arrived at the Shaoshan guest-house and was ushered into a surreal
world. It was secluded and peaceful. The rooms were large and
luxurious. A portrait of Mao hung respectfully on the wall behind
the receptionist's desk. No one spoke English. But I felt comfortable.
The staff was exceptionally friendly. After a large meal I was
shown to my room. Three beds, one canopied, all stood in a
neat row. A desk with ink bottles and ink brushes stood next to
these beds. Cozy and luxurious was the best way to describe my
small village of Shaoshan is where the heart of Maoism is left
to be forgotten. You can still see Mao statues and red banners
here. Also a feeling I felt in 1980. It is the feeling of virgin
idealism. But also a queer feeling of exclusive privilege seems
to radiate from Shaoshan. This guest-house could easily have
been some kind of resort for party cadres. That's how the masses
are separated from the masters.
now do I realize how little of the countryside I've seen in
the last few months. Yet this rural utopia molded Mao's psychology.
The Mao exhibition hall lacks organization nowadays. Mao's life
is divided into nine rooms. Pictures of the old and young Mao
are mixed up everywhere. He radiates heat and energy as mere
mortals grovel beneath him. Mao is God. His glasses, his shirt,
his match-box, even his sandals are on display under glass.
peered into a storeroom and was surprised to see Mao busts of
all ages jumbled together in confusion. Many exhibit rooms were
also locked. Where was old Lin Biao? The Gang of Four? Deng
Xiao Ping was now available. It was all a creepy psycho-ecology.
I felt this necessary and remote feeling of detachment. The
exercise of power seemed to demand this detachment. The masses
separated from the leaders even as the battles were fought in
few postcards of Mao's manger were for sale. Also a few Mao
t-shirts and little buttons with Mao's picture on them. Even
red notebooks with Mao's portrait could be had for just 93 Fen.
It was all yours for the asking. History seemed to be just a
fiction. This realization pained me. If the past did not exist.
Did the present? And what of the future?