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June 10, 2012

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Documents tell story of Mao's casket

ARCHIVE documents released yesterday reveal how a Shanghai glass manufacturer was approached following the death of late Chairman Mao with a commission to built a crystal casket for his body.

Documents show that the Shanghai Xinhu Glass Factory received an order code-named "No.1 Task" from the central government in January 1977, four months after the death of Mao Zedong.

Some 15 documents detail the specifications of the casket exhibited in the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall in Beijing.

They include detailed requirements from central government and summaries of nine meetings.

These are among 17,000 archive documents made public for the first time by the Shanghai Archives Bureau, covering a period between the 1930s and 1980s.

"All these archives, including many former confidential documents, letters and photos, are open to the public for the first time to let them better know the history of the city," said Zhu Jihua, curator of the Shanghai Municipal Archives.

The documents on the glass casket for Mao's body show the precise requirements.

"Crystal plates for the coffin are 88 centimeters long, 77 centimeters wide and 4 centimeters thick ... The biggest problem is to avoid bubbles and spots in the crystal," one document states.

The coffin was finally assembled in Beijing in August, 1977.

Other documents made public include the 1978 expansion plan for Shanghai Railway Station.

Visitors with identity cards or passports can view photocopies or original documents free at the Shanghai Archives at the Bund. Staffers can provide translation services.

The bureau has made public 850,000 documents spanning 714 AD to the 1980s, said Zhang Xin, categorizing department director of the archive.


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