The Mayor of Tengchong

A film about the China-Myanmar borderlands

by Alessandro Rippa

In Tengchong. © 2017 Alessandro Rippa


The film follows the story of a Burmese teacher in the Chinese town of Tengchong. Teacher Zhou, as he is known by most people in the small border town, was born in Mandalay, Myanmar, in a family of prominent writers and intellectuals. As a young man, in the 1960s, teacher Zhou joined the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). After a few years in jail, in the early 1970s he fled Mandalay for what were known at the time as the "liberated areas": a wide stretch of territory that the CPB controlled in the northern part of the country, in proximity to the Chinese border. There, he lived until 1989, when the Communist Party of Burma collapsed and its leadership was forced to flee into China. Since then he has been living in Tengchong, where he teaches Burmese to young Chinese entrepreneurs.

The film is based on over a dozen interviews with members of teacher Zhou's family, his former comrades, and current students and friends in Tengchong. Through his story, the film retraces the history of the communist struggle in Burma and of fifty years of China-Myanmar cross-border relations.

The film is currently in the editing phase. Shooting took place over two months in the summer and fall of 2017, in Tengchong, Ruili, Wa State, Mandalay, and Yangon. The film will be released in the summer of 2019.

Highland Asia Research Group
LMU, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oettingenstr. 67
80538 Munich, Germany | +49 89 2180 9639

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