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Family Cherish the Chairman

Along with official festivities to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of late Chairman Mao Zedong on December 26, Mao's heirs are remembering the great leader in very personal ways.


Mao's 33-year-old grandson, Mao Xinyu, has written a book entitled Grandfather Mao Zedong (Yeye Mao Zedong).


Published by the National Defense University Press in October, it offers a unique glimpse into Mao's life from his birth until the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).


Mao Xinyu, son of Mao Anqing, the second son of Mao Zedong, graduated from the History Department of Renmin University of China in 1992. After completing his doctorate in People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, he now works as a researcher at the academy.


He has published several books about his illustrious family members and spent almost four years writing his latest book.


As a grandson of Chairman Mao, Mao Xinyu feels obligated to write stories about the family which was completely devoted to the revolution led by the Communist Party of China.


"I've got lots of first-hand material," said Mao Xinyu, "I believe my family stories could reflect, in a sense, the ups and downs of the modern history of China.


"Reading this book you can see and get to know the real Mao Zedong. It includes not only many historical events with my grandfather as a great leader, but also some vivid descriptions of his daily life as an ordinary person."


Since it's written from a grandson's perspective, Mao Xinyu says the book is very different from others written about Mao.


It has eight chapters, chronologically recording Chairman Mao's life, with many historical pictures and first-hand materials. In the last part, titled "An Ordinary Man in the Red Wall," the author mainly introduces the great man's life in his later years, which unknown to most people.


Over the past two months Mao Xinyu has traveled to many cities in the country to promote his book and been warmly welcomed by local readers.


In the meantime, Mao Xinyu's mother Shao Hua hosted a photo exhibition at the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution in Beijing two months ago.


On display were 175 photos including the ones Shao took of Chairman Mao in the 1950s.


Shao, a 65-year-old major general and research fellow of the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, is chairperson of the China Photographers' Association.


Another heir of the Mao family -- Mao Zedong's granddaughter Kong Dongmei -- also unveiled many unknown pictures of the family's life in her book Open My Family's Old Photo Album (Fankai Wojia Lao Yingji)," which was published by the Central Document Publishing House earlier this month.


Unlike Grandfather Mao Zedong, Kong's book focuses on the emotional experiences of the family, particularly her grandparents' marriage.


Kong spent her childhood with her grandmother He Zizhen in Shanghai. When Mao died in 1976, she was only four years old. Although Kong had never met him, she knew a lot from He and her mother Li Min, Mao's eldest daughter.


"In my eyes, he's not only a strategist, statesman and poet, but also an ordinary man with a sensitive heart," Kong explained.


Kong wrote in the book that Mao was strict with his children but actually cared about them very much.


"To remember my uncle Mao Anying who died in the Korean War in 1950, grandfather had kept uncle's socks and shirt for many years," Kong recalled. "No one had known that until grandfather's death."


After studying in the United States for two years, Kong returned to China and started a company in Beijing in 2001.


To commemorate the 110th anniversary of Mao's birth, Kong also helped organize an exhibition titled "Leader's Family Tradition" which had toured to east China's Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and finally came to Beijing this month. On display were over 200 photos and many objects which reflected Mao's bond with his families, friends and hometown.


Now Kong is engaged in the production of a six-part documentary featuring Mao's life and his relationship with his families.


"Though grandfather has left us for 27 years, our passion for him is hardly toned down by the passing days," said Kong.


She hoped all she had done would help people get a better understanding of him, not only as the founder of the New China, but also as a husband, father and grandfather.


(China Daily December 22, 2003)


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