Roland is right: even during the Great Cultural Revolution, people used to use expressions like "to open green lights to capitalism and revisionism" when accusing somebody or something, and this, of course, was borrowed from the then-in-practice traffic meaning attached to the green light. Your friend might have been joking, as it is true that during that period the red color had a particularly strong positive meaning, to the point that it might have been but quite logic that people change the trafic convention to fit it ;-) Such humor is very popular in China. But so far as I know, it never has been an official rule.
From: Alain LaBont/e'/ SCT [SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: 14 août, 1997 21:16
Subject: Stop on green, pass on red!
A 13:24 14/08/97 -0700, Roland Wang a écrit :
>Though the list is intended for Unicode technical discussion,
> > From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Aug 14 12:36 PDT 1997
> > From: Frank da Cruz <email@example.com>
> > Subject: Re: UTF-8, ISO C Am.1, and POSIX
> > > only one where they all chose the SAME solution. This single
> > > example is traffic lights -- in all places I've ever visited,
> > > red means stop and green means go.
> > >
> > Let me be the first to say that, reportedly, in China 20 years ago,
> > and maybe still, red means go and green means stop :-)
>I was born and lived in China for more than 20 years, and I have never
>heard such a thing.
My 2 cents in this irrelevant parenthesis (but how interesting!) I have
been touring mainland China in 1987 on pure and totally disconnected
vacation, and I have many Chinese friends, one of whom, younger than me but
older than 20 (he was born in 1954), has lived as a teacher under the
Cultural Revolution, which stopped overnight in 1976. I had opportunities
to discuss this at length due to experiences and also to the folklore I
knew about China.
During the cultural revolution, "red" meaning communist progress and
"green" being a petit-bourgeois symbol (hope!), people were starting on
reds and stopping on greens. That rule ceased immediately at the end of the
Since I knew that, when I saw the "Last emperor" movie, I remarked that
there was indeed a scene showing this (if you were not aware you did not
even remark it). It was identified as a scene of the cultural revolution
indeed which stopped more than 20 years ago indeed.
I never saw this in 1987 when I went to China, from Guangzhou to Lhassa
via Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Chengdu for 37 days.
However I saw in Xian people not even caring about the color of traffic
lights, and I was involved in an accident (with only minor bleeding
scratches on my knees and a pair of pants scrapped) just because the bus
driver put his breaks violently to avoid hitting a bike rider just because
of this (I was satnding in the bus, overcrowded; those sitting were more
touched than me by window glass broken). The street was messy, even though
there were traffic lights.
This is not proper to Xian, I've seen (I never saw an accident though) the
same thing in Rome (the difference seemingly being that in Rome, this mess
is part of the convention, of the social contract imho! Maybe too in China,
I don't know; in anyway when people enter a bus, it is also a free-for-all
in China, and everybody is happy; one of my travel companion, a young lady,
made a holy crisis about this and instead of making the Chinese natives
furious about her anger that they couldn have considered culturally
unjustified [she felt squeezed beyond what a Westerner is able to accept],
all the crowd stopped to move for 20 seconds but smiled without exception;
they found her very funny -- the whole scene should have been filmed, she
would laugh today herself). The Chinese are my human fellows, very human
people, not hiding their qualities and defects in public... Mainland China
is an open book of the whole humankinf when you observe it.
Like my friend (the 1954-born guy!) says: In a forest with 1 billion trees,
there are all kinds of trees!
Alain LaBonté (Shàn Anéng [formerly Alán - I was "rechristianed" by a
Chinese ISO expert so that my "first" name correspond
more to my temper (; )
Kui Bei Ke Shi (city of Québec)
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