Chemistry notebook, People’s Republic of China, 1976

I bought this notebook two weeks ago from a street vendor in Xiamen, in Fujian province.  The vendor’s table was not far from the gates to the university and boasted a mix of used textbooks and salvaged housewares but when I picked up this notebook he immediately pointed out the few other items with an image of Mao on them, having long ago figured out that foreigners wanted Mao memorabilia.  No doubt, his instincts were sound: from Hizbullah t-shirts for sale at Baalbek in Lebanon to Gaddafi’s Green Book at Tripoli bookshops, the line between menacing revolutionary and tourist trinket is more permeable than one might imagine.  But I wanted notebooks, which generally are both very personal and intended to be impermanent.  This one consists of chemistry notes and is dated 12 June 1976, a brutal time in the mainland Chinese calendar coming at the end of the Cultural Revolution and just three months before Mao died.

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