Interactive play performed at Mao's Shanghai home

Li Qian
Visitors take part in activities that tell the story of China's former leader and the history of the Communist Party of China to mark the 98th anniversary of the CPC.
Li Qian
Interactive play performed at Mao's Shanghai home
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Performers and visitors "take the oath to join the Party" in an interactive play at the former residence of Mao Zedong.

An interactive play was staged at the shikumen (stone-gate) building where Mao Zedong spent his longest time in the city on Monday to celebrate the 98th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

Performers, wearing traditional long gowns for men and school uniforms for women that prevailed in the 1920-30s, acted in rooms at the two-story house at 120 Maoming Road N., part of a shikumen community called Jiaxiuli built in 1915.

Mao spent June to December in 1924 there, living with his family on the first floor. Figures of Mao, his wife Yang Kaihui and their two sons Mao Anying and Mao Anqing are set in scenes such as Mao working at his desk and Yang taking care of the boys in a bedroom.

Performers played early Party members, reading books or discussing the Party's development. Visitors obtained letters with different content, and one letter contained clues leading to a “comrade.” One of the visitors, Ge Junjun, was lucky to be the one to receive and she successfully found her "comrade."

Interactive play performed at Mao's Shanghai home
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Performers send letters, one of which contains clues leading to a "comrade," to visitors.

Interactive play performed at Mao's Shanghai home
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

One of the visitors, Ge Junjun, takes her letter to find her "comrade."

Later, performers and visitors watched video clips, read Mao’s family letters and poems to get to know how he sacrificed his time with his family to accomplish his mission.

Not only a Party leader, Mao was also a son, husband and father, and the play shows his sacrifice for the Party and the country, according to Wu Qing, who works at the site, now a memorial to Mao.

Wu showed a photograph featuring Yang and her two sons to visitors.

“It is the only family photo, but Mao wasn’t in the photo and Yang seemed unhappy. Actually, Mao was with them when they took the photo. But he just couldn’t join them because of Party rules to ensure safety,” Wu said.

Visitors obtained and read copies of a letter written by Yang to Mao, which Mao never had the chance to read.

“In 1927, the then Kuomingtang regime was launching a nationwide campaign to catch Party members, and Mao was on the wanted list. So, he had to leave home. Yang couldn’t help missing Mao, but she couldn’t reach him,” Wu said. “So, she wrote diaries and letters to Mao, and then hid them in a crack of her bedroom wall of her home in Hunan Province.”

During renovation work on her former residence in 1982, workers found 12 manuscripts in the crack, which were written by Yang between 1927 and 1930. Yang was arrested in October 1930 and killed the following month at the age of 29.

The Shanghai building, listed as a protected relic, first opened to the public in December 1999. It was closed in 2015 for renovation and reopened to the public in January 2018.

Illegal structures were pulled down and messy electric wires interwoven among structures were removed. The facades were restored based on historical photos and original drawings. Traditional shikumen elements were restored, including wood shutters and carved stone lintels.

Anyone who wants to take part in the interactive play can dial 6272-3656 to make an appointment.

Jing’an has 99 “red” revolutionary sites, and six of them are appointed as sites related to the founding of the Party, such as Mao’s former residence and museum of the Party’s second national congress where the first Party constitution was drafted.

The district has a three-year plan to better preserve local “red” sites and promote “red“ culture to welcome the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Party in 2021.

Renovations of some sites are underway. Currently, reinforcement work on the former site of the Party’s secretariat has been completed, and repairs of the former site of the Party’s military commission will start soon and be completed by the end of 2021.

The National Labor Union Secretariat is due to reopen in October. The interior design and exterior have been restored to their original look, but the exhibits will be upgraded. The secretariat was founded by the Party in the city’s old international settlement to unite all workers in a class war in August 1921.

Jing’an is soon to make “ID” cards for its “red” sites and place QR codes for visitors to scan so they can better know the stories behind the structures. Also, more interactive plays and “red” tours will be launched in three years.

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