For 2,000 years, the peach was the iconic fruit of China, an auspicious symbol of good health and a long life (Google books). But from August of 1968 until roughly the fall of the following year, the mango was China’s most revered produce item, whose meaning was unwittingly bestowed upon it by none other than Mao Zedong.
In the early years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
, Chinese youth, known as the Red Guards, were a formative force
in the uprising against the bourgeois. But different factions ended up competing against each-other, leading to violent clashes
(Google books). On July 27, 1968, a Mao Zedong's thought propaganda team of workers entered Bejing's Tsinghua University to disseminate Chairman Mao's latest series of instructions
, and to quell the fighting. The Red Guard was disbanded
, due to the infighting and widespread chaos they caused.
In an unrelated event, Pakistan's foreign minister and his wife met with Chairman Mao to pay their respects to their powerful neighbor. As a good-will gesture, a gift of mangoes were given to the Chairman. What followed was a re-gifting of unplanned significance.
Apparently, Mao didn't like fruit, or at least he found mangoes to be messy and not worth the effort, so he sent the lot to the workers who had helped end the fighting at Tsinghua University. There, they were received as exotic gifts, and a sign of the Chairman's blessings on the workers
, shifting prestige from the educated youth.
Some groups tried to preserve their mangoes in formaldehyde or wax, and treated as though they were religious relics
. And because you can never really get away from consumeristic tendancies, mangoes showed up on everything from pencil boxes to vanity mirrors
, reliquaries for wax mangoes
, plus posters and pictures a-plenty
. But after a year, the mango craze faded
, and most people tossed out their mango memorabilia.