The opening to Pingmei Lan's "Cicadas and the Dead Chairman"

The opening to Pingmei Lan's "Cicadas and the Dead Chairman"

by Pingmei Lan

That summer when Chairman Mao died I saw a funeral for the first time, a national one. It had gone on for weeks. Everywhere I turned people were wearing black armbands and making white paper flowers. The usual sea of blue Mao suits seemed to be foaming, churning, shaping into dark and light swells. Thousands of mourning wreaths blanketed Tiananmen Square, eventually spilling down to the sidewalks of Chang’an Avenue. For days, then weeks, it looked like snow in summer.

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