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Mao's Mysterious Number (2)

9 April 2009

Mao's Mysterious Number (1)

"Mao already explained why it should be 28 gun salutes," the Chinese said.

In fact, Chairman Mao Zedong did openly acknowledged the mysterious role that number 28 played in his life. By the time he worked as a junior library staff at Beijing University, China was on the verge of total disintegration after centuries of erosion under Manchurians' ethnic apartheid rule and decades of military assault from Western and Japanese colonial forces. One day when Mao passed a fortune-teller's stall on street, he made an inquiry about his future and was advised to use "Twenty-Eight-Stroke Guy" (二十八画生) as his pen name.

"Why 28?" asked Mao.

"Because the number of the total strokes in the characters of your name (毛澤東) is 28," replied fortune-teller bluntly.

"That's all?" Mao wasn't keen.

"You do not have your name by accident," fortune-teller explained. "In your case, 28 is the special number that governs your entire life; and if you use this pen name to reinforce its effects, you'll see each 28 years to be marked as a special turning point."

So soon, a series of articles with strongly nationalist and revolutionary messages appeared in the influential "angry youth" magazines, penned by Twenty-Eight-Stroke Guy. A few years late, in 1921, when Mao was 28-year old, he became the founding father of Chinese Communist Party; in 1949, when Mao was 56-year old, he became the founding father of the People's Republic China; and, in 1976, one year short of his 3rd 28-year anniversary, he died, and the next year, another massive turning point for China occurred as universities reopened and reform policies started to take shape.

However, when other Chinese learned this fortune-teller story, they frowned.

"No way, Mao wouldn't let a fortune-teller dictate his life and national affairs," they argued. "There is a more substantial reason behind the decision to fire 28 gun salutes, and Japanese isn't wrong, as the reason indeed lies in I Ching."

It is said that there are eight gates in I Ching's Eight Trigrams, among which two are particular propitious, which is Open Gate (开门) on the position of Heaven Graph (乾) in northwest and Life Gate (生门) at Mountain Graph (艮) in northeast. On the Eight Trigrams chart, Open Gate is represented by number 2 and Life Gate corresponds to number 8, which according to this group of Chinese is why 28 gun salutes were fired.

Not every Chinese are convinced that what behind the showy gun salutes are the shadowy gates. But one thing most Chinese I Ching experts do agree upon is that, like Zhuge Liang of the Three Kingdom's era, Mao is one of the greatest I Ching masters in Chinese history. Just look how he brilliantly manoeuvred his position on the Eight Trigrams: During the War of Resistance against Japan, Mao set his headquarter in China's Open Gate location in Shaanxi Province, where ancient Chinese capital situated; and in the civil war with American-backed Nationalist government, Mao further sent his main force to take control of the Life Gate in China's northeast. Once CCP drove the Nationalists out of the mainland to a tiny island, Mao insisted to move Chinese capital away from Nanjing in the Scenery Gate (景门) and return to Beijing that is at the Healing Gate (休门) position.

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