Mao Zedong Mausoleum
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The Mao Zedong Mausoleum (a.k.a. Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao) is where the embalmed body of Mao Zedong, the founder and former leader of the People's Republic of China, is on display to the public. It is located in the southern part of Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. Since it is primarily open to the public in the mornings, visitors might consider visiting the Mao Zedong Mausoleum first early on before moving on to visit the Tiananmen Gate and Forbidden City, which are both located further north within walking distance.
Construction of the Mao Zedong Mausoleum started in November 1976, only a short time after China's Chairman Mao had died from a heart attack on the 9th of September 1976. Building materials from all over China were used during the construction process and 700,000 people performed symbolic voluntary labour. Construction proceeded at a record-breaking pace so that the building was already inaugurated in September 1977. Since then, Mao's embalmed body is on display to the public there. Mao himself had actually wished for his body to be cremated.
Outside the building that measures 220 meters from west to east and 280 meters from north to south you will see four groups of revolutionary-themed clay figures. Each of the 62 clay figures that were created by over 100 sculptors is 3.5 meters tall. As you approach the main entrance of the mausoleum, you will see a white marble plaque with gilded lettering high above. The six Chinese characters on it translate to "Chairman Mao Memorial Hall".
Once inside the mausoleum, there are two floors to visit. A visit of the first floor will start with the North Great Hall which is the place where people pay their respect in front of a 3.45 meter tall marble statue of Mao Zedong. The 3.74 meter wide mural painting "The vast homeland" fills up the space behind the statue. Then you will come to the Memorial Hall in the center of the building. On a black granite base you will see a crystal coffin that contains the body of Mao Zedong, draped with a red flag of the Communist Party of China. The four sides of the black granite base are inlaid with three emblems (party emblem, national emblem and army emblem) and two dates (Mao's birthday and day of passing). After you exit the Memorial Hall, you will pass through the South Great Hall which has a scripture of Mao engraved on its marble wall.
The second floor of the Mao Zedong Mausoleum contains six memorial rooms that are open to group visits. The rooms are dedicated to Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun. A marble statue stands in the center of each memorial room and various photographs and literary works illustrate the life and work of each of these influential leaders. Finally, there is also a movie hall on the second floor that is screening a documentary about these six leaders.
Anyone that is planning to visit the Mao Zedong Mausoleum should be aware that it is a place of heightened security due to its symbolic nature. You will need a valid certificate such as a passport (for foreign visitors) or ID card (for Chinese visitors) to be allowed to enter. Visitors must be clothed appropriately and behave respectfully at all times during their visit. Handbags, backpacks, cameras and video equipment as well as food and drink can't be brought inside and must be deposited at the left luggage office before entering.