In 1968 a present from Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mian Arshad Hussain to Chairman Mao – a case of mangoes – turned this relatively rare fruit into the most celebrated item in China that year. The mangoes were sent to a university in Beijing and from there toured the country. As they were increasingly worshipped, a whole industry of mango memorabilia was born, some of which can still be found in China.
Today the mangoes are seen as an example of the madness of the Cultural Revolution, which started in 1966 and ended in 1976. What exactly is their story? And how can we make sense of the mangoes within the broader context of the period?
To mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution, we are hosting a conversation between two fantastic writers and thinkers: Benjamin Ramm and Man Booker nominated Madeleine Thien. Ramm is editor-at-large at openDemocracy. He writes and presents documentaries for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, including a documentary on the story of the mangoes earlier in February. Thien is a Canadian author, whose forthcoming book Do Not Say We Have Nothing addresses the Cultural Revolution. It has just been announced that her new book is on the 2016 Man Booker longlist.
This event will be chaired by Jemimah Steinfeld, Literature Programme Manager at Asia House and author of the book Little Emperors and Material Girls: Sex and Youth in Modern China.
There will also be a video of interviews with people from China who remember the cult of the mangoes.
Overall, it will be an illuminating night on a defining period of China’s past.
Read a piece explaining the madness of mangoes during the Cultural Revolution written by Jemimah Steinfeld here.