Visitors to Mao memorial soar as admission becomes free Thursday, March 6, 2008

More than 5,000 tourists, five times the usual number, flocked to the Shaoshan Mao Zedong Memorial Hall in central China's Hunan Province on Wednesday, the first day of free admission.

The local government abolished the admission fee of 30 yuan (4.2 U.S. dollars), more than half of an urban worker's average daily salary, so that more people could learn about "The Great Helmsman".

The memorial hall, boasting some 35,000 relics related to Mao, opened in October 1964 and started collecting fees during the mid-1980s to pay for its upkeep.

"Free admission will give more people an opportunity to recall Chairman Mao's contributions to our nation and history," said Liu Guohua, a local resident. "It's really good news."

Visitors lined up ahead of opening time, and about 1,000 people entered within the first hour.

"We decided to limit the daily visitor number to 3,000 to ensure safety and order," said Xia Youxin, deputy curator. "We may consider allowing more to visit in the future when conditions allow."

As part of its efforts to improve public services, the Chinese government has recently ordered state-run museums and memorial halls to start free admission.

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Editor: Song Shutao
Source: Xinhua