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The Mango – Mao’s exotic fruit

March 12, 2013

mango_maoIndias golden fruit the Mango was waxed for preservation, praised as a symbol of Chairman Mao’s love for his workers and treated with utmost respect in 1968-69 China when the unique fruit first crossed the bamboo curtain. The exotic fruit became a short lived political statement when Chairman Mao distributed a dozen mangoes amongst Beijing’s top factories. “It was propaganda, but the thing to remember is that it started with real enthusiasm,” Alfreda Murck, a scholar at Beijing’s Palace Museum told the Telegraph.

A poem in the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the party, ran: “Seeing that golden mango/Was as if seeing the great leader Chairman Mao … Again and again touching that golden mango/the golden mango was so warm”.

Available mostly in India’s hot summer months, the Mango is hailed as India’s king fruit. Warm, smooth in texture, full of nutrients and sweet to taste, the mango is available in many varieties whose flavours lend a distinct taste and aroma. Unique to South Asia, the mango was first presented by a Pakistani foreign services official to Chairman Mao in 1968, Distributed by him, each of the 12 mandoes waxed to preserve them and subsequently placed in a glass enclosed alter where factory workers filed past it in reverence as an alter image of the great leader himself. When the fruit began to rot, the factory workers boiled and drank a teaspoon each of the mango nectar. So revered was India’s national fruit in the middle kingdom, that those that didn’t respect or hold it correctly were admonished publicly.

According to the report by the Telegraph, the exotic fruit also made it to a factory in Shanghai albeit in its own chartered plane! Wang Xiaoping, 70, a worker at the factory, said “knowledgeable people said it was a fruit of extreme rarity, like Mushrooms of Immortality. It must be very delicious. Its appearance nobody could describe. To receive such a rare and exotic thing filled people with a surge of excitement.”

The fruit quickly gained popularity as an object of desire. Plastic, wax and papier mache facsimile mangoes were sent out on special lorries to tour the provinces, while enamel mugs, washbasins and plates were decorated with mangoes. Fake mangoes in glass cases were handed out to thousands of workers in Beijing to display in their homes. Mango-brand cigarettes were a bestseller, and huge baskets of mangoes were the central floats of the 1968 National Day parade.

Today, Mangoes are easily available in Chinese supermarkets, exported from India, globalisation has enabled the once exotic fruit to be enjoyed by everyone in China.

 

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