Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thank You, Fried Rice!

You may be wondering why you see photos of fried rice all over Chinese social media on November 25. The special occasion is the Chinese Thanksgiving, or the Fried Rice Festival, celebrated by the Chinese around the world. It’s the death anniversary of Mao Zedong’s eldest son Mao Anying who died in the bombings by the U.N. forces in the Korean War on November 25, 1950. Legend has it that Mao Junior was  either cooking or eating egg fried rice in the Chinese army headquarters in late morning as other troops ducked into bomb shelters when the U.N. bombers approached. 

According to survivors who escaped the bombings, Mao Jr. had slept in that morning and missed the group breakfast. After the first air raid, he insisted on going back to the headquarters from the cave where he had been hiding to cook his breakfast. The cooking fumes rose from the chimney guided the U.N. warplanes to bomb the crap out of the small building where Little Mao was at his feast with a colleague. His charred body was beyond recognition in the rubble -- an expensive Soviet watch on his wrist was crucial in determining his unique identity. 

Mao Jr.,  then 28 years old, had been sent by Daddy Mao to get combat experience after spending five years studying in the Soviet Union. Mao Zedong had planned to hone his promising Crown Prince's skills in preparation for inheriting his throne in the future. Little Mao's identity was known only to a few generals -- his cover was a translator for Commader-in-chief Peng Dehuai as he spoke fluent Russian (interesting why they needed a Russian speaker). His colleagues recall him as a pompous young man who spoke loudly at meetings with very little battlefield knowledge.

Mao Zedong had other children and grandchildren of course, but none have proved to be heirs apparent so far. His second son Mao Anqing went mental (who wouldn’t?). His third son Mao Anlong went missing as a toddler when his Communist wife Yang Kaihui (Mao's second wife and mom to the three sons including Mao Jr) was executed in 1930. Mao has a couple of daughters, elder daughter Li Min, by his third wife He Zizhen, a Communist guerrilla fighter Mao married while still being married to Yang. He Zizhen also went mental after she had at least nine abortions/miscarriages during the Long March. Mao's other daughter Li Na is by his fourth wife Jiang Qing, A.K.A. Madam Mao, a Shanghai actress whom he married while being married to He. Madam Mao went on to be a total nutty bitch who headed the Gang of Four. She committed suicide in 1991 after years of imprisonment and house arrest.
Despite having daughters, Emperor Mao didn’t see females qualified for revolutionary inheritance. The only surviving male descendent is Mao Xinyu, the only son of his mentally ill second son Mao Anqing. Fourty-five-year-old Mao Xiyu is a major general in the People's Liberation Army. He's well known to go around bragging about “my grandpa Mao". He hasn't shown any hopes of inheriting Mao's empire, if there's any left of it, though he’s well known to go around bragging about “Grandpa Mao”. Look at his photos then you’ll know why he’s a laughing stock all over China. 

So now you’re getting a sense of the logic behind these special Chinese Thanksgiving celebrations? Had it not been the fried rice that Mao Jr. craved for, he may still be alive today, then he may be Dictator Jr, worse than Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. Then more lives would have been lost in China...

On this special day, Australian-based Chinese artist Ba Diucao (@badiucao) Tweeted his cartoon of a bowl of fried rice with three incense sticks, a common item to be presented a grave. The bowl had a pic of Mao. Jr facing the U.N. bombers. Ba’s message is clear: “A bowl of fried rice of eggs and bacon (bacon is Mao’s nickname because his corpse is on display in the Maosoleum in Tiananmen Square). Deep deep love."

L.A.-based Chinese activist Cheng Qiubo (@cheng_lao) Tweeted a photo of fried rice with this thank-you message: “First we should thank Comrade Kim Il-sung and Chairman Mao. Had Kim not wanted to be an emperor, Daddy Mao wouldn’t have sent (Chinese) troops to fight in the Korean War. If Mao hadn’t sent the army, Crown Prince Mao wouldn’t have cooked the fried rice. Without Prince Mao cooking the rice, the U.S. wouldn’t have sent the bombers. Then there wouldn’t have been today’s Fried Rice Festival!”(成秋波 @cheng_lao:

Isn’t history a joke? But we shouldn’t be surprised some historical landmarks were made by a seemingly small events or items. In this case for China, it’s only logical it had something to do with food. 

Beijing-based artist Xiang Li replied to my query on Facebook as she wrote about thanking the U.N. bomber pilots: “History is not really what someone said made by ‘the people’. History sometimes was made by an individual, and even possibly a plate of egg fried rice. History is full of coincidences.” (“历史并非象某些人口惠而腹非地宣称的“是人民创造的”,历史有时候不仅是个人创造的,甚至还可能是一盘蛋炒饭创造的,历史充满了偶然.”)

A culinary milestone perhaps, but it still didn’t stop Mao’s Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, I’m still very grateful that China and even the whole world have possibly been less fucked up, thanks to fried rice. To celebrate the less fuckedupness, I fried myself some leftover rice with an egg and fresh chives my daughter had picked from a local park. Fried rice is bubble and squeak for us Chinese --- last night’s leftovers scrambled together with leftover rice and eggs. 

But history still leaves us plenty of leftovers of the past -- we got another Mao Jr. now, Xi Jinping, son of Xi Zhongxun, a high-ranking Communist veteran. Apart from his major nickname, Xitler, the Chinese President is also dubbed as Little Mao -- he carries on the Party legacy just fine. And guess his other popular nickname is? Dumpling. So let’s try real hard, channel all that energy, and eat dumplings with these prayers: “May there be a Dumpling Festival soon. Thank you!” 
Beijing TV documentary “A Red Child in the Fires of Korean War”, but the headline on the Chinese website is “A Disaster Brought by Fried Rice” (great archival war footage):