Now, what follows will be a ridiculously obvious observation for anyone who has um, followed the news, or been to Shanghai, but for anyone whose image of China is still tinged with Mao and his Little Red Book -- you would not believe how China has changed in the last 25 years.
And then I went to the Palais de Furniture ( as I'll call the store) with a fellow teacher and caught sight of the painted opera-house style ceiling (above.) And I thought again of the Cultural Revolution and Wang Guangmei. She was the wife of a very high-ranking Chinese official who Chairman Mao and his wife decided to purge in 1967. (One explanation I've read is that Mao resented the fact that his Great Leap Forward had brought famine and disaster to the country, while the economic reforms proposed by his rival were working.)
The Cultural Revolution must be ancient history for my students and in fact it appears to be an awkward subject that was touched on only lightly in their educations. I, on the other hand, can remember those days and furthermore, can never forget the account that I read in Jung Chang's book, Wild Swans.
Incidentally, as I walked through the Palais de Furniture, I left a trail of disappointed salesclerks behind me. A Westerner is a rare sight, as I've mentioned, and we are assumed to have lots of money. I was looking for a chest of drawers because the furniture supplied by my landlord (designated villain of this blog) is rather minimal and the place looks pretty bare. But the Palais de Furniture was beyond my budget.