Truth, Still Inconvenient

At China’s New Museum, History Toes Party Line reads the NY Times.

BEIJING — At the elaborately renovated National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square, visitors interested in the recent history of the world’s fastest rising power can gaze at the cowboy hat that Deng Xiaoping once wore when he visited the United States, or admire the bullhorn that President Hu Jintao used to exhort people to overcome hardship after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

But if their interests run to the Cultural Revolution that tore the country apart from 1966 to 1976 and resulted in millions of deaths, they will have to search a back corner of the two-million-square-foot museum, which will complete its opening this month, for a single photograph and three lines of text that are the only reference to that era.
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“The party wants to determine historical truth,” said Yang Jisheng, a historian whose landmark book on the Great Leap Forward famine was banned in China. “It worries that if competing versions are allowed, then its legitimacy will be called into question.”
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“I got a call asking how many square meters is the Louvre,” recalled Martin Roth, director of Dresden’s state museums and an informal consultant to the museum for a decade. “Then 10 minutes later another call asking how many square meters is the British Museum. I said, ‘You guys are sitting with the architects and are figuring out how to be the biggest, right?’ They laughed and said yes.”
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“We feel we had a lot to show and need the space,” Mr. Tian said. “It’s not about being the biggest, but China does have 5,000 years of culture so it’s not inappropriate to be the biggest.”
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“We wanted to celebrate China,” Mr. Tian said. “I think that’s understandable.”
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Few thoughts:

  1. New State Museum Sanitizes China’s Past .. how can one (like China) criticizes another one (i.e. Jap) for re-writing history? Does a country deserve respect when itself couldn’t face the music? What Jack Nicholson retorted to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men .. you can’t handle the truth?
  2. 5,000 years is, indeed a lot to show for … but pls consult Needham question ..
  3. If the New York Times is to be believed

    As Jiang Zemin, then the Chinese president, told Mike Wallace in a 2000 interview, “The quality of our people is too low.”

    Hmmmmmmmm … Was this a truth or the Chinese modesty?

  4. Is yeshi 野史 unofficial history too firmly ingrained in our bloodstream? .. Among many consequences, it’s actually detrimental to its own historians.
  5. Btw .. the British Museum sucks .. while Louvre dazzles.
  6. This article’s written by Ian Johnson with Zhang Jing contributed research .. I just don’t get the picture. .. even when they couldn’t get the name right

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