Me­mo­rial a big draw on Mao’s birth­day

Bei­jing venue ad­justs hours to cater to thou­sands of visi­tors

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By HOU LIQIANG houliqiang@chi­

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.

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