Reproduced with permission from Geremie R. Barmé and John Minford, editors, Seeds of Fire (New York: The Noonday Press, 1989)
A dark and stormy night. Inside the Chairman's Maosoleum all
is gloomy and chilly. Two soldiers stand motionless like outsized
dolls flanking the sides of the crystal sarcophagus, which
contains the embalmed remains of the great leader and teacher.
A flash of lightning lights up the coffin for an instant, and an eerie blue haze seems to emanate from its sides. A deafening clap of thunder starts the place shaking and the eyes of the corpse pop open. A stiff hand creeps up the side of the bier and pushes open the lid. While the storm continues to rage outside, the Chairman sits bolt upright ....
The guards are taken completely by surprise and step back from the coffin in terror.
CHAIRMAN: "Zhang, where's my Little Zhang?"
"Present and accounted for!" The FIRST GUARD snaps to attention with a shout.
CHAIRMAN: "And who are you supposed to be?"
FIRST GUARD : "Permission to report, Chairman. I'm Zhang Weidong, protector of the east. Everyone calls me Little Zhang."
THE SECOND GUARD (pale with fright nods in agreement). "I'm Li Xiangyang, he who faces the sun."
CHAIRMAN: "I want Zhang Yufeng, my bedside amanuensis. Where's she got to then? And what about my wife Chairwoman Jiang?" (feeling in his pocket) "Bring me my cigarettes."
SECOND GUARD fumbles in his pocket, takes out a packet of Flying Horse cigarettes and presents them to the corpse with a trembling hand. He lights the cigarette for the CHAIRMAN.
"Hmph! The CHAIRMAN takes a deep drag on the cigarette. "I repeat, where's Chairwoman Jiang? You know, Comrade Jiang Qing. Now I left implicit instructions for the others to help Comrade Jiang Qing keep the red flag flying. So where is she? And Chunqiao, Wenyuan and Little Wang ... ?"
"Mr. Chairman, Sir, well, you see, it's like this...... The FIRST GUARD splutters lamely. "They're all, um, they spend all their time in Qin Cheng...." [or Qin Cheng No. 1, China's top political prison.]
"Oh, do they indeed?" says the CHAIRMAN , wide-eyed. "I get the picture. All right then, what about my hand-picked successor Hua Guofeng?"
FIRST GUARD : "Who? Hua what? Oh, you mean Chairman Hua. I've heard he's taking classes over at the Party cadre school." (laughs nervously)
CHAIRMAN : "What about my bodyguard Wang Dongxing? I suppose you're both from my personal guard, Unit 8341?"
"Wang, Wang who? ... never heard of any Wang," the SECOND GUARD stammers. "We're from Unit 1438. You know, the new one, 1438."
"Heh, heh, heh," the CORPSE chuckles to itself. "So that's how it is. And I suppose the man in power now is that little what's-his-name, Deng...."
"Yes, yes, Deng Xiaoping." The GUARDS snap to attention as they chime the name in chorus.
"Bloody fucking hell! What's the world coming to?" the CORPSE spits out a cloud of smoke indignantly. "He said he'd never go back on his word. I should have known he couldn't be trusted." Gazing outside he sees his portrait hanging on the Gate of Heavenly Peace. "But that's me. My picture's still up there."
FIRST GUARD : "Certainly; but, you see, it's the last one in China."
"What did you say?" Unconvinced, the CORPSE points down Chang'an Avenue. "What about those red neon lights? Don't they spell out 'Long Live Chairman Mao'?"
"I'm sorry, Chairman," offers the SECOND GUARD . "That's an advertisement for Seiko watches."
A song can be heard in the distance:
"Flowers may bloom but they must fade one day;
Times of happiness must to grief give way ...."
CHAIRMAN : "What's that they're singing. It's a very odd tune, doesn't sound like The East is Red to me. Come to think of it, it doesn't sound like the model Peking opera The Red Lantern either. Is it from some new revolutionary opera?"
FIRST GUARD : "If it please your Chairmanship, it's the Taiwan pop star Teresa Teng singing 'When Will You Return'."
"What type of rubbish is that?" The CORPSE cries in a fury. (quoting emotionally from his own poems) 'Long have I harboured a wish to return to Mt. Jinggang,' ah, to make revolution once more. 'How can this be; I want to soar through the sky....' 'Enough of your silly farting, behold the world is in foment...'"
With this he angrily throws the butt of his cigarette away and struggles to his feet, standing unsteadily in his crystalline display case. Just as he is about to step out of the coffin the booming sound of a gong is heard. A hatch in the ceiling swings open and a large hammer drops out scoring a direct hit on the Chairman's shiny pate. The corpse keels over backwards into the coffin.
The following day a large notice is hung up outside the Maosoleum. It simply reads: "Closed for repairs."
Yau Ma Tei is the pen-name of Xiao Tong, a satirist and Chinese opera aficionado born in Peking in 1929. Xiao moved to Taiwan in 1949 and then to Hong Kong in 1961, where he works as a newspaper columnist. Playhouse was a regular feature Xiao Tong wrote for the independent Hong Kong current affairs magazine Pai-shing Semi-Monthly until 1984. Yau Ma Tei is the name of the Kowloon residential district in which Xiao lives.