Wednesday, June 04, 2014

六四 June 4

Learning the months is one of the few things in Chinese that's easy.  It's simply month 1, month 2, month 3, etc.  Saying dates can get abbreviated to simply the number of the month and the date.

Today is 6-4, Liù Sì  (approximately Leo Si - like sir but without the r sound at the end, and they're both falling tone, the falling tone you'd use when you just remembered you forgot something you need and you say "shit!")

I arrived in Hong Kong in July 1989 for a year sabbatical, so this is all very fresh in my mind, even 25 years later.  When we planned a trip with students to Beijing the following spring, we scheduled it so we were back in Hong Kong a couple of weeks before the first anniversary.   Here's a picture of Tiananmen Square in May 1990.

Tiananmen Square May 1990

Someone who did not want to be displayed here was standing right in front.  So I used the rubberstamp function in Photoshop to erase history.  It seemed appropriate because the Chinese government is trying to erase the memory of June 4, 1989.  Note there's a shadow across the bottom of the photo.  I decided that while I took the person out, I'd leave the shadow. 

Louisa Lim has just written a book called The People's Republic of Amnesia.  You can hear her talk about the erasure of this historic day on NPR here.

It just seems necessary to remember today, because in China this day officially does not exist.

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