Devotees to mark Mao’s day

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/5 1:58:40

Many continue to idolize leader 40 years after his death

A statue of Mao Zedong Photo: CFP

Forty years after Chinese leader Mao Zedong passed away, a great number of Chinese people are still nostalgic for the relatively egalitarian Mao era and are eager to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mao's death on September 9.

One of these Mao admirers, a 40-year-old surnamed Xia from Jianli county in Central China's Hubei Province, is readying for his journey to the town of Shaoshan in Central China's Hunan Province to commemorate the anniversary.

Mao, one of the most influential figures in China's modern history, was born in Shaoshan on December 26, 1893. The town has long served as a site of pilgrimage for millions of Mao devotees and will be the site of additional celebrations this month.

Another admirer surnamed Huang told the Global Times that he is organizing a ceremony in Shaoshan in which large numbers of people have already agreed to participate. Since the ceremony has no sponsor, Huang said that every participant needs to pay for his or her own accommodation, meals and transportation.

Additionally, a poetry and calligraphy exhibition that will display over 300 works of calligraphy about Mao's poems and his portraits is being jointly organized by the World Federation of Overseas Chinese Associations and the Beijing-based Xinludi Culture and Art Center and will he held September 9 - 11.

An online flower-laying campaign on WeChat, a popular mobile networking app, has garnered 2,451,833 participants as of press time.

Ceremony in Mao's hometown

Xia recalled his last trip to Shaoshan in 2015, where he participated in a ceremony commemorating the 122nd anniversary of Mao's birth. Hundreds of thousands of local residents convened at the square in Shaoshan and presented bouquets before Mao's statue while singing the song "The East Is Red," Xia told the Global Times.

Xia said that he has been to Shaoshan several times since 1996 to express his devotion to the great spiritual leader. Photos sent by Xia showed people from all over China participating in ceremonies commemorating Mao, including one where people held up a banner that reads, "Only public ownership is socialism," citing Mao's political philosophy. 

Many travelers and Mao admirers from outside of China have also been drawn to Shaoshan. An anonymous local official in Changsha, the capital of Hunan, told the Global Times, "A few years ago, two foreign Mao advocates from Nepal went to Shaoshan by train, and before that, they brought a red flag from the Communist Party of Nepal to present it to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall in Beijing."

"Shaoshan has received many foreign Mao advocates from various countries like India, Peru, France, Italy, Japan and the US," he added.

Everlasting spiritual leader

People throughout China have also found other ways to honor Mao.

A video sent to the Global Times by Xia showed Changsha residents gathering on the banks of the Xiangjiang River to sing communist songs together during Qingming Festival. Xia said that around 50 people normally attended the party, which was held every Sunday afternoon.

According to media reports, temples dedicated to Mao have sprung up in many rural areas over the past decades, especially in Hunan, in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province and in South China's Guangdong Province. One video uploaded online in December 2015 showed a consecration ceremony at a Taoist temple in Jingyuan county, Northwest China's Gansu Province, to inaugurate a new statue of Mao for people to worship.

Lin Minjie, president of the Hong Kong Society of Mao Zedong Thought - an NGO established in 2013 to study and spread Mao's political philosophy and promote social development in Hong Kong -previously told the Global Times that he has spent a lot of money building a statue of Mao in his hometown in East China's Fujian Province.

However, building statues of Mao is not always encouraged by the local government. In January, a 36-meter-high golden statue of Mao sponsored by several entrepreneurs and villagers in Tongxu country, Central China's Henan Province, was dismantled for failing to be registered with local authorities, news site reported.

The report said the statue cost about 3 million yuan ($449,200) to construct.

Admiring for the spiritual leader is still part of many people's everyday life.

Photos of Mao can still be seen in most Chinese villagers' homes. A Tibetan resident of Shangri-la in Southwest China's Yunnan Province told the Global Times that Mao's portrait still hangs in his and other villagers' houses.

Car pendants and handicrafts printed with Mao's photo and plaster busts of Mao are still seen in streets and homes throughout the country.

"Commemorating Mao's death and birthday has become a conventional festival. It shows Chinese people's approval of Mao's historic contributions to China and his status as the founder of the People's Republic of China," Sima Pingbang, a leftist cultural critic, told the Global Times. 

"We miss the life of equality and justice experienced in Mao's time," Xia said.

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