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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 10:54 GMT
Support for Chairman Mao lingers
By James Reynolds
BBC Beijing correspondent

Mao images in the streets of Beijing
Mao's image is still a common sight

The true believers come out in the freezing cold. Just before dawn, several hundred people gather behind a line of policemen in Tiananmen Square.

They stamp their feet to keep warm. They've all come to watch the Chinese flag go up at sunrise - a ritual that began in the days of Mao Zedong.

Chairman Mao's been dead for more than 30 years, and many Chinese have chosen to move on from his beliefs. But others remain devoted.

In this crowd there are no sceptics. "Chairman Mao is the greatest leader," said one woman with a huge smile on her face.

Another man, waving a flag, goes one better: "Chairman Mao is the greatest guy in the world".

A few minutes after seven, soldiers raise the Chinese flag, as the national anthem is played. The crowd goes silent. One man watches so closely he does not even blink.

Taxi Driver

A little later, I find another Mao devotee, a taxi driver called Yan Ruidong.

He proudly wears a Mao badge on his jacket. He drives me through the smog of central Beijing. There's little left from Mao's time here.

I don't like modern society. It's cruel and competitive.
Wang Wenhai

All the buildings and avenues were built long after the leader's death in 1976.

Yan Ruidong was only six years old when the Chairman died. But he gets nostalgic for an era he can barely even remember.

"In the time of Mao, people worked together," he said. "Their thoughts were pure. But now it's different. People think only of themselves and only of making money."

Sculptor

Across town, in an art gallery which used to be a weapons factory, a sculptor called Wang Wenhai works quietly at his table.

He sculpts figures of Mao - nothing but Mao.

Different poses include Mao looking stern, Mao looking friendly and holding children in his arms, Mao as the bonnet of a car, and Mao tucked under a blanket sound asleep.

The sculptor has been making these figures every day for the last 20 years.

"Life was good in his day," he said. "I don't like modern society. It's cruel and competitive. Back then, we did everything for the nation."

The sculptor's obsession intrigues at least one passer-by, who gets his own presentation.

"I've written the word for King on the back of Mao's head," Mr Wang said eagerly.

The passer-by smiles, and then moves on.

Today in China only the most devoted still worship the Chairman.


SEE ALSO
China moves on from Mao
08 Sep 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
14 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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