Dreams of White Tiles . . .


Karl Marx Loves Children

Filed under: Uncategorized — Roddy @ 2:35 pm

How chuffed am I? Way back in 1998 I started learning Chinese from elementary school readers (I was teaching in an elementary school at the time). One of the stories I read was the suprisingly titled ‘Karl Marx Loves Children’.

I was reminded of this story while writing this post for Chinese-forums.com, and I managed to find it via Google. The story is on the website of the People’s Educational Press, purveyor of fine teaching materials to the nation’s eager young minds. Re-reading this is like meeting up again with an old, slightly sinister and never-quite trusted classmate…

Here’s the first paragraph. I can’t remember what age this would have been for, but certainly elementary school kids. As far as I can tell this is still in use today.

Marx loves Children

The great revolutionary Karl Marx loved children very much. Usually, no matter how busy he was, he’d find time to go to where the poor people lived and see the lively lovable children. Never mind how ragged their clothes, or how dirty their hands, Marx would always press in amongst them and often press a few coins into their hands.

I find this stuff fascinating. I mean, even if Marx did like kids, and I have no reason to believe he didn’t, do the Chinese children of today need to know it?

It’d be wrong to think that these elementary school readers are all propoganda, or that China is the only nation guilty of feeding its kids a slightly squewed world view. An old villager I sat next to on a train once quizzed me about the Opium Wars, and I knew nothing.

An unscientific flick through these stories (the entire curriculum seems to be on that site) shows that references to communist leaders, the motherland and fun-lovin’ revolutionaries are, on the whole, rare. Stories like the classic Ma Liang’s Magic Brush, the maternal Mother’s Love and the frankly morbid (for goldfish) Daddy Teaches Me To Use My Brain are in the great majority. But at the same time, does the hero of the story Study, for China have to be former premier Zhou Enlai? Does In the Motherland’s Blue Sky have to explain China’s reliance on foreign-made aircraft as nothing more than the result of the mischief-making of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four?

If you want to have a look through this kind of stuff – it’s fascinating for cultural reasons, and of no little use to anyone looking for simple Chinese reading material – you can start here with ‘Ethics and Life’, or here for ‘Language’.


  1. I like the young children’s picture books in which they are taught the Chinese pinyin names of military equipment such as hand grenades and anti-aircraft missiles. launchers.

    Comment by Confucius — 12/8/2004 @ 3:48 pm

  2. Marx would always press in amongst them and often press a few coins into their hands.

    Pretty bourgeois of him, no?

    Comment by Yonglan — 12/9/2004 @ 3:05 am

  3. Very interesting links, thanks Roddy. But considering how soppy the story about the aeroplane is, I can’t even bring myself to read “Mother’s Love”! I think you misrepresent that aeroplane story — the focus is not really on Lin Biao, but on the young protagonist’s duty to help his country overcome its dark years and grow stronger.

    Incidently, odd how you insert a link to the definition of “chuffed”. Is this for chinese readers, or for American ones?

    Comment by Todd — 12/10/2004 @ 6:54 pm

  4. The aeroplane one isn’t just about that, but it’s still notable I think how the reference is just dropped in there.

    Oh, and the link on chuffed is for all uneducated readers, whereever they are from . . .

    Comment by Roddy — 12/11/2004 @ 1:31 pm

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