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Comrades, Flush!

Beijing's print media has discovered revolutionary toilet humor, and boy is it controversial!

The image at left, a woodblock print of a worker, a farmer, and a soldier, was found on the wall of a toilet stall in Beijing. It plays on the word , which usually means "charge" in the battle-cry, "Comrades, charge!" (同志们,冲啊!). But the same word also means "flush," giving the poster new meaning in the toilet.

The poster text:

After defecating, look to the propaganda poster
Comrades, flush!
Those who know the customs are worthies!
Those who flush their excrement are heroes!

Do workers, farmers, and soldiers deserve to be "image ambassadors for toilet flushing" (in the words of Beijing media)? Is this a harmless joke, or yet another symptom of how socety has forgotten the sacrifices made by revolutionary heroes like Dong Cunrui? (Dong's last words may have been "Comrades, for new China, for Chairman Mao, charge!")

The Mirror published a few responses from Beijing residents last week:

· Chen Xu: Many people admire the rich and famous these days, but the image of workers, farmers, and soliders has not sunk to a level where they must keep watch over toilets and tell people to flush after relieving themselves, has it? I think that creative and design work must first respect others, particularly common laborers. In China, workers, farmers, and soldiers make up the largest grout, and no individual should trample on their image.

· Xin Mu: The propaganda poster is only meant to remind people to flush the toilet; don't read any deeper meaning into it, ok? When some middle-aged people find that their beloved workers, farmers, and soldiers have become "image ambassadors" for toilet flushing, their feelings are hurt. This I can understand. On the other hand, middle-age is a stage of life involving great stress, and people at this stage of life typically lack a sense of humor and can easily take good-natured ribbing as an insult.

Actually, there is no need for the middle-aged, weighed down by the cares of life, to take a propaganda poster so personally. Can't we all find a bit more wisdom to handle our own foibles, and meet the poster with a smile?

· Jin Maodao (who also wrote a piece in Shanghai Youth Daily): Young people who have not personally experienced things may not be able to feel the same sense of gratitude, but they should be able to learn understanding and respect.

In the past when people spoke of "the generation gap," it was always to urge the older generation to extend tolerance and protection to the younger generation and not to be paternalistic. But at the same time, the younger generation ought to be understanding and respectful of the feelings and emotional symbols of the older generation.

The best way to eliminate the misinterpretation and misunderstanding that exists between the young and the middle-aged over this propaganda poster is to open up a two-way street of respect and understanding.

Poster in Ningxia with ad for sewer work.
After the story broke in the Beijing press, Ningxia Daily received a tip that a web cafe in the city had a similar notice posted in the bathroom.

It's an obvious joke, and one that's been told before. Back in 2005, an article in the Information Times ran the image as an example of "twisted online culture" (网络BT文化); at the time, "Comrades, Flush!" was making the rounds of online forums. Like other recurrent jokes (for example, Deng Xiaoping on the 500-yuan note), the print media seems to discover it anew every few months.

Last year, Strait News reported that that a similar poster was found in a toilet in Quanzhou. The paper included man-on-the-street opinions, some of which commended society for its tolerance of humor and mockery, and others that called for the government to take steps to protect the reputation of revolutionary heroes.

Much like what the Mirror found last week.

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There are currently 5 Comments for Comrades, Flush!.

Comments on Comrades, Flush!

"Comrades, flush!
Those who know the customs are worthies!
Those who flush their excrement are heroes!"


Joel is the man....a Poop Poet

Dear Danwei,

I read your blog on a syndicated feed on LJ. The feed URL is here: link

I had to say that to let you know - I am stealing the Flush image for one of my user icons!


really be ashamed of the bad habbit.....

the habit comes from a life long separated from modern urban life. just two or three decades ago, the toilets so popular today were rare. in rural areas and small towns, the communal toilets are just a nightmare. even now in some places not far from ultra modern cities, there still exist such ultra backward public toilets. that's why i have hated to visit my in-laws in a county seat in northern jiangsu province. here i will not describe such public toilets in the county city. suffice to say that they are a nightmare. no wonder a lot of people from areas like the one where my in-laws live are not in the habit because no one tells them how to do things in the modern urban way. most of them just don't know they need to flush when they migrate to seek urban jobs and use toilets in modernized cities. probably they think someone else would do the cleaning later. it is also possible that some do learn to know they need to flush afterwards but just go away deliberately without flushing. but the number of the knowing people, i guess, is really small. never overestimate people about their knowledge of modern urban life and modern life habits. even now, china is just that unbalanced in modernization.

Anyone know where I can buy this? or a poster like it? I think it's fantastic!

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