In Search of Red Buddha: Higher Education in China after Mao Zedong, 1985-1990

In Search of Red Buddha: Higher Education in China after Mao Zedong, 1985-1990

In Search of Red Buddha: Higher Education in China after Mao Zedong, 1985-1990

In Search of Red Buddha: Higher Education in China after Mao Zedong, 1985-1990

Excerpt

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by Chinese culture and history. Growing up in a small town in California, each morning I passed a market run by very tall Chinese persons. I loved their early morning greetings and sometimes offering of bubble gum. In grammar school, a beautiful and mysterious Chinese girl was my best friend. I also read the ugly stories about the use of Chinese labor on this nation's railway system and was appalled and angry at the treatment of the Chinese people by the people and government of the United States.

China itself seemed to me glamorous, mysterious and out of reach. As I became a young adult, I knew I would never see China. The relationship between our two countries prohibited visits from the West. And then President Richard Nixon went to China. From President Nixon's visit to China (which the Chinese people truly loved and still speak about), China began to open up to the West.

In l976, three of China's greatest and most influential modern leaders died: Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Marshal Zhu De. Subsequently, the Gang of Four was overthrown and Deng Xiaoping and the other leaders opened China's doors to foreigners. As China opened her doors to the world–the policy of dui wai kaifang–under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping (Xiaoping means “little bottle”), she began to welcome a new breed of missionaries to China. These new missionaries are teachers of English. According to the information given me at the United States Consulate in Beijing in l985, that year there were approximately eight hundred teachers from the United States in China, teaching at educational and industrial institutions.

In l985, I was one of the new “missionaries” at a teaching university in Shanxi Province accessible only by train from Beijing. Shanxi Teacher's University is located in Linfen, Shanxi Province. The capital of the province, Taiyuan, is seven or eight hours north of Linfen by train. Xi'an, home of the wonderful clay warriors and horses from the tomb of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang is seven hours south of Linfen. In l985, Linfen was a closed city.

Closed cities in China are usually closed for one of two reasons. The first reason may be that the city or area is vital to national defense. Or, the city or area may be closed because it is too poor to be seen by others, particu-

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