Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jun 27

Xujiahui Church in the Cultural Revolution

By Mitchell Blatt | History

In 1966, the Xujiahui Church (St. Ignatius Cathedral) displayed Mao’s image over the front door. The Cultural Revolution had just started, and Red Guard students were tearing down historical and cultural anti-revolutionary relics. On August 23, they arrived at the St. Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui district of Shanghai and attacked the church. Elements of the exterior were torn down. Propaganda slogans were put up. The congregation was told they couldn’t believe in both Mao and Jesus and labeled “cow, monster, snake, gods,” (牛鬼蛇神), a term for “bad characters” used during the time, and marched in the street wearing signs. This history is laid out in the book “Folk Images, Volume 4″ (《民间影像,第四辑》), a compilation of 20th century Chinese events published by Tongji University Publishing.

Xujiahui church in August 1966, with Jesus torn down and replaced with Mao.

Xujiahui church in August 1966, with Jesus torn down and replaced with Mao. (Source: “Folk Images, Volume 4,” Tongji University Publishing.

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This year, I visited the St. Ignatius Cathedral during a trip to Shanghai. It looks like nothing happened. An article in the L.A. Times says that the Red Guards also smashed all the stained glass windows and that the church was used as a granary during the rest of the Cultural Revolution. The new stained glass windows, the L.A. Times reported, weren’t completed until the past decade.

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None of that history is reported at the church itself. Tourists just take pictures, admire the inside, and read a sign that explains “the difference between Catholicism and Christianity” (“天主教与基督教有什么区别”). The sign explains the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.

The district around the church has lots of old schools and other relics, old libraries and observatories. Xujiahui is named after the Xu family of Xu Guangqi, a wealthy scholar and Catholic convert who lived from 1562-1633. Xu worked with Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci to translate books. Eventually their family donated the land for the church to be built. The large cathedral was built in 1910 after smaller churches resided there in the 1800’s.

Jun 22

Shaq Stars in Harbin Beer Ad, Dances in the Street

By Mitchell Blatt | Culture , Drinking

If you ever wanted to see Shaquille O’Neal drinking beer with Chinese guys and doing a funny dance, you just got your chance.

Shaq has been starring in Harbin’s ads throughout the year. During the NBA finals broadcast on CCTV, he was shown delivering a bucket of Harbin beers to someone’s table. Here’s Shaq celebrating the year of the lamb in a Chinese New Year advertisement poster (via my Instagram):

In the newest ads, Harbin uses the tagline 一起哈啤 (“yi-qi ha-pi”). This is a funny play on words that means both “Harbin together” and “Happy together.” 一起 means “together”, 哈 is the first character in Harbin (哈尔滨, which is the capital of China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang), and 啤 is the character for beer (啤酒). Put 哈 (“ha”) and 啤 (“pi”) together, and it sounds like “ha-pi” or “happy.”

In related videos, here is Shaq apparently writing Chinese characters:

And here’s another Shaq ad for Harbin beer from a few years ago:

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Mitchell Blatt is an intrepid travel writer, and an author of two top China guidebooks, who brings his readers deep into the cultures of the places he explores. Subscribe now to get real stories of real people in real places around the world delivered right to your inbox.