Feast, not famine, awaits at Mao-themed restaurants

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"Welcome, comrade! How many?"

That's the greeting you're likely to hear when entering Commune Mess Hall, a restaurant in China whose theme is the Mao-era countryside communes of the 1950s to 1970s.

A few restaurants in China have adopted this theme, which apparently stirs up nostalgia among older people. At Commune Mess Hall, the employees dress like Red Guards, wearing army fatigues and red "Serve the People" armbands. Portraits of Mao, Marx, and Stalin hang on the walls, and propaganda posters feature happy peasants and workers. Red characters painted on the rafters urge people to "Be self-reliant; work arduously." Revolutionary songs are piped in while waiters serve up peasant fare. The manager, who calls himself "Commune Leader," says that so far, no one has been offended.

At another similarly themed restaurant, "Number One Production Brigade," one patron who was sent to the countryside as a girl said:

Everything's pretty accurate in here. Except the air conditioners.

She might have also added, "except the plentiful food," considering that about 20 million people died during the famine of the Great Leap Forward.


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