SHAOSHAN, Hunan, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) — The newly inaugurated Mao Zedong Square in his hometown of central Hunan Province was crowded with people Friday to mark the 115th birthday of the former Chinese leader.
Thousands of people gathered at the square near Mao’s birth place, Shaoshan Village, after midnight to cherish the memory of the “Great Helmsman” who led the nation to found New China in 1949 and served as top leader until he died in 1976.
People paid tribute in front of Mao’s 10.1-meter-tall bronze statue — many presented bouquets and some brought birthday cakes. Most people hummed along when “The East is Red”, a song in tribute of Mao, was played.
Mao’s grandson, Mao Xinyu, was also in the crowd to pay his tribute.
Nearly every Shaoshan villager had noodles for breakfast Friday, a traditional Chinese food to celebrate birthdays as people believe long noodles bring long lives.
“Chairman Mao is always alive in our hearts and we eat his birthday noodles every year,” said village official Mao Yushi. Thelocal government set up six huge pots and 20 tables outside its office building Friday morning, offering free noodles to passersby.
Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 citizens in Shaoshan marked the date with a marathon race starting from Mao’s former residence across town. “The Beijing Olympics and the torch relay to Shaoshan have encouraged many people to take up sports,” said Yang Guang, the city’s Party chief.
“Throughout his life, Mao always loved his hometown and all its people,” said Yang. “We’ll build his hometown into a better place… This is the best way to commemorate him.”
In the run-up to Mao’s birthday, Shaoshan City opened an expressway and two highways, inaugurated the Mao Zedong Square and a museum where Mao’s belongings were kept. “We’re also renovating Mao’s memorial hall and building more car parks to facilitate visitors,” said Yang.
Shaoshan, now labeled a landmark in China’s modern history, receives millions of people from home and overseas every year.
In Beijing, nearly 20,000 people visited Mao’s Mausoleum on Tian’anmen Square, including Mao’s elder daughter Li Min.
“Now that I’m in Beijing, I must visit Chairman Mao,” said an old lady from the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. “I just wish to make a bow and show my respects.”
“I visit Mao’s Mausoleumn twice every year, on Sept. 9 and Dec.26,” said Kang Diantong, a 74-year-old retiree in Beijing.
Mao was born on Dec. 26, 1893 and died on Sept. 9, 1976.
By midday Friday, Chinese Internet users had left nearly 50,000 messages on the online memorial page of People.com.cn, the official website of the Chinese Communist Party.
“You are forever the pride of the Chinese nation,” one message reads. “A great person is someone you remember whenever you look back into history.”