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Long Life Without End
Before 1966, the phrase “Long live Mao!” had been chanted on special occasions such as National Day celebrations. With a massive rally held at Tiananmen Square on August 18, 1966, these chants began to inundate speeches and articles, even becoming part of prayer-like daily rituals.
Yet “Long live Mao!” and its variants were not simply political slogans; people were genuinely obsessed with the state of the Chairman's health. When Red Guards traveled around China, they would most often be asked, “Is Chairman Mao well? Is he as healthy as he looks in the films?” 2
During the August 18 rally, one Red Guard greeted Mao on Tiananmen Gate with the prayer that he live forever (Zhu Mao Zhuxi wanshou wujiang!). Mao, always ready with a quip or rejoinder, reportedly said, “Even long life comes to an end! 3
1 Talk at the Report Meeting, October 24, 1966, as published in Mao Tse-Tung Ssu-Hsiang Wan-Sui! (Long Live Mao Zedong Thought!), a Red Guard publication. Source: Stuart Schram, editor, Chairman Mao Talks to the People, Talks and Letters: 1956-1971 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974), p. 267.
2 Xu Xiao, ed., Minjian shuxin 1966-1977 (Hefei: Anhui wenyi chubanshe, 2000), p. 9.
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