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Memories of Mao Go on Display

Pajamas with 73 patches, worn-out leather slippers and books with numerous scribbled notes: these relics evidencing a frugal and studious owner are now on display in Shanghai in an exhibition featuring the personal belongings of Mao Zedong.

The show opened yesterday in the Xintiandi complex off Huaihai Road as the country prepares to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 1. The exhibition drew thousands of visitors, a testament to the continuing reverence for the first chairman of the People's Republic of China.

The exhibition, which runs through July 15, has been set up in the memorial hall where the Party's First National Congress was held in 1921.

Some 40 pictures and more than 100 personal articles used by Mao when he lived in Beijing's Zhongnanhai have been set out for the curious.

The show's pieces were selected from among 5,000 items kept by the Mao Zedong Museum in Shaoshan, Hunan Province, where the former chairman was born.

Ni Xingxiang, the memorial hall's director, said the exhibits reveal important clues about Mao's daily life, studies and hobbies.

As the exhibition opened, visitors formed a long queue. Perhaps as many as half were white-haired, and some older people became emotional as they viewed the artifacts.

One of the most eye-catching pieces is the patched pair of pajamas, which Mao wore from the early 1950s to 1971. There are even patches on patches, though the sleepwear remained neat and clean.

Similar exhibits that revealed a plain life fill the display cases.

Leather slippers, bought in Moscow in 1949, were so worn-out the cobblers were reluctant to repair them.

The menu for Mao's 69th birthday in 1962 was equally plain, featuring dishes such as stewed bamboo, deep-fried shrimp and stir-fried lettuce.

"It impressed me so much that Chairman Mao lived such a simple life," said Sun Yunjie, a student Party member at Gezhi Middle School.

There are also some relics that have special significance, such as an iconic "Mao jacket," a gray Chinese tunic worn at the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China and at the meetings with foreign leaders.

Nearby are extra-large cloth shoes that Mao wore when he met U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972 and was suffering swollen feet.

Also on display is a gauze mask that the late chairman donned along with sunglasses to keep from being recognized when he went out on inspection tours.

Mao Zedong was zealous in studying English, according to historians. He persisted in learning the language after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. On a photograph of an English version of the Communist Manifesto, he jotted many notes.

"Seeing the relics, I am greatly moved," said Kang Mifang, 69, a retired worker. "Led by Chairman Mao to a new life, our generation has an especially deep love for him. He devoted all his family and himself to the liberation."

Mao was very familiar with Shanghai. He is linked to three residences here, on Anyi Road, Weihai Road and Taicang Road.

(eastday.com 06/19/2001)

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