Chairman mao’s massive mausoleum in the centre of Peking was re-opened yesterday with several rooms given over to exhibits of other communist leaders, in line with strongman Teng hsiaping’s policy of chopping the former “great helmsman” down to size.
most of China’s top leaders visited the mausoleum yesterday, the 90th anniversary of mao’s birth, and paid their respects to the man who brought communism to China in 1949, and almost caused its downfall 17 years later with his “cultural revolution”.
Among those who walked passed mao’s embalmed corpse was hua kuofeng, mao’s chosen successor, who was deposed from power three years ago after losing out to Teng hsiaoping in the Peking power struggle.
Hua’s presence was not mentioned by the official Chinese media, but an attendant at the mausoleum confirmed that he had been there.
Ironically, the huge signboards above the main entrances to the hall inscribed in hua’s distinctive calligraphy with the words “chairman mao memorial hall” have not yet been taken down.
The mausoleum, built hurriedly after Mao’s death in September 1976, was opened in late 1977 as a shrine of the Maoist cult. but as the cult has been dismantled over the past few years, the hall has become an increasing embarrassment to the Chinese leadership.
after years of debate on what to do with the hall, it was finally announced last week that it would be turned into a memorial hall for all the dead leaders of the communist party, and not just Mao alone.
Teng is using the 90th anniversary of Mao’s birth as an excuse to re-define his place in history, and to lop a few more inches off Mao’s pedestal. a new film of mao’s life has been released which concentrates on his triumphs as a guerrilla fighter and glosses over his many errors.
foreign journalists were given a tour of the new-look mausoleum and were shown the four former waiting rooms which have been filled with exhibits associated with mao, premier Chou Enlai, marshal Chu Teh and president Liu Shaochi.
The mao exhibits were the most interesting, as they completely ignored the last decade and more of his life, the years when the present leadership says he even acted contrary to his own “thoughts”, the guiding philosophy of Chinese communism.
mao’s corpse, lying in state in the centre of the building, appears to have deteriorated somewhat over the years. his face looks more plastic than before.
according to the generally-accepted story, there was a dispute amongst the Chinese leadership immediately after mao died as to what to do with his body, cremation or embalm-ment.
The embalming faction won, and Vietnamese embalmers were brought in to do the job, but by the time they started work, the corpse had already begun to deteriorate.
upstairs, above mao’s mortal remains, a shop has been opened selling souvenirs to visitors. there are mao chopsticks, mao teapots, mao notebooks and pencils, even mao teabags. it is like a closing down sale on maoism.
The items on sale, obviously manufactured in the late 1970s when Maoism was still tops, are the sort of political kitsch which was common during the 1960s in China, but which is almost never seen now.
when the shop has sold out, it is hard to believe stocks will be replenished.