It was 1989

Tank Man on display in Beijing’s Military History Museum – David Moser

I was in Beijing, and it was 1989. This fact did not seem at all remarkable to me at the time, of course. It was January, I was on the campus of Peking University, and there were no telltale signs that the coming spring would be such a momentous one, though in retrospect numerology provided an omen with the confluence of all those auspicious nines – 1919 for the May Fourth movement, 1949 for Liberation, even 1789 for the French Revolution.

There was, to be sure, something in the air – a feeling of seismic shift. Deng Xiaoping’s decade had unleashed a torrent of creative chaos, and students felt a growing sense of impatience and empowerment. I had heard accounts of a professor called Fang Lizhi who was openly talking about democratic reform to auditoriums full of college kids, and there had already been a brief wave of student demonstrations in Shanghai and Beijing, the rumblings of which could still be felt on the Peking University campus, known as Beida.


Book of Changes

Twenty five years in Chinese jazz – David Moser

“What do you miss most about the US?” asked my friend Chen Xin, pouring me another beer.

“Nothing,” I said. It was 1993, and I was living in Beijing, yet even when drunk I was never homesick for America.

“There must be something,” she said, licking the excess foam off my glass.