Waiters at the restaurant’s entrance are dressed in Revolution army gear. Source: kunming.cn
For many foreigners, images of suppression and violence first spring to mind when thinking about the Cultural Revolution. Our Western text books teach us about perplexing persecutions and portray the Red Guard as a generation of youth unleashed to reap havoc on society. Although, foreigners never lived through that era, many are not willing to believe that it wasn’t all bad back then, at least for some. Tourists are perplexed by the all the Mao memorabilia in tourist markets, and films like “Balzac and the Little Seamstress” that portray China in the 60’s and early 70’s in a soft, romanticized light are harshly criticized by outside observers. Similarly, it is interesting and rather strange to come across not only a “red” themed restaurant where waiters dress in old Mao-era army uniforms and the walls plastered with revolution posters and images, but one that is a huge hit among the locals.
This is exactly the case at the “Green Eco Impression, Eco Farmhouse Food” restaurant (绿色生态印象生态农家菜馆), as it roughly translates, on Ru’an Jie (如安街) in Kunming. Three waiters dressed in old army gear from head to toe stand at the entrance, waiting to greet and send off customers. Old, popular revolutionary songs blare from the speakers and the walls are a multi-colored shrine of poster art for the pre-reform era. Dried red chilis and maize hang on the corner of the wall, giving the restaurant a rustic, countryside vibe. Simple square tables with four stools each fill the restaurant floor. This restaurant which mainly serves simple Chinese country dishes, is by no means fancy, yet since its opening last October, has proven to be hugely popular.
When Mr. Wang, the restaurant’s manager, was asked whether he thought using the Cultural Revolution as a means of attracting customers was a rather inappropriate method, he replied, “I don’t think it is. Although I’m still young, I really like retro memorabilia from the 70’s and listening to “red” songs.” Wang continued to argue that people will appreciate how well off they are nowadays if they remember the past. Eating food to the sound of revolutionary songs and surrounded by propaganda art will help people make this contrast.
Whether the restaurant really does help people appreciate their current lives more or not is debatable; the fact is that this restaurant solely owes its popularity to its novelty theme. And it’s not the only one of its kind. Beijing’s Xiangyang Tun restaurant in Haidian District boasts the same theme, as do numerous other restaurants across the country. Although this restaurant would probably never get any media attention based solely on its menu, it is worth a visit, if only for the photo opportunities and the fascinating insight into the attitude of China’s younger generation towards their country’s revolutionary past.
Add: opposite “Dorothy Bread” Bakery on 18 Ru’an Jie, Wuhua District, Kunming
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Keywords: Revolution themed restaurant Kunming red themed restaurant Kunming cultural revolution restaurant Kunming
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