Memorabilia exhibition highlights 70 years of life in China
Hu Chao, Wang Gang

On the brink of China's 70th anniversary, more than 3,000 of relics and collectibles are going on exhibit at the Shanxi Provincial Public Library in northern China's Shanxi Province. The keepsakes on display tell the birth of new China and reflect life and people's treasured memories over the generations. Many were donated by ordinary people.

A literacy class diploma in 1954 shows a rural woman entering the city, attending school, working after graduation, and gaining economic and personal independence.

The first TV bought by a working family was a Shanghai-made 9-inch black-and-white set, which would attract neighbors to come over to watch "Astro Boy" and "The Man from Atlantic."

Old cassette collections at the exhibition. / CGTN Photo

Old cassette collections at the exhibition. / CGTN Photo

Thanks to preserved cassette tapes, visitors can experience romantic songs, such as those of Teresa Teng. Once considered decadent, those songs eventually grew popular for elderly women dancing in city parks.

More than 500 donors have contributed to the exhibition. "In 1984, my wife's company paid to make customized coats for them. My wife gave me this chance because my size is much bigger than hers. She thought that was more worthwhile," said donor Wang Mingquan wearing this old coat sitting at the exhibition.

"This doll was a gift that my colleague sent to my newborn son in 1989. My mother enjoys making clothes by sewing machine. So she made a set for this doll. But she passed away in 2003. So we cherish this doll more," said donor Jia Jianling.


"At first, this exhibition was just a small idea. And I didn't expect that donations would flood in. I think after decades of fast development across the country, now people also like to look back on what the old days were like," said Huang Haibo, the curator.

Huang also works as a journalist at Taiyuan Daily. She's been collecting old items from ordinary people for three years. She believes the items are the best evidence of how the people's lives have changed over the years.

An old desk clock at the exhibition still keeps good time. /CGTN Photo

An old desk clock at the exhibition still keeps good time. /CGTN Photo

"When we were kids, social development and people's welfare were only abstract words in our history and political textbooks. But when we look at these items now, especially when we know what the life of an item's owner was like in the past, and how he or she feels happy now, we finally understand what social development really is," said Huang.

She also says such an exhibition focusing on shared personal experience is "unprecedented in recent Chinese history." The first one she organized attracted 150,000 visitors, most of whom had never attended a public museum before. Huang noted, "Many were moved when they saw regular people like themselves being respected, understood and achieving recognition."

(Cover photo: An area of the exhibition gives a look of a room in a 1980s family. /CGTN Photo; Cover photo 2: Donor Jia Jianling is at the exhibition with the doll she donated. /CGTN Photo)