Take a step back to a happier age – what were you doing in 1975? In 1975 I was six years old, and had just learned to rollerskate using old-fashoned tie-on rollerskates. I had permanently skinned knees.
On the other hand, things weren’t so free In China in 1975 – Mao was still alive and the Cultural Revolution wasn’t to end for another year. These six year olds, pictured on the front of a 1975 calendar card I picked up in an antique market last week, were studiously ‘criticizing’ those old communist humbugs Lin Piao and Confucius. Confucius I’m sure you all know, the lucky ancient is now riding a new wave of popularity in China (again), having taken a dip during the 60s and 70s. Poor old Lin Piao (usually known as Lin Biao) was a communist military leader who died in a plane crash in Mongolia allegedly following a failed attempted coup and assassination attempt on Mao in 1971. Sadly his lost popularity hasn’t been successfully regained.
I found this tiny little piece of history at a wonderful early morning antique market. Calendar cards, smaller than a playing card, were given away in the New Year by companies, businesses and government departments (the names of which are often priceless, like the Zhejiang Province Epidemic Prevention Branch). The earliest I’ve found date to 1974, and they continued to be popular for ten years or so. Often printed with happy politically correct scenes (for the time), they came in sets like these from the Shanghai Ocean Shiping Voyage-Repair Dockyard, with a picture on the front and a miniature calendar on the reverse.
I have amassed quite a collection of these little calendar cards, but my favourites by far are from the Gangu County Printing Ink Factory, 1975. They are delightfully retro but with a dark and slightly disturbing edge, like the ‘Criticizing Lin Piao and Confucius’ card at top.
‘Sentry on the East Sea’
‘Voice from Peking’ once again shows children in ethnic minority dress listening with rapt attention to the national radio broadcast.
‘Red Flowers Facing the Sun’
‘Let’s Share the Toys’ I found this card the most bizarre, with a child holding a very western-looking round-eyed doll while children frolic in the background in what could well be a housing estate in England.
Untitled. Loving the green full body cable-knit sweater.
Lingshi Lu Antique Market
The antique market is fabulous, but is not easy to find hidden away behind a regular bird and flower market. It operates mainly on Friday mornings when people start arriving at 4am, (closing at 6pm) but is also open at weekends, although fewer vendors show up. On Fridays vendors set up in the building’s forecourt too. It’s the place to find old books, maps, coins, toys, porcelain and jade (last time I went I picked up five old recipe books for 10-15 yuan each). The calendar cards are plentiful and sell for 4-5 yuan each.
Lingshi Lu Antique Market
behind Lanling Bird and Flower Market
1539 Lingshi Lu, near Xincun Lu
Fridays from 4am
Weekends from 10am
To get there by metro:
Line 7 Xincun Station （metro map here)
Take Exit 1 – walk north along Lingshi Lu, where the Bird and Flower Market is at number 1539. Walk all the way through the market to the pink coloured building at the rear and go up to the second and third floors to find the antique market.