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Mao Zedong's photos debut in Taiwan
Updated: 2005-06-14 11:22

Although late leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) never set foot in Taiwan, his photos made a popular debut in the island province on Sunday.

At a Taiwan International Visual Arts Center photography exhibition in Taipei, 31 photos taken by noted mainland photographer Hou Bo were on display. They featured Mao in various scenes from the late 1940s and into the 1960s.

Hou, among the first generation of female photojournalists, said in Beijing yesterday that all the photos were previously published on the mainland. She said she was happy that Mao's images could finally be shown in Taiwan.

"It is not easy to launch such an exhibition in Taiwan," said the 81-year-old former "court photographer."

The softly spoken woman witnessed a great deal of history as she was the photographer of Mao and the country's other leaders from 1949 until 1961.

Hou's biggest claim to fame was her image of Mao as he declared the founding of the People's Republic of China at Tian'anmen Rostrum on October 1, 1949.

Hou and her family subsequently moved into Zhongnanhai, the central nerve of the government, to record Mao's public and private life.

At the exhibition titled "Mao Zedong's Age," the leader's much neglected human side was revealed. Photos showed Mao bare-footed in contemplation by the seaside, swimming in rivers and playing with children.

"In addition to being the national leader and a charismatic political figure, Mao is also shown to be a loving father and a well-tempered individual," said a Taiwan photography critic surnamed Ge.

While looking vigorous and high-spirited, Mao also looked like "a somewhat lonely political giant," Ge wrote in a review.

The political barriers between the mainland and Taiwan made it difficult for the general public on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to access political images and material from the other side since 1949.

However, as cross-strait economic and cultural ties strengthen, people from photographic circles on both sides realized the importance of retracing the lost historical memories through images.

According to Zeng Huang, a senior mainland photojournalist and council member of the Chinese Photographers Association, there was no reason not to have the exhibit.

"We should just treat images for what they are and leave the interpretation of history to the professionals," Zeng said over the phone.

The exhibition also included 20 photos by Hou's husband, Xu Xiaobing. They captured the Communist Party of China's efforts to defeat the Japanese army during the war against Japanese invasion in the 1930s and 1940s.

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