The red boat on Nanhu Lake in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province in east China, is a replica of the original one where the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China was concluded (XINHUA)
Exactly a century ago, on July 23, the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) opened in a building in Shanghai. Attended by 13 Chinese participants and two foreign representatives from the Communist International, the historical meeting declared the founding of the CPC and laid out its guiding principles and workplan.
The two-story building on Xingye Road is next to Xintiandi, a bustling pedestrian area today. Built in the shikumen style, literally meaning stone-gated, the building is a traditional Shanghai-style terrace house with a stone archway, a combination of Western and Chinese elements.
The area was part of the French Concession at that time and the meeting had to be suspended because of a sudden police search on July 30. The participants shifted to a boat on Nanhu Lake in neighboring Zhejiang Province, where they concluded the meeting.
Since then, the CPC has developed from a party with only 50 members or so into the world's biggest Marxist ruling party with over 91 million members. It has been in power for over 70 years in China.
A fresh look
The building, bearing the address 76 Xingye Road, was renovated to become a memorial museum, known as the Memorial for the Site of the First National Congress of the CPC, with the name on the board written by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of the reform and opening-up policy. A major historical monument under state protection, the museum houses nearly 120,000 items related to the CPC and in recent years has been visited by over 1 million people annually.
Temporarily closed in November last year for large-scale renovation, it will reopen to celebrate the CPC's centenary in July.
Since the original memorial hall is too small to accommodate the increasing number of visitors, a new one started to be built in 2019 across the road and will be finished this year.
Xu Zhengtang, a 59-year-old house painter from Shangrao, a city in Jiangxi Province, east China, is among the people working on the construction. This year, instead of returning home to celebrate the Chinese New Year with his family, he stayed at the construction site, the first time he had done so in his 40 years of working as a painter.
Xu told the media it was because they have a tight schedule and he was needed for the work. "It's a great pleasure to contribute to the centenary celebrations of the Party," he said.
Over 100 people renovating the old memorial hall and building the new one stayed in Shanghai for the Spring Festival.
The renovation is following the principle of restoring the architecture according to its original appearance. The wooden floors are being replaced with similar new ones and the pillars are being repaired. The wooden carvings outside the building have been repainted and polished, an undertaking that involved more than 10 work steps.
The exhibited items including historical documents preserved at the memorial are key to understanding the history of the Party. They include letters, diaries, telegrams, magazines and a Chinese translation of The Communist Manifesto, the 1848 political document by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels outlining the goals and theory of Communism.
The museum has been making replicas of the original documents for exhibition. Zhao Yan, who has been working at the memorial since graduating in 2014, makes the replicas, often spending several days or even months to produce a single piece. "Studying the details of the documents has enhanced my respect for the forefathers of the CPC," she said. "I hope to disseminate the Party's stories to more people through my work."
An opera performance at the Memorial for the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China on October 18, 2018 (XINHUA)
Red boat of courage
About 100 km southwest of Shanghai, the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall in Zhejiang is also being renovated for the centennial.
The red boat on Nanhu Lake, the actual place where the delegates announced the official founding of the CPC, has become a symbol of the courage and pioneering spirit of the CPC.
The original boat was lost during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) but in 1959, when the memorial hall was established, a replica was built according to the memory of an old boatman and put on display on the lake.
A new memorial hall was opened in 2006, housing over 10,000 revolutionary relics, precious documents, valuable paintings and calligraphy work.
In October 2017, the CPC's top leaders, headed by President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, visited the site and vowed to stay true to the Party's original aspirations and serve the people.
Learning Party history
With the CPC's centenary coming closer, a campaign to raise awareness of the Party history among all CPC members was launched on February 20.
At the meeting, Xi urged all CPC members to study the Party's history, understand its theories and do practical work to build a modern socialist China.
The campaign focuses on the CPC's century-long struggle, its contributions to building the nation and its purpose of serving the people.
CPC members will also study the Party's major theoretical achievements in adapting Marxism to China's conditions and the valuable experience of a successful revolution and reform.
(Print Edition Title:Preserving a Legacy)
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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