A Kinder, Gentler Mao Zedong (TV Series/China)





A 23-episode TV series featuring a young Mao Zedong, the founder of People’s Republic of China, has received an unexpectedly favorable reception from young Chinese. The show, Cha Tongxue Shaonian or "Those Student Days" (it sounds better in Chinese, being a phrase from one of Mao's poems), is set in an idyllic, Western style campus featuring ivy-covered buildings and marble arches. Mao appears as a hormone-driven teenager who is starting his first semester at the school. His fellow students are a dapper, good looking bunch, many of whom later become key figures in China's 20th century history. The show portrays Mao struggling with poor grades, falling in love for the first time and meeting one of his earliest mentors. In one scene, Mao is so embarrassed after a meeting with his love interest in a bookstore that he slams into a counter, then runs off when he realizes he has not brought enough money to pay for the book he picked. It is rare in China to see revolutionary leaders portrayed in such an up close and personal way. The costumes were also unusual: Instead of the Mao era’s drab-is-beautiful unisex boiler suits, the cast are adorned with chic suits and dresses, bowties and evening gowns.


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