- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

WUHAN, China — At the height of the Cold War as Moscow turned its attention to Asia and sent massive Soviet mil-itary aid to North

Vietnam Mao Tse-tung felt the cold breath of the Russian bear and began to fear Russia more than the United States.

During his Great Leap Forward in 1958 to 1960, the Chinese leader increased the pace of industrial development while trying to protect China’s growing assets in vast underground cities across the country.

Today, China’s booming entrepreneurs are using Mao’s deep warrens in ways he never imagined.

Some of the underground chambers were dug under Guishan Mountain in the Hanyang district of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province in central China and the country’s sixth-largest metropolis.

These so-called “funk holes” — a British World War II term for covered trenches or bunkers — fell into disuse after Mao’s death in 1976 and now serve for storage of materials as well as factories, cultural venues and sightseeing destinations.

In Wuhan, banana wholesalers rent the holes to store the fruit in a cool place during the hot summers, and nearly all of the bananas sold in the urban center of nearly 5 million residents are kept in the holes before being consumed.

Some fruit merchants and their workers also choose to live in the underground chambers.

Cancan Chu is a photographer for Getty Images.

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