Old Photo of Tiananmen Square Has Netizens Asking “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

A rare old color photo of Tiananmen Square was posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter, and it was commented on hundreds of times as Internet users mused about the past and present of China’s most recognizable landmark.

Here are the three things that stand out in this photo:

Tiananmen Square in the 1960s.

1. The first thing most people noticed is the conspicuous absence of Mao Zedong’s portrait, which many consider a fixture on the Tiananmen Gate. Old Beijingers remembered a time when that was not the case. @爱唱歌20122012 tweeted, “Before the Cultural Revolution, the portrait of Mao Zedong was hung on the Tiananmen Gate starting on May 1 and October 1 (National Day) of each year for about ten days. After the Cultural Revolution, it was hung everyday, until this day.”

2. The Chinese national flag is also missing from the staff. Nowadays, the flag is raised at sunrise and taken down at sunset by a team of statuesque, goose-stepping soldiers, and the ceremonies are a major tourist attraction.

3. The man seems to be selling vegetables (gasp) in broad daylight. Chengguan was an unfamiliar concept in the 1960s, but so was peddling. Many users pointed out that before economic reforms of 1979, peddling was considered a criminal offense against the socialist system, although enforcement was patchy depending on the prevailing political wind of the time.

The photo has given rise to some degree of melancholy about changes in the heart of Beijing in the last fifty years. Ran Xiongfei (@冉雄飞), a sports reporter, commented, “Nowadays, a peasant with a cart full of radishes, would he even make it past the Fifth Ring Road?”