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Mango Unchained: The Untold Story of China’s Fruit Obsession
Submitted on Mar 1, 2013 8:00pm by

Nick Richards

‘We do not want to eat them; have comrade Wang Dongxing take them to Qinghua University for the comrades in the eight Worker-Peasant Propaganda Teams.’”

Mao Zedong thought fruit was a terrible gift. He didn’t like it because it was messy, says this incredible history lesson from CollectorsWeekly.com.

The year was 1968, the peak of the Cultural Revolution. The then-President of Pakistan swung by Beijing for a friendly visit and brought a crate of mangoes along for the Chairman. As a man who stuck to his principles, Mao swiftly ordered the sweet fruit re-gifted. The box was shipped to a group of factory workers who had been summoned to break up violence between factions of the Red Guards. The workers had named themselves the “Capital Workers Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Teams.” When the workers opened the box and saw their gift of thanks, they were shocked. The workers had never seen – much less tasted – a mango in their lives.

“Respectfully wishing Chairman Mao eternal life.”

What could the Chairman possibly mean by sending them this sticky exotic fruit? They hadn’t the slightest clue. After some deliberation, the workers decided to send one of the mangoes to each of the factories from which they had been dispatched. There, the fruit was to be preserved and worshiped by the working class.

“Respectfully wishing Chairman Mao eternal life. To commemorate the precious gift presented by Great Leader Chairman Mao to the Capital Worker-Peasant Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Teams—mango. 5 August 1968.”

Over the following year, an fervent worship for the fruit grew within the ranks of the proletariat. Simply put, the mango was revered. Replicas were molded out of plastic and enclosed in vitrines. The fake mangoes were marched through villages where the peasant class was lectured on their tropical might. The orange blob was the theme of floats in parades and given a star role in propagandist paraphernalia. Critics of the fruit were accused of being traitors. In one case, a man was executed for not liking the cut of a mango’s jib. This was, dare I say it, mango madness – endured until Mao’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.

“The working class must exercise leadership in everything.”

As CollectorsWeekly.com points out, the artifacts from that year of fruity worship are still available for purchase in Beijing’s antique markets, if you know who to ask. And tomorrow morning, Freda Murk, a collector of these mango propaganda pieces, will be explaining this rather unbelievable story in more detail and showing artifacts in person at Capital M to launch the Capital Literary Festival.

“With each mango, profound kindness.”

In the spirit of this month’s literature festivals and worshiping the cult of the mighty mango, even though we’re four decades too late, we found our own mango-shaped treats at JUSCO in Chaoyang Joy City. They look sweet, gooey and sticky – everything a mango should be. Yum yum.

“Do not swallow in one gulp. Not suitable for children under 3. The elderly and children should consume this product under direct supervision.”

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