Category Archives: Historical Wonders

Historical Wonders /

Mao & Mangoes, Together Again

I recently had the opportunity to sip hot black coffee with a high ranking Pakistani official, and while everyone else is talking Osama and war, we talked fruit.

Mao and the Mango

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/ by Dean Pickles / Leave a comment
Historical Wonders, Sweet Movies and Wild Books / ,

Red Detachment of Awesome

This Wednesday thru Friday, if you’re in Beijing, you shouldn’t miss the best of the “model operas,” The Red Detachment of Women (红色娘子军). Playing for three nights only at Poly Plaza.

It’s called a model opera, but it’s actually a ballet. The eight model operas were, during the height of the cultural revolution, the only artistic performances allowed. Five operas, two ballets, and a single symphony, all of them micro-controlled by Mao’s psychopathic wife, Jiang Qing.

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Historical Wonders, Holy Curiosities / ,

19 Incredible Taoist Gods at Beijing’s Dongyue Temple

So the rapture left you behind, eh? Feeling cheated? Looking for a new deity?

Try Taoism. These gods will kick your ass!

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/ by Dean Pickles / 4 Comments
Historical Wonders, Modern Ruins /

Modern Day Cavemen of Shanxi

Recently, Woo and I were in rural Shanxi Province, and noticed a series of caves carved into the landscape, off in the distance.  They were just dark shadows, really, but they were clearly man-made.

“Before, did people live there?” we asked the cab driver, like the good tourists that we were.

“Yes, but they still live there today,” he laughed.  “They’re called 窑洞.”  Yaodong, a cave dwelling.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 3 Comments
Historical Wonders /

Kim Jong Il’s childhood thoughts of America

To celebrate the 69th birthday of Kim Jong Il, this entire week is jam packed with DPRKoolness.  Today, we explore Kim Jong Il’s feelings about America.  Where do they come from?  How did he feel as a kid? Find out, below…

(At the age of six) Kim Jong Il harboured a bitter hatred for the class enemies who harmed the people. While visiting farms in villages with his parents during the agrarian reform, he realized how cruelly landlords had exploited the peasants, and what a miserable life the Korean peasant had had to lead in the past. He resented the desperate acts of landlords and reactionaries who were trying to thwart the agrarian reform and recover their old position.

Kim Jong Il hated the Americans who had occupied south Korea in place of the Japanese, and were trying to enslave the Korean people again.  He firmly resolved to destroy the US imperialist aggressors.


No pix of him at 6 or 10, but here’s him in college…

(Jumping forward four years, to the age of ten) One day in early December 1952, Kim Jong Il entered the children’s room with a copy of the pictorial of the People’s Army. The pictorial carried a picture portraying the atrocities committed by the Yankee soldiers. The children clenched their fists with hatred for the enemy. One of them, unable to repress his hatred, shouted, “Let’s go to the front right away to take our revenge on the enemy!” The other children agreed with enthusiasm. They were determined to go to the front at once.

However, Kim Jong Il explained to them that fighting the Yankees at the front was not the only way to take revenge on the enemy, that learning their lessons well and participating wholeheartedly in the activities of the CU (note: Children’s Union) was another way of doing this, and that they should all wreak vengeance on the enemy of the country ad of their parents by getting As in school.

Most of the children worked hard to do well in their school-work, inspired by the slogan, “Let us take our revenge upon the enemy of our country and of our parents with the bayonets of As.” They studied without wasting a single minute and became honors students.

Tomorrow: new video of wildly synchronized child dances for the Dear Leader!

These wonderful snippets — many of them truly endearing, some just funny — are from volume one of Kim Jong Il’s official English-language biography, “KIM JONG IL BIOGRAPHY” (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Pyongyang, Korea, Juche 94 (2005)), which I picked up in North Korea the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Like a red letter edition of the Bible, all words spoken or written by either the Dear Leader or the Great Leader appear in bold text.

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Historical Wonders /

Kim Jong Il learns to ride horses and shoot guns!

In celebration of Kim Jong Il’s 69th birthday, this week is flooded with DPRKoolness.  Today, we learn that Kim Jong Il by the age of five is a master equestrian. But what about his marksmanship? Can he handle a gun? Find out, in these excerpts from his official biography, below!


