Our good friend, Luo Qiu Ping has volunteered to drive us to Shaoshan,the former residence of Chairman Mao. It’s a long drive, about 104 kilometers from Changsha. Along the way, we are entertained by the interesting road signs warning drivers not to drink or not to use cell phones.
We arrive at Mao Zehdong’s childhood home. One of the ponds in front of the home has many lily pads and basking ducks. These ponds are known as the Dragon’s eyes. Along with lots of tourists, we enter the main house. The montage photo shows Mao as a child. Next to the photo are original raincoats hanging on the wall. Mao’s childhood bed along with his writing desk are on display. A large gallery shows many images from Mao’s life. Amongst the images is a photo of Mao lying in state at his funeral. Another gallery displays the many letters Mao wrote to his family and his children. He wrote to his children frequently about how to become a good person. In the gallery there is a rare photo of Mao and his son. A map shows all of the places that Mao had visited during his life. Gallery after gallery shows many photos of Mao at historically important times throughout his life. One photo shows his grandfather’s grave. We climb a dilapidated stairway to reach a loft containing what appears to be an old classroom where Mao was taught when he was a child. Another part of the ancestral home shows the central room shared by Mao’s family and his neighbor’s family.
We leave Mao’s childhood home and journey on to another important part of Shaoshan in his life. We drive to nearby Dishuidong, which is a mountain where a complex containing offices, living quarters, and even a bomb shelter was built and used by Mao between 1960 and 1966. Rather than walk up the mountain to get to the complex, we take a fast ride in an electric cart. We pass by old engraving on the mountain side telling of the importance of this place in history. We see a large meeting hall where Chairman Mao entertained many foreign diplomats. In the rec room there’s a large ping pong table where Mao would play the game with many visiting diplomats,including some US officials. Mao was very tall and his bed was equally long to accommodate him. Originally a quake proof situation room, now it’s a gallery of relics and photos from Mao’s political career. We walk through the air raid shelter which was built in 1970 to prepare for any attacks from anti aircraft or nuclear weapons. It’s also radiation proof. Only a small part of the vast underground network of shelter tunnels is open to the public. As we explore this old shelter we imagine enemy attacks up above. There’s also a great display of Chinese money throughout the ages.
We drive to the nearby Mao museum. A large bronze statue of Chairman Mao stands in a courtyard across from the museum. Inside the museum entrance stands a huge marble statue of Mao. We see a large wall painting of Mao’s childhood home which we visited earlier. Inside the museum are hundreds of photos and writing of Mao and his contemporaries. Multimedia presentations of reenactments of important event in Mao’s political career bring the history to life. An impressive bronze statue shows Mao talking to the miners. A finely detailed miniature depicts the moment in the Chinese revolution when Mao congregated 800 men and climbed Jing Gang mountain to establish a base. A battle map shows revolutionary bases in Guizhou. Another recreation shows a small room where Mao planned the revolution. Numerous pieces of original artillery from the revolution are on display. In one display, wax figures recreate an historic radio broadcast by Mao about the revolution. Chairman Mao appears all over the museum larger than life. Everything that Mao wore and used everyday is on display. A sample of some of Mao’s poetry appears as a wall mural. A giant mural painting shows Chairman Mao against an expansive sky and ocean with words that suggest Mao’s thoughts were wider than the sky or the ocean.
We pass Dong Fang Hong square with it’s statue of Mao at the base of Yuelu mountain on our way to Aiwan Ting, a small pavilion where Mao read and relaxed. There’s a beautiful pond in front of the pavilion. Aiwan Ting was built in 1792. It is situated in a small forest of maple trees on a small hill behind Yuelu Academy. In the pavilion is a stone tablet featuring some of Mao’s poetry. With all the natural beauty of this place, one can understand why this was Mao’s favorite getaway.