Fifty years ago, China was plunged into the most chaotic and traumatic decade of its recent history - the Cultural Revolution. During this period, the nation was gripped by a peculiar hysteria: a mania for mangoes. Benjamin Ramm discovers how the fruit became an object of deep veneration, and a vehicle for the promotion of the cult of Chairman Mao.
In 1966 Mao had called on the student Red Guards to rebel against "reactionary" authorities. His aim was to reshape society by purging it of bourgeois elements and traditional ways of thinking. But by the summer of 1968 the country had become engulfed in fighting, as Red Guard factions competed for power.
To quell the forces that he had unleashed, Mao sent 30,000 workers to Qinghua University in Beijing, armed only with their talisman, the Little Red Book. The students attacked them with spears and sulphuric acid, killing five and injuring more than 700, before finally surrendering. Mao thanked the workers with a gift of approximately 40 mangoes, which he had been given the previous day by Pakistan's foreign minister.
They had a huge impact.
"Here it is, comrades - the Great Proletarian Mango of Doom! With this secret weapon, we shall crush the running dogs of capitalist-roader revisionism!"