Thousands visit Mao's hometown in Hunan Province to mark leader's birthday

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/27 0:13:39

Thousands visit leader’s hometown in Hunan Province

A Mao Zedong impersonator sings revolutionary songs with visitors to celebrate the 123rd birth anniversary of the late leader in his hometown Shaoshan, Central China's Hunan Province on Monday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

A Mao Zedong impersonator sings revolutionary songs with visitors to celebrate the 123rd birth anniversary of the late leader in his hometown Shaoshan, Central China's Hunan Province on Monday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Thousands of people swarmed the hometown of Mao Zedong on Monday to celebrate the 123rd birth anniversary of the leader of Chinese revolution and founding father of the People's Republic of China.

While the late Chairman is still seen as a controversial figure for the mistakes he made in his political campaigns, his hometown Shaoshan, a small city in Central China's Hunan Province, was packed with his worshippers despite intermittent rain before and during the anniversary.

Thousands of visitors from provinces and cities around China reveled until midnight, and more than 10,000 people

congregated at the city square, local police in Shaoshan told the Global Times. According to the city's Party committee publicity department, some 40,000 people arrived in Shaoshan on Sunday evening.

Songs associated with Mao's era, usually called red songs, were played loudly in the square and people holding umbrellas stood around a giant statue of the leader, as Mao impersonators performed and posed for photographs with visitors.

Deng Fei, a visitor from Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times that he comes here every year, but he was not happy with the security check outside the square intended to prevent terrorist attacks.

"We are all Mao's followers and we can defeat any type of terrorist!" he said.

The visitors who came to Shaoshan on Sunday were welcomed by a message from the local police reminding them they could have a bowl of "longevity noodles" for free. The noodles are usually prepared for birthday celebrations in China as a symbol of long life. The noodles were donated by Yu Xiang, a local food company in Hunan Province.

In Beijng, thousands of people visited the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall in Tiananmen Square on Sunday and Monday to get a glimpse of the late Chairman, whose body is kept inside the facility. Visitor numbers on the two days were 10 times higher than on normal days, the manger of the hall told the Global Times.

During the day, a large number of people visited Tiananmen Square, where a giant portrait of Mao was hung on the rostrum overlooking the square.

A visitor from the UK who did not want to be named said, "We learnt about Chairman Mao in school and also learnt about the revolution and the society he built here [in China]. If you look around, you can see his legacy everywhere. Obviously people are proud of him. It's fantastic to experience that [the birth anniversary of Mao]."

Festival proposal

In recent years, a number of leftist organizations in China including one called Hong Ge Hui (Red Song Association) have called on the government to commemorate Mao's birth anniversary more prominently by making it a national festival and giving it a name like "Dong Sheng Jie" (Eastern Holy Festival), "People's Festival" or "Mao-mas" (derived from Christmas).

However, Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee, told the Global Times, "This idea is not realistic because at the Second Session of the Seventh Conference of the CPC in 1949, Mao himself stated that the CPC leaders' birthdays should not be celebrated by the people. So if the government makes December 26 a national holiday, it will be against the norms Mao established for the whole Party since 1949."

Su added that it is reasonable for the public to commemorate Mao  and that they can call December 26 whatever they want to, but the government will only call it "the birthday of Mao Zedong."

In Shaoshan, many visitors wore scarves with characters reading "People's Festival" and an image of Mao.

"Mao was a great patriot and national hero, and a great man who led the Chinese people to change the destiny of the country," President Xi Jinping said at a seminar on December 26, 2013 to mark the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth.

Su said Mao's greatest legacy in modern China is the socialist political, cultural and economic system that he built, with Deng Xiaoping just fixing Mao's mistakes without changing the foundation of the entire system.

"Without Mao's exploration and trial and error during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Deng Xiaoping would not know which road was correct," Su said.

Newspaper headline: People mark Mao birthday

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