Mao Zedong in his Daughter's Eyes
   2006-09-07 14:47:03

Translated by Wei Xiangnan

Li Na was born in August, 1940. She is Mao Zedong's little daughter. She now lives in a common apartment building on Wanshou Street in Beijing. She lives a quiet life and few people know much about her as Mao Zedong's daughter. She tells very few stories of Mao Zedong as a father.

Happy childhood

"I was born in August, 1940, in Yanan, the then revolutionary center of China. It was a tough period, but I spent a happy childhood with my father. My father sometimes would show great interest in children's games. For example, he would join me and my little friends in building little houses with earth. He would say there should be a window and he started to make window. Then he would say there should be water in this house, and he would put some water in there. He was so dedicated and both of his hands were covered in mud. When I was three or four years old, he started to teach me ancient poems. I can still remember these poems. I didn't go to school until I was ten. I learned a lot from him."

No privilege

"After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, I started to go to school in Beijing. But when I filled out the enrollment form in primary school, my father didn't want me to write his name in the column labeled "Parents," in order to avoid public attention. So I wrote the name of one of his personnel. And in the column labeled "Hometown," I wrote Yanan, where I was born. But actually I should have written Xiangtan, as it was the custom to write the name of one's parents' hometown. My primary school was far from Zhangnanhai, the place where we lived, so the personnel working for my father drove a car to pick me up and bring me home. But my father thought that was a privilege, and I shouldn't have such privileges, so then every weekend I went home with all other children living in Zhongnanhai in a minibus. Later, when I started high school, the information I filled out on the registration form was all real. "

Swimming without a life ring

"I started to swim with my father when I was very young. He told me never to use a life ring, but to use my skill and will to swim. He himself never used a life ring. He swam slowly but he could swim ten to 20 kilometers every time. He would say, when you are getting tired, you can do the backstroke to have a rest. He intended to train our perseverance. And I remember once when a typhoon was coming, he asked us to jump into the sea at high tide. He jumped in first, so I felt I had to follow him."

Strict father, good father

"My father was very strict with us. He didn't wish for us to become famous. He only wanted us to work with our own hands. He said he would be satisfied if we could become common laborers. He was also quite thrifty. In the 1950s, there was nothing but one bar of soap in his bathroom. And there were so many patches on his clothes. So I set high standards for myself: to be thrifty, to be strict with myself, to work on my own. Without him, I wouldn't be what I am today. I miss him. He was my good father."

The above is based on a translation of a Chinese article on


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