China in the New Year (12): Mao

Our first full day in southern China was political.

From our hotel in Longyan, we drove around 50 km (about 30 miles) to the Memorial Site of the Gutian Congress. What do you mean, you’ve never heard of it? This two-day event in December 1929 was seminal to the success of the Chinese Communist revolution and apparently the location is visited by all aspiring politicians. It was the busiest place that we went to so far on our China trip and, as everywhere outside Beijing, I was still the only foreigner.

First, we viewed the buildings themselves which date back to 1848. The conditions were spartan in 1929 but, at this stage, the Fourth Troop of the Red Army was a very small contingent. The important work of the congress included a lecture on the execution of deserters by shooting.

Then we climbed the 151 steps to the large statute of Mao Zedong. At the foot of these steps, an electronic noticeboard announces the proper way to “worship” at the statute: lay flowers, bow three times, walk all the way round the pedestal (viewing the text of six of his poems).

Next we visited the Memorial Hall with its 10 exhibitions rooms (there was no English at all). The ninth room is devoted entirely to the current President Xi, underlining his legitimacy as the direct heir of Mao.

For a very different view of Mao, read my book review of his biography here.


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