Some objects are great story tellers

Dscn3645Some objects pack a wholloping story. 

Take this one for instance.

It sits now in a modest apartment in Guangzhou.   But it’s last address was the home of a landowner.  During the cultural revolution, the landowner decided that something so splendid might be held against him by the rampaging Red Guard. 

So the landowner sold it to a local peasant for a tiny sum.   And the peasant said, "Yes" and the object changed hands.

Now it is not known whether this was enough to spare the landowner the fury of the Red Guard.  Probably not, one guesses.  Great furniture can be laundered in a way that great houses and reputations cannot.  Perhaps the idea was to get rid of anything smashable, because once the kids started smashing, things would spin quickly out of control.  The other possibility is that the jettisoned this chair because he wanted to find a place of safety for it. 

None of this is clear.  I asked the present owner whether it wasn’t a dangerous object to own and he said, "no," he came from a very long line of peasants and no one would begrudge him it. 

3 thoughts on “Some objects are great story tellers

  1. jens

    there can be a brutality about communism (or any other kind of dictatorship) just as there can be a brutality about the american entertainment culture.
    this piece of chinese noble furniture has survived the terrible hurricane – thrown into some corner – and laundered – as grant says – indeed. all its significance has been washed off, all its memories and stories too – it is a numb witness of stories too brutal and too much in the past to tell them now. it does not want to speak and has become equal to a plastic bowl. forever.
    saying this i right now think that from a european point of view china and america possibly have something in common that i did not see before: a fresh start on a culturally vacant field. (with a difference of 200years between them of course…
    still: it has something to do with the surface…)

  2. jens

    possibly there is a tremendous brutality about a cultural new start. and that is possibly because the signs are there but they do not signify anything any more… sometimes some sentimental meaning might flicker through – as it did to grant, when he looked at this sofa bench – but often all its stories, all its life is long forgotten. and certain objects becomes equal with any other given other thing.
    and together all equal things create a landscape of indifference which is not all too different to the stereotypical picture that you perceive when you look from the old world over to the usa.
    a stereotypical picture of indifference that (i should use the past tense now because it is getting slightly better with you guys over there) is being reproduced and reproduced and reproduced through the fabulous american entertainment industry.

    that’s it. thanks for the stimulating post, grant.

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