- The main piece: Mao Zedong’s Birthday
“Okay, so Mao Zedong’s birthday is December 26th, and on that day, we eat long noodles. It’s because if you cut the noodle, you’re cutting his life. Which doesn’t really make sense because he’s dead.”
- Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? Context of the performance?
“Mao Zedong is the communist leader of China, and he’s very important because he led the communist revolution and changed China forever, for both better and worse.
“Oh yeah, everyone loves Mao. Mao’s on all the money. It’s either Mao or flowers. It’s the day after Christmas and the day before my mom’s birthday.”
- Finally, your thoughts about the piece
This tradition of eating long noodles on Mao Zedong’s birthday symbolizes a long life for him, and, accordingly, for the communist nation and ideals that he created. I think that this is a key example of the usage of folklore to build nationalistic sentiment and to increase feelings of personal connection and importance to central sociopolitical powers. Even though the informant is from a later generation from the one in which Mao Zedong was active and alive, the fact that this tradition continues years after, even after his death, shows the lasting impact of using folklore as a nation-state building device.
- Informant Details
The informant is an 18-year old female of Japanese and Chinese descent. She grew up in Oahu, Hawaii in a family that had moved there five generations earlier, and explained how none of her parents or grandparents knew any Japanese or Chinese. Celebrating Japanese and Chinese cultural traditions helped her feel more connected to her heritage growing up, because she felt that her parents and grandparents were very disconnected from the culture other than with these traditions.