The book about Mao Zedong, Into the Last Years of Mao Zedong, was written by female Chinese writer Guo Jinrong based on narration from Meng Jinyun, Mao’s personal attendant and nurse. Published in 2009, the book is filled with memories from Meng, who accompanied Mao from early morning till late at night in the later years of Mao’s life.
One anecdote in the book really shows Mao’s true nature.
It was August 1975, and Mao suddenly had the desire to watch a movie, so his subordinates picked out one of his favorite movies, An Embroidered Shoe Falls from the Clouds.
The movie is about a young girl from a rich family who fell into a dry well in the backyard and her life was in danger. Her father put a poster out and promised to marry her to whoever could save her life.
Two young men came, and they agreed that one would go down into the well, and one would stay by the well to help with the rescue; after the girl was safely back up, she could then decide which young man she wanted to marry.
One young man was lowered to the bottom of the well in a basket, and he sent the young girl back up. When the young man by the well pulled the girl out, he covered the well with a boulder. He took the girl to see her father. They were soon married. Thus, the other young man was left at the bottom of the well to die.
The young man in the well had caught an embroidered shoe that the girl dropped on her way up. One night, the girl had a dream in which an embroidered shoe dropped down from the sky. When she woke up, the young man in the well appeared right in front of her.
To make a long story short, the girl’s father threw her cunning and cruel husband out, and married her to the young man who escaped from the well.
After the movie, Mao asked everyone: “Tell me, which of the two young men do you like better?” Everyone said the same thing, the one at the bottom of the well, of course. Meng even added: “The man by the well is really bad. He not only takes other’s credit, but also tried to kill another man.”
Mao turned his head and asked another person. She said: “That is obvious, but I don’t understand why you ask this question?”
Mao said: “I have a different view, and I think the young man outside the well is better.”
“Why?” everyone asked in disbelief. “The young man in the well is too simple-minded,” Mao said. “He lacks critical thinking. He should have known that someone may want to harm him. The one outside the well is smarter.”
Others commented: “The one outside of the well is cunning and dishonest.” “Honest is a synonym for useless,” Mao replied. “There is only one girl; how can he be sure he will be picked if he did not eliminate his competitor?”
This book includes detailed descriptions of Mao’s daily life, his spirit, and the state of his mind in his later years. It also inadvertently reveals Mao’s sinister, ruthless, and dishonest nature.