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Chairman Mao's tutor dies at 73
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A mourning hall is set up yesterday morning at the former residence of Zhang Hanzhi, the woman who was Chairman Mao Zedong's English tutor. She died in a Beijing hospital on Saturday at the age of 73.

Zhang Hanzhi, the woman who tutored Chairman Mao Zedong and interpreted for him and US President Richard Nixon during the latter's historic visit to China, died on Saturday. She was 73.

Zhang suffered heart failure following lung complications in Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital, the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post said.

Her daughter, Hong Huang, used her blog to bid farewell to her mother, ending with the words: "Farewell, mom, we'll always be together."

Zhang's funeral will be held at the Babaoshan cemetery in the capital on Friday.

Zhang was born in Shanghai in 1935, the illegitimate daughter of a beautiful shop assistant and a powerful businessman. At eight months old, she was adopted by Zhang Shizhao, a legal and education official in the Kuomintang government.

In 1960, Zhang became an English teacher at her alma mater, today's Beijing Foreign Studies University, immediately after finishing her master's program.

In late 1963, she accompanied her father, then curator of the Central Research Institute of Culture and History, to a birthday dinner for Mao, founder of the People's Republic of China. It was there that Mao asked her to be his English tutor.

"The Chairman wanted the lessons to start the following day," she said. "I was dumbfounded. I was to teach the great leader whom over a billion people worshipped as their god," Zhang told Time magazine in 1999.

In 1971, Zhang started work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She divorced her husband Hong Junyan in 1973, after a 16-year marriage to the economist at Peking University. Hong Huang was born of the marriage.

Several months later she married Qiao Guanhua, who was China's foreign minister in the 1970s. Qiao died in 1983.

Zhang attended Mao's and Premier Zhou Enlai's talks with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, which laid the cornerstone for normalizing relations between the two countries in the 1970s.

Later she joined China's delegation to the UN.

In recent years, Zhang enjoyed further national celebrity with the publication of several bestselling memoirs.

(Shanghai Daily January 28, 2008)


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