THE owner of Shaoshan's original Mao Family Restaurant will today pay her respects to the man who has brought her and her family wealth beyond their wildest dreams. Tang Ruiren, in Beijing for the opening of her new Mao restaurant, plans to pay a private visit to the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall in Tiananmen Square this morning, where she will present gifts from Shaoshan and kowtow before the Great Helmsman's crystal sarcophagus. Mrs Tang is convinced the spirit of the Great Helmsman is watching over and protecting her family, and says his memory should be venerated. The 64-year-old entrepreneur has amassed a huge fortune from her restaurant business, which is based solely on the fact that she met Mao Zedong for half-an-hour when the Helmsman briefly returned to his home town in 1959. She paid taxes of more than 70,000 yuan (about HK$93,800) this year and her son, who runs the new Beijing restaurant, wears a heavy gold watch, gold rings and carries a mobile phone. Her family cites as an example of Mao's protection a fire which broke out after an explosion near the new restaurant in Beijing's Hepingli district two days before its official opening. Normally the prevailing westerly wind would have carried the fire towards the Mao restaurant but that night the wind miraculously changed direction and the establishment was saved. Clear evidence of Mao's celestial intervention, they said. The restaurant opened for business on Sunday with a lavish ceremony attended by Liu Siqi, widow of the late chairman's favoured son Mao Anying, as well as local government leaders from Beijing and Shaoshan. Mrs Tang said she wanted to open a restaurant in Beijing because ''Shaoshan was Mao's first home, Beijing was his second home''. The ''Shaoshan Mao Family Restaurant'' serves authentic spicy Hunan cuisine, including all the dishes Mao is said to have particularly enjoyed. It also provides Shaoshan mineral water from the bottling plant run by the chairman's grandson, Mao Xinning. The walls of the restaurant are lined with photographs of Mao in Shaoshan and the entrance is dominated by a huge reproduction of the famous picture of Mao and Mrs Tang in 1959. One modern addition is the karaoke dance hall attached to the restaurant, where guests can sing a whole range of Mao songs and modern popular hits. As the 100th anniversary of Mao's birth approaches, Mrs Tang has become something of a celebrity in China. Articles about her appear almost daily in the national press and visitors have been known to queue for hours just to shake the hand that shook the hand of Mao.