We’ve spent the last two days in Changsha where Mao went to school and in Shaoshan, Mao’s hometown. We were honored to have an audience with a former neighbor of Mao’s who was once so poor that she had to beg on the streets but is now the owner of 400 restaurants across China. The following thoughts are from Mathias, Harrison and Haley, all students at Concordia International School in Shanghai:
“Today, I encountered someone that I probably will never meet again. She was no ordinary person. Though small in size and stature, she was brilliant in knowledge and importance.
Her name was Tang Ruiren, neighbor of Mao Zedong and the first to be visited by Mao after his 32-year absence from his hometown of Shaoshan in 1959. Mrs. Tang is one of the few survivors that once shook Mao’s hand, yet her memories and experiences from the era of Mao are still crystal clear. The lessons and ideals Mao had given forth, even after more than 60 years, are deeply embodied in her thoughts and actions.
In our conversation with Mrs. Tang, she stressed that it is important for us to serve the people and the nation with all your heart. Also, Mrs. Tang said that people’s lives got better and they got richer after Mao united China as one. But something she said truly moved me. Mrs. Tang said, “After Mao’s rule, I was changed. When I set up this Mao Jia restaurant, I only had one yuan in my pocket. Now, I own more than 400 restaurants and have more than 10,000 employees. All the money I have, the nation has given to me. So whatever the nation needs, I shall give in return.”
These words of wisdom from the mouth of Tang Ruiren have taught me a really important lesson. That is, Mao Zedong is the real reason why China is what it is now and that the people of China believe in Mao Zedong.”
“Concordia International School Shanghai (CISS) gives students a wide variety of opportunities, especially with regard to a one week field trip known as interim. Being new to CISS, I was impressed with the choices that were available to me. Mao’s Long March appealed to me I thought I should learn some of the history of the country I have lived in for three years.
This trip is exciting because I am able to meet Chinese people with unique ideas about Mao Zedong and communism. One example is our visit today to the 1st Normal School, a university for students who want to become teachers or tour guides. The main difficulty in communicating with these students was their confidence in English and our limited ability in Mandarin. I hope we were able to provide a positive experience.
As part of our Mao’s Long March theme, we visited Yong Kai Hui’s house. Yong was Mao’s second wife. This showed us a personal side of Mao which was unexpected. This deepened our understanding and I think it is important wherever you go to research and try to gain a deeper meaning from my travels.”
“Who knew a great political leader could be considered a god? In many people’s eyes that is exactly how they would describe Mao Zedong. Even though Mao was just a human, many people worship him and o come and visit his statute in Shaoshan (his home town). This statute was built and unveiled in 1993 on Mao’s 100th birthday, December 26. It is claimed that although it was December, all of the azaleas were in bloom. When the covering was removed from the statue, it is claimed that the sun appeared to one side of it and the moon appeared on the other side. Many people think this was Mao’s spirit coming back. (Although pictures of the unveiling created to prove this phenomenon were obviously doctored with to include the sun and moon over Mao’s shoulders.) People come to visit the statute, lay flowers in front and bow and circle around the statute three times. To me this seems like Christians worshipping Jesus or Muslims taking the trek to Mehka.
There are other stories that make Mao seem like a god. Mao had a resort at Water Dripping Cave where there was a fish pond. On the day Mao died, all of the fish were dead, although the day before they appeared fine. This again was “proof” that Mao was like a god.
Mao Zedong is thought to bring good fortune to the people of China. Many keep a statue of him in their homes.” [This, despite his disastrous policies of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s.]