November 4, 2013
Chongqing Restaurants Serve Cultural Revolution Nostalgia

The walls of Old Base (laojidi), a bustling hot pot restaurant in downtown Chongqing, China looks like a Communist Hall of Fame: Karl Marx’s stern portrait, which hangs from a central pillar, faces blown-up head shots of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing, two of the masterminds behind the Cultural Revolution. Zhou Enlai and Vladimir Lenin make frequent appearances, and, of course, Mao Zedong himself fixes customers with his pensive gaze, even peering out from above the bathroom urinals. Under the watchful eyes of China’s Communist forefathers, teenage waiters donning Red Guard outfits serve up Chongqing’s distinctive, spicy hot pot.
As customers line up to plunge their chopsticks into a communal rice bowl at the back of the restaurant, waiters periodically break into choruses of Communist Party folk classics such as “The East is Red” or “Ode to the Plum Blossom,” a reported favorite of former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai. Waiters constantly restock the beer fridge, which bears the phrase “Weapons Chest,” and a steady stream of imbibers line up for the restrooms, which are labeled “Liberated Areas.” Daily specials are scrawled by hand on a list called the “Political Commissar’s recommendations.” The effect is like stepping into a time machine and waking up in rural China in 1968.
But beyond the flimsily plastered walls of Old Base, Chongqing’s mega-market economy roars on. Across the street, a Sephora and Carrefour lure China’s well-heeled consumers, while a Pizza Hut, Starbucks and two KFCs are a stone’s throw away.
Read more. [Image: Thomas Arne Strand]

Chongqing Restaurants Serve Cultural Revolution Nostalgia

The walls of Old Base (laojidi), a bustling hot pot restaurant in downtown Chongqing, China looks like a Communist Hall of Fame: Karl Marx’s stern portrait, which hangs from a central pillar, faces blown-up head shots of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing, two of the masterminds behind the Cultural Revolution. Zhou Enlai and Vladimir Lenin make frequent appearances, and, of course, Mao Zedong himself fixes customers with his pensive gaze, even peering out from above the bathroom urinals. Under the watchful eyes of China’s Communist forefathers, teenage waiters donning Red Guard outfits serve up Chongqing’s distinctive, spicy hot pot.

As customers line up to plunge their chopsticks into a communal rice bowl at the back of the restaurant, waiters periodically break into choruses of Communist Party folk classics such as “The East is Red” or “Ode to the Plum Blossom,” a reported favorite of former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai. Waiters constantly restock the beer fridge, which bears the phrase “Weapons Chest,” and a steady stream of imbibers line up for the restrooms, which are labeled “Liberated Areas.” Daily specials are scrawled by hand on a list called the “Political Commissar’s recommendations.” The effect is like stepping into a time machine and waking up in rural China in 1968.

But beyond the flimsily plastered walls of Old Base, Chongqing’s mega-market economy roars on. Across the street, a Sephora and Carrefour lure China’s well-heeled consumers, while a Pizza Hut, Starbucks and two KFCs are a stone’s throw away.

Read more. [Image: Thomas Arne Strand]

  1. nihaokellar reblogged this from theatlantic
  2. cqscene reblogged this from theatlantic
  3. chinanotebook reblogged this from theatlantic
  4. synettt reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    this is not real lifeeee.
  5. crocodileblackpelvis reblogged this from theatlantic
  6. thirty-six-stratagems reblogged this from theatlantic
  7. dweemeister reblogged this from theatlantic
  8. agelaius reblogged this from theatlantic
  9. catronicon reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    Um, yikes.
  10. thebrownette said: Wow. In a way, I suppose it’s like our 50s themed diners…but I’m not going to comment on anything else.
  11. diabsoule reblogged this from new-pantera
  12. spikespoogle reblogged this from undulatusasperatus
  13. undulatusasperatus reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    If I ever go to China, I want to visit this place just because it looks so interesting.
  14. osuorigins reblogged this from theatlantic
  15. thestorieswegive reblogged this from theatlantic
  16. fantasticprogress reblogged this from pol102
  17. sithisit reblogged this from pol102
  18. pol102 reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    From theatlantic: OK. This is just fascinating. It’s like China has skipped the fall of the authoritarian regime and...
  19. thepandabaker reblogged this from theatlantic
  20. rhm2k reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    Ah, yes… the nostalgia of the Great Leap Forward.
  21. mkinchina reblogged this from theatlantic
  22. new-pantera reblogged this from antoine-roquentin