Chinese has a saying, “Your education when you are three dictates how you live when you are thirty.” Mao Zedong is known to the Western world as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China and a dictator. But in his formative years, he was brought up as a bourgeois. So what has changed him?
Mao’s Birthplace – Shaoshan 韶山
Mao Zedong’s former residence is located in Shaoshan, Hunan Province. The U-shaped building was shared by two families. As one of Hunan’s top destinations, the building attracts a large number of tourists. Visitors can see the bedroom, study, and other rooms where Chairman Mao spent his childhood. No photography allowed, so you can only google it.
Mao’s First Education – NanAn Private School 南岸私塾
Yes, Mao attended a private school which is a privilege only afforded to a well-off family. He was taught in the classical Chinese thinking. He went through his formative years learning the teaching Confucius and what he termed as feudal and conservative thinking.
Mao’s “Martha’s Vineyard” – Dishui Cave 滴水洞
Where does the Great Leader go for his breaks and retreats? Dishui Cave.
The water continuously drips all year round, hence the name “Dishui”, which means to drip. Below Dishui cave lies Mao Zedong’s ancestral home, Dongmaodishui Cave.
The first building encountered at Dishui Cave is known as The Chairman’s Villa. It is a simple brick and tiled house where Mao Zedong lived when he came to Shaoshan for leisure or for business.
The place started building in 1960 ad completed in 1962. Mao only stayed here once – between 17-28 June 1966, during his last visit to Shaoshan. It is now restored into a showcase filled with items used by Mao when he lived there.
The dripping water almost sounded like the sound of a piano as it dripped into the natural cave under the Longtou Mountain. However, the cave was flooded when the reservoir was built. Mao swam in these waters twice, in 1959 and in 1966. The second time was propaganda – to prove that he was still virile to lead the Cultural Revolution.
Mao Memorial Square and Mao Ancestral Shrine
Located in Mao Zedong Square, Shaoshan, the Mao Zedong Bronze Statue is a key project built in celebration of the 100th birthday of Mao Zedong, following approval from the CPC Central Committee. Surrounded by Shaoshan, the towering bronze statue shines against a backdrop of blue sky and white clouds. Many visitors leave flower baskets and take photos in the square.
The Magic of Shaoshan – Shao Music 韶乐
Shaoshan enjoys a long history. As the legend goes, there was once a king named Shundi who happened to pass here during his southward inspection. He was so fascinated with the landscape here that he played Shao Music (韶乐), which attracted many phoenixes and various birds to come to accompany. And Shaoshan was thus named after the Shao Music. It was under the jurisdiction of the state of Chu in the ancient times.
The Ultimate Insult to Mao
Mao Zedong who rhapsodised the Chinese people as “poor and blank” has received the birthday present he probably never dreamed of.
A gold and jade statue of Mao Zedong worth more than S$20 million was unveiled in 13 Dec 2013 in Shenzhen, in the latest example of Communist China’s indecision over how to commemorate its founding father’s 120th anniversary. The statue, 80cm tall but weighing more than 50kg, was put on display in the southern boom town. The city was little more than a fishing village a few decades ago, and its booming prosperity epitomises China’s transformation since the days of Mao’s command economy.
A team of 20 artists took eight months to complete the 100 million yuan ($20.5 million) work, which is accented with precious stones and rests on a base of white jade. President Xi Jinping, who has moved to cut back on lavish banquets and other over-indulgences since taking office, told officials in Mao’s home province of Hunan last month that celebrations should be “solemn, simple and pragmatic”. Obviously someone did not receive the memo.
After being exhibited in Shenzhen, gold statue is placed in the Mao Zedong memorial, here in Shaoshan. Beware this tourist trap, it is not a sanctioned memorial of Mao. And they forced you to “bow” to the statue and then forced you to purchase either the statue (they called “invite” Mao home) or a gold-plated card that they can engrave your name on. I did not participate – I told them I am a foreigner and I don’t bow to idols.
Mao’s legacy remains mixed in China, where the ruling party’s official stance is that he was “70 per cent right and 30 per cent wrong” – and it has never allowed a full historical reckoning of his actions.
Date Visited : Feb 2014
PS: This statue has been taken down, but in its place a more modest marble one. The place remains a tourist trap.