Retro is in as Mao kitsch skips off shelves

Beijing (AFP) –

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Many in China might rather forget the chaotic and bloody decades under the rule of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic.

But 70 years after he declared the founding of Communist China, his face and figure are on memorabilia sold in shops and stalls across the country.

The instantly recognisable face of the "Great Helmsman" has had something of a kitsch makeover and can be found on posters, fans, ornaments, mugs and plates across the capital.

The image of choice is usually Chairman Mao in his later years, portly with a receding hairline, looking sombre in a traditional "Mao suit".

Occasionally he beams out from the infamous "sun" picture which places the Communist leader at the centre with rays of light blazing out from behind him.

Stallholders at Beijing's Panjiayuan antique market in Beijing tout goods with Mao next to iconic images of China, including his "little red book" and Shanghai women in traditional qipao dresses from the 1920s.

Current President Xi Jinping can also be seen peering out from among the jumble of items.

There is even a growing number of revolutionary themed restaurants.

At the Cu Liang Ren Jia canteen Communist imagery adorns the walls, tableware and even staff uniforms.

Staff in military uniforms offer up no-nonsense hearty fare, while propaganda posters show farmers working the land, smiling down radiantly from the wall.