From Mao to the Met

March 12, 2013

Arriving early at the local library to attend a lecture called the Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, I stopped by the library’s used bookstore first and found a three-dollar DVD of Hao Jiang Tian’s From Mao to the Met. Later that evening, my wife said she had been looking for that DVD, and she invited her sister and father to join us when we watched it.

Funded by the Committee of 100, this one-man show features Metropolitan Opera basso Hao Jiang Tian weaving song and story into a compelling tale of growing up in China under Chairman Mao, based on his autobiography (with co-author Lois B. Morris) “Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride from Mao to the Met“.

What I enjoyed most about the one-man show was that Tian never condemned Mao, the CCP or China for his bitter-sweet journey.

 

Instead, this fantastic opera singer says it was fate that led him from Mao to the Met. When you stop to think about it, fate is the river-of-life known later as history—the current that carries all of us through life often without much say in that history.

As a child, Tian hated his piano lessons. Then with the arrival of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Tian said, “So one happiest day came when I heard an announcement from the loudspeakers: My piano teacher was arrested as a counterrevolutionary. And then I was so happy. And so immediately I ran to the courtyard, screaming and jumping with joy.”

Thirty years later, Tian returned to Beijing and visited his piano teacher, who said, “Well, that was a crazy period, and it was so hard to figure out who was right and who was wrong.”

In his one man show, Tian performs songs of the Cultural Revolution, American standards such as “Some Enchanted Evening”, Irish song “Danny Boy” and operatic arias from his favorite roles; Tian tells the story of the music-and the woman- that changed his life.

NPR says, “For more than 20 years, the basso voice of Hao Jiang Tian has filled major American opera houses. As one of the few Chinese stars in opera, his life story is as remarkable as his work. … Tian is one of the few opera singers to emerge from China.” Source: NPR.org

Discover China’s Invisible Man – Liu Bolin

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Mao and Snow

December 3, 2012

During one of our trips to Shanghai, China, my wife and I went to see a film called Mao Zedong and Edgar Snow.

Edgar Snow (1905 – 1972) was an American journalist known for his books and articles on Communism in China and the Chinese Communist revolution. He is believed to be the first Western journalist to interview Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, and is best known for Red Star Over China (1937) an account of the Chinese Communist movement from its foundation until the late 1930s.

The film was in Mandarin and wasn’t subtitled, so I had to watch carefully to understand what was going on. I Googled the move and found little about it on the Internet.

However, I discovered that Edgar Snow’s wife threatened to sue China if the movie was released but that didn’t stop the Chinese.

There’s no doubt that Mao had to have charisma to lead so many men in battle for so many years to win the civil war.


Edgar Snow and Mao

However, Mao changed after he became a modern emperor, and the power corrupted him. The evidence—the results of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the purges that killed so many.

There was a positive side too.  Mao’s success in the CCP’s war against poverty, the increase in life expectancy that almost doubled during Mao’s rule and the health programs that were implemented such as the bare foot doctors. The reason so many Chinese still think of Mao as the George Washington of China was because life after 1949 was better than life before the CCP won the Civil War.

Students of China may want to see this movie, but the only place one may buy a DVD of this movie is probably China.

When Edgar Snow came down with pancreatic cancer, Zhou Enlai dispatched a team of Chinese doctors to Switzerland to treat him.

The next best thing would be to read Snow’s book about Mao, Red Star Over China and/or discover about Health Care During Mao’s Time.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Health Care during the Mao era

August 14, 2012

After the Chinese Communists (CCP) won the Civil war in 1949, health care improved in China. Prior to that, life expectancy for the average Chinese was thirty-five years. By Mao’s death in 1976, average life expectancy had increased by twenty years so the program worked.

In fact, the CCP was the first government in China’s history to set goals and plans to help its people living in poverty improve the quality of their lifestyles.  For example, soon after Mao Zedong’s healthcare speech in 1965, the concept of the barefoot doctor (with basic paramedical training) was developed. By 1968, the barefoot doctors program was a national policy.

The barefoot doctor program came to an end in 1981 with the end of the commune system of agricultural cooperatives. However, two-thirds of rural village doctors currently practicing in China were first trained as barefoot doctors

Under the barefot doctor program, there were three basic areas of medical care. Free substandard medical care was provided to the proletarian working class, meaning workers and peasants.

This program was the backbone of rural-health care in China, and anyone could become a barefoot doctor.

Mao told the people that if you wanted to be a doctor, you didn’t need to go to medical school. All you had to do was have the motivation to provide medical care to needy people and the government would support you and provide limited training.

The second class of medical care went to people like teachers, clerks and secretaries, ‘friends’ of the working class, the proletariat. The only difference was that the ‘friends’ had to pay to get medical treatment. It was possible to face financial ruin from one hospital stay.

The third class were considered enemies of the proletariat like former shop-owners, landlords and denounced intellectuals like liberal arts professors. These people were denied health care treatment altogether.

Then, between 1981 and 2003, the health care system in China was privatized, which meant people had to pay before treatment or no treatment. This changed in 2003, when the CCP launched a new cooperative medical system operated and funded by the government with copay of 10 Renminbi per year for each person covered by the program.

Discover China’s Urban Rural Divide

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared February 27, 2010

 


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