschorama.