A Man and his Mao

On my trip to Changsha, one of the local government agencies organized a tour of the city and area around the city. We saw the standard temples and statues, a few parks too.

Changsha’s main attraction is a massive bust of Mao Zedong on an island in the middle of the Xiang River.

The city had an unusual amount of smog. From one bank of the river, Chairman Mao was almost completely hidden.

After seeing the city we were driven out into the country. Through tiny, dilapidated villages we rode until we reached a compound, a villa on top of a hill.

The villa was owned by a Party official with an unusual affection for Mao. The villa had been constructed over the course of two years to house the man’s collection of Mao memorabilia. An what a collection he had.

Outside, a large portrait of the Chairman hung over the doorway. There was a special garage with a car that Mao once road in. A record player played an original recording of one of Mao’s speeches. There was hundreds of Mao busts around the compound. Mao documents were on display, and a special library wing of the villa housed Mao books and poems in a variety of languages.

There was even a small worship hall to the Chairman, a room where you could bow and burn incense in traditional Chinese fashion to pay respect. I knew where this was going, but before I could say that I wanted to see the Mao documents again I was asked if I too wanted to burn incense and bow. I didn’t, but incense had already been placed in my hand as I stood before the shrine, so I figured, “Ehhh, what the hell. I still pay taxes in America, so they can’t hate me too much for this”.

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