feature: Red China Rising: Revolution to Recreation // Matthew Niederhauser
feature: Red China Rising: Revolution to Recreation // Matthew Niederhauser
As the Chinese Communist Party prepares to celebrate it's 90th anniversary on July 1, nationalistic tourists are flocking in droves to communist heritage sites across China. Shaoshan, the birthplace of Mao Zedong, and Yan'an, the cradle of the Chinese Revolution where the Long March ended, now cater to millions of tourists every year.

Armed with cash and a new sense of leisure, these nouveau riche pilgrims possess expectations and consumer desires that seem at odd with the core ideologies of the founding fathers of the Chinese Revolution. A slew of "red" products and trinkets are available around every corner, as well as more elaborate attractions such as "The Defense of Yan'an" battle reenactment where observers can don soldier fatigues and participate in the fray for an extra fee. Many traps are more egregious, such as the Shao Yue Palace Maoist Family History Show in Shaoshan, where attendants usher punters into Mao Zedong veneration halls, hand out lucky ornaments, ask them to bow to a Mao Zedong statue three times and then try to charge them for the "blessed" ornaments. Some estimate the value of the entire "red" industry at $1.5 billion dollars.

Still, sincere reverence for founding Chinese Communist Party leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, border-lining on idolization, is visible everywhere - elderly tourists kowtow to statues of Mao Zedong while company groups sing "red" songs and pledge oaths. Children are brought into the mix through The Young Pioneers of China program that conducts Investiture Ceremonies where red scarves representing the blood of martyrs are tied around their necks on Children's Day. This symbolizes the first step towards membership in the Chinese Communist Party, but in Yan'an the ceremony largely consisted of gaudy song and dance routines that seemed more akin to a variety show. These strange mashups continue to occur as the Chinese Communist Party tries to reconcile its revolutionary past with its materialistic present. In the meantime, a rising tide of tourists continue to seek new forms of "red" recreation across China.

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