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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Historical Wonders /

The official story of Kim Jong Il’s birth…

Happy 69th birthday, Kim Jong Il! To celebrate this holy day, this entire week will be jam packed with DPRKoolness.  First, the true story of the birth of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il.


These wonderful snippets — many of them truly endearing, some just funny — are from volume one of Kim Jong Il’s official English-language biography, “KIM JONG IL BIOGRAPHY” (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Pyongyang, Korea, Juche 94 (2005)), which I picked up in North Korea the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Like a red letter edition of the Bible, all words spoken or written by either the Dear Leader or the Great Leader appear in bold text.

Kim Jong Il was born at the Paektusan Secret Camp in the Sobaeksu Valley, Samjiyon County, Ryanggang Province, on February 16, 1942…


A few woman soldiers and a small unit of the KPRA who were at the Paektusan Secret Camp at that time were the first to congratulate the birth of Kim Jong Il. Wishing him to become the lodestar that would brighten the future of Korea, the hailed him as the Bright Star of Mt. Paektu. Hearing the news of his birth from the messengers who had been to the Paektusan Secret Camp, the small units and groups and political workers operating in many areas were overjoyed at that event and inscribed the words on thick trees everywhere they went, to spread the news of his birth.

The news of Kim Jong Il’s birth spread rapidly, by word of mouth, throughout the country, like a legendary tale. On learning the fact, the enemy became concerned and tried to suppress the public excitement generated by the news.  A Japanese police document… said that the propaganda about the birth of a heaven-sent boy at Samjiyon in the vicinity of Mt. Paektu had caused great confusion in public sentiment in wartime.  An extract from the document reads as follows: “Since it is predicted that the heaven-sent boy will become a general who will bring independence to Korea, Korea will certainly become independent in the near future…”

Holding his son close to his heart, Kim Il Sung gazed intently as his lovable face for a while, and then told his wife that they should bring up the baby and their other children to be heirs to the revolution. He emphasized that he wanted to see the children carry forward the red flag of revolution which was hoisted on Mt. Paektu.

Kim Jong Suk made every effort to bring up her son, living up to the expectations of her husband. She taught him to be a sturdy son of the nation, to be a strong man who would shoulder the future of the Korean revolution.

Tomorrow: At the age of five, Kim Jong Il learns to ride horses and shoot guns.  But is he any good??? Find out soon!

/ by Dean Pickles / 4 Comments
Historical Wonders /

Gorgeous Old Chinese Studio Photos

One of my favorite things about old Chinese studio photos is the props and backgrounds — they’re positively delicious!  I found these three hanging in a rundown Pingyao museum…

old photo 1-781744

The drape backgrounds are about my favorite thing… although so are the small subtle props, like the flowers.

old photo 3-784567

The full-sized props are just the best.  Two dudes with their awesome ride.

old photo 2-783634

And then when you have the props of the everyday — notice the naked bulb (electricity!) and the inside bell (more!) painted on the backdrop.  And the windows that look nowhere.

/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Historical Wonders, Holy Curiosities / ,

The Story of (These Creepily Awesome) Big Head Buddhas, with video

Michelle’s spent a slew of Chinese New Years here in Beijing, but she’s never seen these before — 大头娃娃 (Dàtóu wáwá or Dai Tao Fut) — incredible paper mache masks that we found in the back of a junk store, in Bangkok’s Chinatown.  In English, they’re called Big Headed Buddhas, and for just a few dollars each, how could we resist picking them up!?!

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Historical Wonders, Holy Curiosities / ,

Three (Really Huge) Wise Men

An hour east of Beijing on the 930 bus, you’ll pass a couple of ominous industrial (nuclear?) chimneys. They’re real big. Springfield Simpsons bastards, if you pardon my French. Hop off the bus, and sneak behind them. That’s where you’ll find the most charmingly bizarre guesthouse, The Tianzi Hotel (天子大酒店).



Apparently, business was bad. The receptionist told us they’d hoped to draw more of a crowd by resurfacing the hotel to look like the iconic Chinese superstars, Fu (the lucky guy), Lu (rich man) and Shou (Mr Immortality, himself.) I’ve been seeing the characters everywhere in China — in temples, shrines, gift shops, restaurants.

Sadly, after a few more questions, she finally admitted that, 10 years later they still don’t have so many visitors.


Don’t miss that Shou’s incredible peach of immortality has been converted into a fruit with a view. Har har.



/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment