Three caves in a remote Chinese village where Xi Jinping was sent during the Cultural Revolution receive a constant stream of Communist pilgrims, come to pay homage four years after he came to power. Xi, then 15, was ordered to Liangjiahe in 1969 as part of Mao Zedong’s “Up to the Mountain and Down to the Countryside Movement”, which saw educated city youth deployed to rural areas.
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The urbane son of a Communist Party grandee, Xi spent seven years hauling grain and sleeping in cave homes on fleabitten brick beds.
But he has said he “left his heart” in Liangjiahe, and credits the experience with his political formation long before he became the most powerful man in the world’s second-largest economy.
Now the dusty village in Shaanxi province, 1,000 kilometres from Beijing, has been transformed into a living shrine to Xi’s years of toil, with vintage Mao posters, thermoses, and kerosene lamps giving the cave homes he occupied an authentic feel.
Between 1,000 and 7,000 tourists visit every day, state media reported, riding in on a highway opened this year, and Xi himself blessed the location with a return journey last year.
In the newly paved main street, Guo Moxi, who worked the fields with Xi, said that since he was appointed as general secretary of the ruling party four years ago on Tuesday, everyone’s lives in Liangjiahe had seen “a big change”.
Four years Xi’s junior, Guo recalls a gentle person of “broad understanding” who was “very compassionate” towards ordinary people.
“He was prepared to spend his life in Liangjiahe. He suffered a lot of hardship and wanted to change the face of this place.”
In a sleek museum affiliated with an elite Communist party college in nearby Yan’an, young guides in elegant jackets narrated to elderly visitors the “Four Hardships” Xi suffered — flea bites, bad food, hard labour and assimilating into the peasantry.
Yang Xianglin, a former teacher whose cave home is decked floor to ceiling with enlarged photos of Xi and his wife, painted a picture of the politician as an almost legendary figure, reading books between breaks in hard labour, with a fierce spirit “so one could see he was no common man”.