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"First hairdresser" recalls days with Chairman Mao

2011-10-08 07:47    Ecns.cn     Web Editor: Su Jie
Chairman Mao and Zhou Fuming in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1964.

Chairman Mao and Zhou Fuming in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1964.

(Ecns.cn)--"I have experienced two challenges in my life: cutting Chairman Mao's hair for the first time, and for the last time," recalled 76-year-old Zhou Fuming, who was Mao's personal hairdresser for 17 years and served him more than 1,800 times.

Zhou first met Mao in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, on December 26, 1959--Mao's 30th birthday. Zhou was just 24.

Without knowing who he was going to serve, Zhou was driven to a swimming stadium at about 10:00 p.m., where he was finally told, "We brought you here to give a haircut to Chairman Mao."

"It was like thunder piercing my ears," said Zhou.

"Relax, just treat him like an ordinary customer," said Li Yinqiao, Mao's bodyguard.

But upon first seeing Mao, Zhou tensed up and his face reddened with excitement and anxiety.

Zhou recalled that it was the most challenging task he had ever undertaken, and though it was a freezing winter day, he perspired heavily from his forehead. "Mao was reading one of the Twenty-Four Histories with avid attention. I had to give the haircut according to his posture," said Zhou.

Zhou added that Mao soon stopped to talk with him about his family, which helped him relax. After the haircut, Zhou also shaved Mao's beard. The whole process went smoothly and only took 20 minutes.

"Mao beamed with satisfaction," noted Zhou, whose life went through a great change from then on.

In April 1960, Zhou accompanied Mao to Beijing and started his new career in Zhongnanhai, an area adjacent to the Forbidden City which serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China.

"Nothing is small in Zhongnanhai, so we treated every detail very seriously," pointed out Zhou.

"Mao's hairstyle could not be changed easily. Though he had had closely-cropped or parted hair before, as a leader his haircut generally had to be fixed," said Zhou, referring to his years of experience. "I had to pay more attention to his sideburns, which would look unsymmetrical with a bad cut, because he had more hair on the right side."

Because of his careful consideration, Zhou was later appointed as Mao's private personal assistant.

On one occasion, Zhou noticed that Mao's bed was 10 centimeters higher than the standard, so that the Chairman could barely touch the floor when sitting on it. Because of this, Zhou made a special desk with a crossbeam where Mao could rest his feet.

After serving Mao for so many years, Zhou grew to understand him deeply. He said Mao suffered from insomnia during his twilight years and always told him, "Don't take what I say before I go to bed seriously, and only trust my decisions after I wake up."

Zhou remembered clearly that Mao once asked him to call Premier Zhou Enlai after taking some sleeping pills. He did not execute the order immediately, considering what Mao had repeatedly told him before. As expected, Mao took back his words when he got up the next day.

However, Zhou once angered Mao when he restricted vehicles from passing on a road near Zhongnanhai, because they might have disturbed Mao's sleep. "Why trouble them to do that? You are interfering with people's normal lives. Stop doing that from now on," criticized Mao.

Yet Mao cared for Zhou very much. When test results showed that Zhou might have liver disease, Mao was sympathetic. "Zhou, even if others do not want to stay with you, I will not leave you," said Mao.

Fortunately, Zhou's health improved, and he continued assisting Mao till his death.

That day finally came on September 9, 1976, when Zhou gave the final haircut to Chairman Mao.

"He was so tranquil, as if only resting. I did not want to disturb his peace so I kneeled down to shave his sideburns. Then I got down low, taking a similar posture to Mao, to trim the hair on the back of his head. I also carefully shave his beard. He was full of vigor again," recalled Zhou.

Because this year is the 35th anniversary of Chairman Mao's death, Zhou has became rather busy since August, meeting friends and taking part in related events.

A new portrait of Chairman Mao was hung on the wall of the Tian'anmen Rostrum on the evening of September 27 to celebrate the upcoming National Day.