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Tuesday, January 6, 1998 Published at 14:01 GMT


Crowds flock to Mao mausoleum
image: [ popular as ever ] popular as ever

The mausoleum of Mao Tse-tung, the founder of Communist China, was reopened on Tuesday after a nine-month closure for "interior repairs".

Hundreds of tourists queued up in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in front of the huge marble-covered building.

[ image: Followers of Mao enjoy a family day out]
Followers of Mao enjoy a family day out
A young woman from Liaoning province in north east China who was waiting to see Mao's body said: "I was born in 1976, the year of his death. I have read loads of books about his life, and they all say that he is the great hero of the Chinese people."

Some visitors bought bouquets of plastic flowers to leave in front of a statue of the "Great Helmsman" before entering the inner sanctum where he lies in state.

Two hours after the reopening, an electronic screen announced that 7,000 visitors had already paid homage to Mao, whose forces threw out the ruling nationalists after a civil war in 1949.

Inside, they saw the embalmed body of Mao, who died on September 9, 1976, aged 83, draped in China's red flag with five stars.

According to one mausoleum official, the renovation work began on April 1. The main work was to change the wallpaper and repaint the interior.

The work had nothing to do with conserving the mummified remains, he said. He also declined to say where Mao's body was kept during the rebuilding.

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