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Mao's Mysterious Number (1)

9 April 2009

When firing gun solute to mark special occasions of national importance, it normally sounds for 21 times. But on the grand ceremony celebrating the establishment of the People's Republic of China on the October 1, 1949, at 15 o'clock, 28 gun solutes, instead of 21, were fired.

Why 28?

According to Americans, it is because that Chinese character for "communism" 共 can be divided into two parts, the top one is 廿, which is for twenty, and the bottom part is 八, for eight.

When Russians learned Americans explanation, they snubbed. "Americans have no sense of history," they jeered. "Can't blame them, 'cause that country has no root, so people there know nothing expect politics. To stat with, does character 廿 really look like the top part in 共? Not a chance! Tell you what, in the ancient times, the great Han Emperor Wudi (汉武帝) had 28 founding heroes, and this round China also has 28 heroes who have made enormous contributions to the establishment of the PPC, which is why 28 solutes were sounded."

When British learned Russians' snub to Americans, they scoffed. "Russians only know political side of history," they ridiculed, and proud of themselves at having a longer history than Russians. "Can't blame them, 'cause they don't understand Mao's romantic approach to politics. To start with, would it be possible for Mao to salute 28 communist heroes in 1949 when the heroes in question were formally identified in 1955? Not a change! Tell you what, when Mao married to the love of his life Ms Yang Kaihui in 1921, he was 28; when Yang was killed by Nationalist Part in 1929, she was 28; 28 years after Mao's marriage to Yang, Mao became the supreme leader of China, which is why 28 solutes were sounded."

When Japanese learned British's scoff to the Russians, they sneered. "Brits have no knowledge of Chinese history," they mocked. "Can't blame them, 'cause they don't understand anyone else's history apart from their own. To start with, would Mao, a revolutionary and statesman, use such an important occasion to indulge his obsession for a particular woman? Not a chance. It's not a Chinese tradition any way. Tell you what, it has everything to do with the roots of Chinese culture, I Ching and Eight Trigrams, on which Mao in fact was a big master."

When Americans learned Japanese's sneer to the British, they only became more baffled, and kept baffling for good three decades until one day their president had a chance to travel to Beijing to ask Premier Zhou Enlai to enlighten him.

Zhou beamed, ambiguously. "I'm afraid you will need to ask Mao for the answer."

So the American president went to meet with Mao in his studio where tens of thousands of books, most are Chinese classics, were stored. And he discussed many things with Mao, but forgot to mention 28 salutes, peculiarly. So after another thirty years Americans are said still in a state of bewilderment when it comes to this mysterious number.

When some Chinese learned Americans' unenlightenment over this small number, they cracked, cunningly. Why? .....

Mao's Mysterious Number (2)

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