"The easy-going leader never complain about the pictures I took," recalled Mao Zedong's private photographer Lu Houmin on December 26, the 108th birthday of the late Chairman Mao.
"He did not make any affected poses nor did he order me to take photographs. I was given complete freedom in my work," said the 73- year-old Lu, who photographed Chairman Mao from 1950 to 1964.
Lu's favorite works
Mao in Lushan
Lu's favorite photograph is Chairman Mao in east China's Jiangxi Province, in the summer of 1961, sitting on a stone bench on the Lushan Mountain and looking into the distance.
At that time China was in the throes of a three-year natural disasters and facing intensive international hostility. Chairman Mao had worked for several days running before stopping on a sunny morning to climb onto the mountain, according to Lu.
"He did not speak and stood with his right hand on his waist for over half an hour, before sitting on the stone bench, still looking into the distance and frowning," recalled Lu.
The marvelous background -- blue sky, white clouds, mountains shrouded in mist -- set the great man's silhouette off to advantage. The natural scenery, the international situation and Chairman Mao's mood blended together, and the picture was a success, Lu said.
Mao embraced by artist
Another photo Lu took shows Chairman Mao's sadness.
It was taken in 1953 when Chairman Mao received the news that his son had died in the Korean War.
When he was welcoming Chinese volunteer artists back from Korea, he was embraced by a tearful female artist named Xie Xiumei, which made Mao shut his eyes in grief.
The picture taken at the time turned out to be a rare record of Chairman Mao's sadness.
Mao and Zhou
Another picture was of Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai. They stood side by side, smiling intimately and handing papers to each other.
The picture conveyed mutual understanding and harmony between the two most important leaders in China.
Large numbers were printed and hung in many homes for many years.
A kind older person
Lu also showed photographs he had taken with Chairman Mao.
"He was so accommodating that he never turned down any of my requests to have photographs taken with him," Lu said.
"I shall never forget the time I spent with Chairman Mao. Although a great leader, he struck me more like a kind older person. His virtues, like his strong will, courage and resourcefulness, tolerance, integrity and simplicity, have always inspired me," Lu said.
More Mao Zedong photos taken by Lu Houmin (in Chinese)