Commemorating Chairman Mao's 117th birthday

January 04, 2011 | Posted by Vicky

Tourists in Mao Zedong's hometown in Shaoshan, Hunan Province, take part in the festivities to celebrate his 117th birthday.

This past week one of the largest figures in modern Chinese history, Mao Zedong, turned 117. To commemorate the occasion, his small countryside hometown in southern China hosted activities to celebrate the memory of their country's founding leader. It's reported that tens of thousands of tourists came to participate in the festive events, which were described as civilized and simple expressions of honor.

The life of Mao Zedong

Born in 1893 in Shaoshan in southern China's Hunan province, Mao Zedong grew up surrounded by the fervor and excitement of the incipient Chinese revolution. During his formative years, he is known to have spent much time in the capital of his province, Changsha, which historians like Jonathan Spence have said was perhaps home to China's most radical left-leaning thinkers. He was one of the founding members of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 at age 27, becoming its chairman and leader in 1927. After WWII and the defeat of the Chinese Nationalist army, Mao declared the founding of the People's Republic of China atop the Tian'anmen rostrum in Beijing on October 1, 1949. Mao remained leader and chairman of the party until his death in 1976.

For more discussion on the legacy of Mao Zedong, please read here.

Singing The East is Red

To commemorate Mao's birthday, in his hometown, crowds gathered in the early morning at the town square, which features a large bronze statue of the Chairman. Commentators describe the stature as appearing solemn among a set of green pines, fresh flowers and red flags. At eight thirty in the morning, with a team of Young Pioneers' leading the chorus, the crowds sang The East is Red, a well known song meant to sing the praises of Chairman Mao.

Long-life noodles and road running

A colorful local folk custom to commemorate the birthday of Mao Zedong is the eating of special "long-life" noodles on that day. The government of Shaoshan offers long-life noodles to all that come here to recall Chairman Mao. The noodles were originated by inventive local villagers, and now every year since 2003, the local government and restaurants give away these noodles for free.

In addition to long-life noodles, a road running race has been held each year for 25 years as another festivity. In the race, nearly ten thousand participants organized into 6 teams run from the boyhood home of Mao Zedong to the town's centrally-located train station, a distance of 3.1 miles.

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