Thursday, March 14, 2019

Mao and Me

Revolutionary Chinese Leaders
Before I visited China, I had no idea Mao Zedong was highly revered by the Chinese.  They view him as a hero in the fight for Chinese Liberation. I previously thought the harshness they endured during the communist era erased any benevolent feelings. But, I was wrong.  

Chairman Mao Zedong

Chairman Mao is respected and believe me, there are no shortages or missed opportunities to sell statuettes, memorabilia or souvenirs being his resemblance.  
Mao Memorabilia for sale in China

On my tour of Shaanxi Province, I stopped at three major communist monument locations honoring Mao.  The first, I call “Mao’s Fortress.” It was a rural revolutionary base where Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party leadership lived for a while and planned their military actions against the Nationalist Government.

Mao's Fortress is now open for tourists.

Mao's Fortress is very far out in the countryside filled with cave homes. 

Meeting room used by high communist party officials.

 Part original and part reconstructed, the fortress includes meeting rooms, maps, bedrooms and secured area for high ranking party officials including the office of Premier Chou En-Lai. The mountainous area surrounding the fortress includes many cave homes. They made excellent hiding spots and were safe during bombing raids. The fortress lies so far off the beaten track, I doubt many Americans have ever been. 

Upper level of the high security compound.
For me, the highlight of the tour was meeting Chairman Mao himself.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity for this photo op, now one of my favorite souvenirs from my trip. I must say, the impersonator really looked the part.  

Mao and Me

Moving on, we visited the city of  Yan’an following behind a group of Chinese students, some in old Chinese Communist military uniforms. They were  taking what are becoming popularily known as Red Tours. These tours are organized by government agencies and private companies for their employees to learn more about Chinese history. 

Guide in a government uniform. 

Yan'an in northern Shaanxi Province, is regarded as the "birthplace" of the revolution, All students study it in school because Yan'an was Chairman Mao's wartime base. 

Statues of the Chinese Liberation Leaders at the Yan'an Compound

The Red Army arrived in the city at the end of 1935 after making the gruelling Long March, an 8,000 mile retreat from the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek. It was in the nearby caves hollowed out from the local loess plateau, that Mao masterminded a dazzling comeback and victory.

Auditorium or Staff Club 

Interior of Auditorium where Political Bureau of Central Communist Party worked overnight to pass a decision for Mao to go to Chongqing and negotiate with Chiang Kai-shek for coalition government to avoid civil war after the Japanese surrender. 

Private apartments of communist party leaders

 The modest caves became the command center. The former residences of Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, and Zhou Enlai are well preserved and crowded with tourists. Each cave room is exceptionally simple, just desks, wooden chairs and hard beds. In front of Mao’s former residence, under the tall locust tree, stands a stone table along with several stone stools at which Mao was interviewed by American Journalist Anna Louis Strong in 1946 and where he liked to play chess. 

Mao Zedong's Barren Bedroom

After touring this area, my group went to the Yan’an Revolutionary Museum downtown. Here we were told the museum, “focuses on the period of the most arduous yet glorious times.” The modern facility exhibits personal items and the daily necessities of the leaders, plus a myriad of photos, sculptures, and audio and video materials. There are numerous dioramas that display battle scenes and lots of old documents and artifacts. Some of the signage is in English, but I found the museum a bit overwhelming. (I know I was tired.)

Exterior of the Yan'an Revolutionary Museum, a must-see on a visit to Shaanxi Province.
Diorama of a battle scene.
My group’s last stop was Pagoda Hill. Thankfully, our bus made the trek up the 3,725-foot climb because we were feeling a bit ragged at the end of our long march through China. 

Tired (but happy) Good Girls after their own march through China!

Pagoda Hill is the symbol of Yan’an and is known to the Chinese people through television, photos and even on bank notes. The landmark was first erected in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The 44-meter-tall nine-story brick pagoda is shaped like an octagon. 

Yan'an Pagoda

Resting next to the pagoda is a Ming-Dynasty iron bell, which was used both to mark the hours and as an alarm during the revolutionary period.
Still no authority on modern Chinese history, but I was exposed to and understand much more about the Chinese Communist party and Mao Zedong than I did before my trip. That’s certainly a good reason to visit and return to China.

Ever faithful guide and interpreter, Paul explains some history. 


  1. Very insightful--with superb photos. Nice job of breathing life in to a journey to Mao's world! congratulations!