101 x 581 cm
‘I Love Beijing Tiananmen’ is a song dating from the Cultural Revolution, sung by schoolchildren every morning after the ‘Internationale’ and ‘The East is Red’. Translated from the Chinese, the words are: I love Beijing Tiananmen / The sun rises above Tiananmen / Our great leader Chairman Mao / Leads all of us forward. Dai Hua’s six-metre long digital work – in the horizontal format of a traditional handscroll, although this one is read from left to right – depicts key events in the history of the central axis of Beijing, which fronts the Forbidden City. Dai Hua, whose favourite literary character is the rebellious and intelligent Monkey King from ‘Journey to the West’, applies a distinctly tongue-in cheek atmosphere to the subject. In Dai’s monumental panorama we see characters ranging from the 15th century Ming Dynasty Yongle Emperor who directed the construction of the Forbidden City, and the emperors of the conquering Manchus who established the Qing Dynasty, to the Dowager Empress Cixi who presided over its fall. We see the modern era too: the 1919 May Fourth movement, the struggles against the Japanese occupation, and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The huge cast of pixilated people includes beggars and scholars, eunuchs and concubines, warriors and superheroes – and even the image of the ‘Tank Man’ in 1989. Like a nostalgic video game from Dai Hua’s 1980s childhood, grand processions of soldiers, and vehicles from bicycles to taxis to tanks march across its vast length. Giving the satirical game away is a tiny detail: entering the Forbidden City is the procession of a stout emperor who wears no clothes.