Temtsel Hao: Mao Zedong in Video-History's Gaze





[Temtsel Hao is a journalist with the BBC World Service, based in London ]

Yuan Tengfei, a 38-year old Beijing middle-school history-teacher, has become both a high-profile and a controversial figure in China’s online public discourse - called the “best history teacher" by his fans, a traitor to his nation and state by critics, all the while remaining a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). His lively lectures in fluent, Beijing-accented Mandarin - spiced with funny anecdotes and sarcastic comments, and circulated via online video-clips - have won him an expanding fan-base and (less certainly) aroused students' interests in history as a subject (see “School teacher Yuan Tengfei brings history vividly to life”, CCTV, 7 July 2009).

More conventional critics have described what Yuan Tengfei does as “comedian history”. Some even say that he could be a good stand-up comedian, injecting new life into Beijing’s old art of xiang sheng (cross-talk) by adding historical knowledge and political satire....

It is part of Yuan Tengfei's appeal that he mixes fact and opinion in an entertaining and challenging way. But in using this style to comment on the “great helmsman” who led China’s revolution of 1949 and the party until his death in 1976, he has crossed an often invisible but still monitored line (see Eric Mu, “The history lessons of Yuan Tengfei”, Danwei, 21 May 2010)....

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