National Geographic : 1988 Mar
only two small trains a day. In the past there were as many as two or three an hour, but with Mao's death there was a decline in demand, and now the national monument to which peo ple once flocked is like the town that time for got. Mao's portrait still hangs on the front of the station, and each room in the country villa in which Mao was born is appropriately la beled: Parents' Bedroom, Brother's Room, Pigsty, Kitchen ("In 1921 Mao Zedong edu cated his family in revolution near this stove"). The house was empty except for the caretaker, a young girl who told me that one day in 1966, 120,000 people visited the house. I went to the Mao museum. It is fascinating for what it omits. There is no mention of the Cultural Revolution, nothing about the Red Guards, no intimation that Mao was ever mar ried to Jiang Qing, the former actress who was a member of the Gang of Four. One would gather from the Mao museum that the only noteworthy event of the 1960s was the explod ing of China's first atom bomb. The message of the museum is the feeling that is current in China-don't praise him, don't blame him. I went to the museum shop, which sold candy, buttons, cigarettes, soap, razor blades, and color photos of Hong Kong movie stars. "I would like to buy a picture of Mao, or perhaps a copy of the selected writings of Mao Zedong. "We have none," the clerk said. And when I asked whether she would get some eventually, she said she didn't know. the region that used to be known as Manchuria, now the provinces of Liao ning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang. This last, the "Black Dragon River," was my destina tion. I traveled with a group of Hong Kong Chinese, who complained of the cold and the food. It was their first visit to the motherland. They had not learned that the cheaper meal in China is often the better one: Instead of fatty pork, chicken skin, and a big bony fish, you get vegetables, dumplings, and soup. There was frost on the window of the dining car, and by the time we got to Harbin the outside tempera ture was minus 34°C. The intense cold is hardly noticed. The mar kets are held outdoors, there are no bus shel ters for the many people who wait in the sleet for the buses, doors and windows are left open, and in Harbin people ride their bicycles 316 Crowded as bundled chopsticks, say the Chinese of train travel; one rider finds leg room outside. Hungry passengers buy snacks from vendors at brief stops (right) or visit a dining car where pick led vegetables from home flavor hot rice.