Memorial a big draw on Mao’s birthday
Beijing venue adjusts hours to cater to thousands of visitors
Thousands of people visited the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall in Beijing on Thursday to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth.
Normally open only in the mornings, the hall observed a special schedule for the day, with the doors opening later in the morning and then opening again for two hours in the early afternoon.
The changes were partly to accommodate various memorial activities taking place in Tian’anmen Square, but they also worked well for the many visitors who traveled to Beijing from other parts of the country for the special day.
By the end of the afternoon, as the crowds made their way home, thousands of white chrysanthemums were laid in front of the late leader’s coffin.
Zhai Peixue, a farmer from Guizhou province, came to Beijing with his son and nephew especially to commemorate the “great man”.
The 55- year- old was responsible for building a memorial hall to Mao in his hometown after Mao died. “I have been hoping to come and see Chairman Mao all this time,” Zhai said.
The farmer said he still keeps a portrait of Mao he was given during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).
“I didn’t get much education and don’t know how to describe my feelings. Chairman Mao was a great man,” Zhai said with tears in his eyes. He said he couldn’t help crying when he saw Mao.
Also visiting the hall was Qiao Da, 21, a sophomore at the Communication University of China.
“I came on this special day to commemorate him out of my respect for him as a founder of the country,” Qiao told China Daily.
“I didn’t experience the ‘cultural revolution’. I know it only from my parents and history books. But I think his achievements outweigh his faults,” Qiao said.
Qiao said the problems of that time were not just Mao’s fault. “Many people during that time had faults as well.”
Gong Guangchangneng, 51, from Yilong, a county in Sichuan province, said he misses the Mao era because of its “fairness” and the “principle of seriousness”.
If officials found that the steamed buns sold in restaurants were not as heavy as claimed, they would close the restaurant, Gong recalled.
If officials were always that serious and strict, there would be no toxic milk powder or other such foods now, Gong said.
“Mao was at fault over the ‘cultural revolution’. He was a great man, but he was a person born from a mother, just like everybody else. How could he not make mistakes?” Gong said, adding that many people make mistakes when they get old.
The Mao Zedong Memorial Hall, which stands at the southern end of Tian’anmen Square, has attracted both tourists and devotees of Mao since its construction.
The State Council established a plan to build a mausoleum after Mao’s death on Sept 9, 1976, and founded the secret Ninth Office to select and supervise the architects.