Zhang Hanzhi, Mao Zedong's English tutor and an interpreter during the historic 1972 meeting between the Communist leader and President Nixon, has died. She was 72.
"I want everyone to remember her smile, her loyalty to love, her kindness of heart and how grandiose she was. . . . " Zhang's daughter, Hong Huang, a well-known publisher, wrote in her blog. "Mother ... we will still be together."
She met Mao in 1950 at a party to celebrate the first anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, and again in 1963 at Mao's 70th birthday. He seemed relaxed and happy and asked to be her student when he found out she taught English. "Why not?" he asked, when she said she wouldn't dare.
"The Chairman wanted the lessons to start the following day! I was dumfounded," Zhang wrote in a 1999 article for Time magazine. "I was to teach the great leader whom over a billion people worshipped as their god?"Uh-huh.
Update: A couple of very strange lines in that (strange overall) 1994 book review I just linked to, by Nicholas Wade, who is (and probably was then) a science reporter for the Times:
Mao has been widely portrayed as a great 20th-century leader who saved his country from invasion and disunity and won the loyalty of such gifted colleagues as Zhou Enlai.
The Times is further left than I thought.
Historians would doubtless contend that no man is a hero to his valet and that the personal idiosyncrasies described by Dr. Li, even if true, are flyspecks on the grand structure of Mao's achievements.