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August 31, 2009

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History by committee

THE Museum of China's Residential Committees has recently been set up in Hangzhou's Shangyangshi Community, which was confirmed as the country's first residential committee last year by the State Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The project is due to open to the public at the end of this year.

The museum displays more than 10,000 precious items collected from all over China, including an old-style recorder, a telephone from Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, a "Model Family" trophy from the 1950s from Fujian Province, a porcelain-enamel cup popular in the early 1990s from Hangzhou's Xiaoyingxiang area, a notepad filled with work agendas in the 1970s from Tianjin and many others.

It even includes a bronze bell used in the 1980s as a fire alarm from Liaoning Province and a commendation for the top rat catcher in 1985 in Hangzhou's Shisiduan (West) area.

At that time, people who could catch more than 100 rats would get this award. It is said that they qualified by cutting off the tail of each rat and keeping them until they reached 100.

The museum will also have several items donated from Shanghai, such as the picture of pandas President Hu Jintao drew during a visit in 2008 to Shanghai's Quyang Community and even the cup he once drank from.

Visitors will also be able to examine a dog-eared exam score sheet of a resident who attended the sao wenmang (wipe out illiteracy) class during the 1950s in Shanghai's Madeli Lane.

As the birthplace of New China's residential committee, Shangyangshi Community donated lots of old stuff, such as the first wooden house plate and a hand-woven national flag.

"My neighbor Wang Guoying made the numbers and painted them. I helped to nail them to the door of each household," says 84-year-old resident Yang Yue'e. Wang died several years ago.

A special national flag is displayed in the center of the hall. The ensign was woven by the local residents in Hangzhou's Jiandemei Community in the early 1950s.

"New China was just founded then and everybody was so happy. So we decided to do something for our country," says Pan Dongxiang, first director of the committee.

So far, the museum has collected more than 10,000 old items from China's 31 provinces, cities and autonomous regions.

"The collection is still ongoing. Even something as small as an old pen, chair or insignia is welcomed," says Rui Jianan, director of the museum's preparation committee.


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