Sixty-three years before President Xi Jinping set foot in Mahabalipuram for his informal summit with PM Narendra Modi, the town played host to another distinguished Chinese leader.
The first Premier of the People's Republic of China Zhou Enlai arrived here in 1956 accompanied by Vice Premier He Long. Visiting the Shore Temple, Zhou was spotted having a sip of tender coconut water, just like Xi and Modi on Friday.
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Zhou spoke at a civic reception at the Corporation Stadium in Madras where the Express reported him as saying, "Although it is only a few hours since I arrived here, I have already discovered from my first contacts with the city and its people that Madras is a city which has made outstanding contributions for the mighty culture of India. We believe that we can learn many things from your city that will be useful to us."
Zhou also visited Gemini Studios in the city and watched the shooting of a dance sequence by actress Padmini for a film under production, said an Express report. When he asked what the film was about, the script writer Ramanand Sagar said that it was on a common man who fought against a tyrant. "What happens to the common man," asked Zhou. The Chinese Premier laughed heartily when Sagar replied, "He marries a Princess."
When Zhou was curious to know the title of the film, Gemini Studios boss SS Vasan told him that it would be decided only after hearing the suggestions of a hundred critics who had seen the movie.
Wearing a khadi cap and angavastram, and sporting kumkum and sandal paste marks on his forehead, he was seen off at the airport by the Governor Sri Prakasa and ministers. Zhou left by the President's special Viscount aircraft on December 7 to Asansol for the next leg of his trip.
During the visit, Zhou had addressed members of both Houses of Parliament in Delhi. The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha SV Krishnamoorthy Rao tried to seat Zhou in the centre of the podium for his address, reported Express. But the Chinese Premier nudged Rao into the centre and preferred to sit on the left, perhaps to symbolise his communist affiliations, much to the amusement of the MPs.