"Great Helmsman" remembered with run, music, noodles

2012-12-26 10:29:56 GMT2012-12-26 18:29:56(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Thousands celebrated China's late leader Mao Zedong's birthday with a fun run, musical performances and noodles at the "Great Helmsman"'s hometown on Wednesday.

As one of the traditional rituals, a 5,000-meter race was held in Shaoshan, central Hunan Province. The route is from Mao's former residence to the local railway station.

The annual race, in its 30th year, is in response to Mao's calls for improving health through physical exercise, the event's organizers said.

Thousands paid tribute before Mao's statue in the city's square. Some laid wreaths and bowed three times before the statue.

"Chairman Mao lost six relatives in leading Chinese people to fight for a new life. I want to give him my sincere regards," said 69-year-old Huang Shaoyun.

A group of children led the crowd of mourners in singing "The East Is Red," a well-known revolutionary song extolling Mao.

Artists then played a piece of local musical -- the Flower Drum Opera.

"I really enjoyed the local culture shown in the Flower Drum Opera," said one of the attenders surnamed Hu. "It was quite refreshing to watch."

Long Lanxiang, one of the performers, said that the performance was a wonderful opportunity to promote the musical culture and to commemorate Mao, who enjoyed such performances when he was alive.

Hot noodles were prepared in restaurants and hotels across Shaoshan.

Each year, people get a free bowl of noodles on Mao's birthday, said Mao Yushi, a local official.

"We want to express our gratitude to him in a simple way; to offer free noodles for visitors. Now, it has become a tradition," he said.

Gu Yimin, a 64-year-old photographer, said it took him about 20 hours on the train to get to Shaoshan from his hometown of Hangzhou a decade ago. Now, the journey takes only about five hours.

"Over the years many things have changed, but one thing that remains is my deepest respect for Mao Zedong," he said.

Mao died on Sept. 9, 1976.

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