Glory of CPC's birthplace shines through historic memorial collection

Yang Jian
Spiritual home of Party features cultural relics, arranges exhibitions and hosts activities to promote the history and achievements in its development.
Yang Jian

Shot by Sun Mingjie. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Song Xinyi and Alex.

Glory of CPC's birthplace shines through historic memorial collection
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

In this September 2021 file photo, foreign visitors view the well-preserved conference room where the First National Congress of the CPC was held over a century ago.

Zhang Liming can recall every detail of the day when he accompanied President Xi Jinping and six other members of the Politburo Standing Committee to visit the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Shanghai's Huangpu District in 2017.

Though retired for several years, the former curator of the memorial of the CPC's birthplace is still working actively to give suggestions on exhibition arrangements or pubic lectures.

"As President Xi said, the site is the spiritual home of every CPC member, so it is my duty to guard the place and contribute to its development," Zhang said.

During his visit in 2017, a week after the closing of the 19th National People's Congress, Xi insisted in getting off the bus earlier and walking a long way to the site.

The president said "the history of the Party begins from the First National Congress here, so we shall never forget the road we came from, no matter how far we've reached," Zhang recalled.

Shanghai is the birthplace of the CPC and the origin of the Party's spirit.

The site on Xingye Road is where the Party was founded in July 1921. Thirteen early Party members gathered in the 18-square-meter house for the First National Congress about a century ago, triggering overwhelming changes to China and the Chinese people.

Nowadays, a memorial to the historic congress has opened opposite the landmark site on Huangpi Road S., quadrupling the exhibition space to 3,700 square meters.

Since the visit of Xi and other Politburo Standing Committee members, the site has welcomed an increasing number of visitors annually from both home and abroad, said Xue Feng, the incumbent curator of the memorial.

Glory of CPC's birthplace shines through historic memorial collection
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A 3D movie recreates the historic scene of the first congress.

The number of visitors to the site rose to some 1.5 million in 2018 from roughly 500,000 a year earlier.

After the grand opening of the new exhibition hall in June 2021, more than 400 foreign guests in about 20 groups have visited the site. They include ambassadors, reporters and company executives, experts, artists and entrepreneurs living in Shanghai.

"The memorial aims to become an exhibition and research site to promote the history and revolutionary spirits of the Party to the world," Xue said.

Despite the COVID-19 resurgence, the memorial has been collecting cultural relics, arranging exhibitions and hosting various activities, such as pubic lectures to promote the history and spirit of the Party, Xue added.

The memorial has now amassed a total of over 128,000 exhibits, mainly donations from descendants of pioneers and collectors. Some 400 of them are top-level cultural relics, said Xu Yungen, director of the exhibition section of the memorial.

They include over 80 editions of "The Communist Manifesto." The initial and second full Chinese editions translated by linguist and educator Chen Wangdao and published in August and September 1920 are on display. Both are deemed to be "treasures of the memorial."

Other key cultural relics include a Smith Corona typewriter used by Li Dazhao, a Party founder and pioneer. Li often needed to communicate with Comintern officials and representatives of the former Soviet Union in China. He borrowed the typewriter from Sun Yat-sen's secretary to type many secret documents.

Chinese revolutionary martyr Li Bai sent out the last message before sacrificing his life at the age of 39 in Shanghai on May 7, 1949, 20 days before the liberation of the city. His wooden box toolkit, including about 40 items he used to repair a secret radio station, is on display.

"We had only two editions of 'The Communist Manifesto' when the site initially opened to the public some seven decades ago," said Xu.

"More and more donors have come to present their collections after witnessing the exhibition at the memorial," he added.

Glory of CPC's birthplace shines through historic memorial collection
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

The initial and second full Chinese editions of "The Communist Manifesto."

The "Epoch-making Beginnings: Founding of the Communist Party of China" exhibition documents the original aspirations and mission of the Party in seven sections dating from 1840.

It features 1,168 exhibits denoting the birth of the Party and revolutionary practices in Shanghai, including 612 cultural relics along with photos, videos, oil paintings, sculptures and multimedia works.

A huge porcelain painting is displayed at the start of the exhibition. It features historic Party landmarks, such as the site of the congress, Jinggangshan in east Jiangxi Province, Yan'an in northwest Shaanxi plus the Yangtze River, Yellow River and the Great Wall.

A bronze sculpture of the 13 delegates to the first congress involved superior carving and illumination skills to convey the different fates of the delegates.

A historic video about the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China has been restored to 4K high-definition.

A 3D movie restores the historic scene of the congress. In the movie, the delegates make speeches and discuss the guiding principles and work plan of the Party.

A large table model provides a view of downtown Shanghai in the 1930s. A light and sound exhibition highlights key Party and revolutionary sites.

Apart from the exhibition at the memorial, Xue said the site has arranged another tour exhibition to reveal how the spirit of the CPC guided the country and its people to make great achievements in the past century.

Glory of CPC's birthplace shines through historic memorial collection
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Visitors gather in the exhibition hall of the memorial when it was officially opened in June 2021.

Titled "Great Spirits Build a Great Era," the exhibition features more than 50 spirits summarized from milestone historical events since the establishment of the CPC in 1921. They are showcased with some 170 archives, documents, photos and installations in five sections. The first stop of the exhibition was held at Shanghai Library and will tour across the country.

A section of the exhibition, the "Long March Spirit," for example, displays two paintings created by leading Chinese artists depicting Red Army soldiers tramping over hill and dale between 1934 and 1936 to break through a Kuomintang army siege.

The "War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression Spirit" reviews guerrilla warfare and strategies, such as the tunnel and mine warfare led by the CPC against Japanese intruders.

A rifle is on display in the "Korean War Spirit" section. Li Zengxiang, a Chinese People's Volunteer Army soldier, used the rifle and five bullets to shoot down an American aircraft during the war.

Other evocations include the "Chinese Women's Volleyball Spirit," "Anti-Flood Spirit," "SARS Resistance Spirit," "Poverty Alleviation Spirit" and "Space Exploration Spirit."

Glory of CPC's birthplace shines through historic memorial collection
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Visitors take photos in front of the exhibition hall of the First National Congress of the CPC.

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