Meeting the Great Mao

In Tiananmen Square there is a mausoleum of one of the cruelest dictators of the last century and the most important person of new People’s Republic of China - Mao Zedong. Even after his death he is admired by his people and pictured on Chinese notes. Every day an incredible line forms in front of his tomb. “I must see that!” said Karel and started to plan how to be at 6 a.m. in the queue to see the Great Mao. “To stand in the longest line of my life will be an experience itself! And maybe I will make it to see Mao” Edita didn’t share his enthusiasm to stand in the line from 6 a.m. and rather stayed in the bed.

Next day Karel got up very early and headed to the main square. “I hope that the line doesn’t start already in the metro!” Everyone was probably getting to work at that time and so the metro was really crowded. To get to famous Tiananmen Square is not easy at all because it is surrounded by security check-points where the guards check your passport. “Do I have to show my passport to get to the square? Isn’t it too much?” Karel was trying to find the end of the line to the nearest check-point. Meanwhile he saw another line much longer. It was the line to see Mao Zedong.

 “I can’t wait in this line for an hour only to enter the square. They will close the mausoleum by the time I get there!” Another strange thing is that the mausoleum is opened only a few hours in the morning. It probably makes it very special and exclusive. Karel went a little bit on the side and quickly jumped over the fence to the square. “And now I’m only waiting when the guards come to arrest me.” He was looking around him with fear in his eyes. Fortunately nothing happened and so he could join another line. All the previous queues in China were only a parody in comparison to this one. He spent maybe 15 min to find the end of the giant “snake” which was leading to mighty Mao. Finally he stepped into that line full of Chinese people. They were observing him with an interest as there weren’t any other non-Chinese tourists. At the entrance they scan Chinese passports and they probably make statistics of number of visits of Mao per every Chinese person. “You didn’t travel to Beijing to see death Mao this year! You gonna have problems!“ However it was just Karel’s conspiracy theory. :-)

“Why are they screaming at me? I didn’t get that so I continued walking” After a while a security guard came and told me that I couldn’t have any camera. „Shit! I didn’t take my backpack on purpose to avoid these problems and they kick me out of the line because of the camera!” The guards showed Karel a place where he could leave his belongings. After that he jumped back to the same place in the line. “And now what? How can I take photos? I still have my mobile phone! Haha” The line was fortunately moving quite fast and Karel was slowly stepping forwards. The line had to be at least 1 km long! After one hour he got to the front gate of Mausoleum. They were checking really everything including his pockets and his wallet. The control was stricter than at the airport. “I hope they won’t ask me to take off my pants!”

In the last part of the line to Mao they were selling flowers. Everyone except Karel was of course buying them. Then they put them unpacked next to the statue of Great Mao. When they close the mausoleum they probably collect all flowers and sell them again next day. There were signs everywhere that it is not allowed to take pictures but Karel was trying to take some with his phone pretending he was calling someone. After the room with flowers the line continued to another a small room with resting Mao Zedong. He looked like alive! His face was enlightened by very strong lights that made him look quite scary. Karel had only 5 seconds to observe Mao. People were not allowed to stop walking and were constantly pushed by the guards to keep going forwards. There were maybe 10 soldiers surrounding Mao in that very small room. It was really not possible to take any pictures there. “And it is over!” Karel returned by the back door to the square. He took last picture of the security procedure but the guard asked him to erase it. Karel pretended he didn't understand and simply walked away.

At the end the whole procedure took about an hour and half but maybe just because we were travelling in autumn. In this time of the year there are less people visiting Mao than in summer or some of Chinese holidays. To visit the most important leader of China was for free and you also don’t have a chance to be in a kilometer long line every day. We would certainly recommend to visit this place because it was very strong experience from the capital of China.


Copyright © 2014 | | Karel Stepanek |