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Still standing tall

By Liu Xiangrui (China Daily)

09:35, August 27, 2012

Visitors flood into Mao Zedong Square, in Shaoshan, Hunan province. (Photos by Liu Xiangrui / China Daily)

Shaoshan village is still intensely proud of its most famous son, the former leader of China Mao Zedong, Liu Xiangrui reports, in Xiangtan, Hunan province.

Shaoshan residents often arrive early in Mao Zedong Square to stand and bow three times before respectfully circling the bronze statue of the former Chinese leader. In Shaoshan village, where Mao was born and raised, he is still a hero and a big part of locals' lives.

"The older villagers still have a deep affection for Chairman Mao," explains Zhou Shengen, 40, who works as a security guard in the square.

For instance, Mao Youlian, 88, is retired but still wakes up at 5:40 am. After washing his face and hands he dresses in formal clothes, with long sleeves - even in summer - and joins others in their tributes to Mao, in the square.

"Many of my neighbors do the same," explains Mao Youlian, who often drops by the former residence of the former leader, which is not far away.

"It's an enjoyable walk for old people like me. We have clean air, a nice environment, and resting places along the way. And more importantly, we can pay our respects to Chairman Mao."

In Shaoshan, nearly every family has Mao's picture or a statue of him in their living room. The streetlights are shaped like shining stars, a common icon in Mao's era.

It has been a unique tradition in Shaoshan for young couples to hold weddings and take their oaths before Mao's bronze statue in the square. Families celebrating the Lunar New Year wish for good fortune before the statue, too.

Villagers have many special ways to remember the late leader, a fellow villager who makes them all proud.

For Zhou, the most exciting event is the annual celebration of Mao's birthday in the square.

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