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Friday, 18 March 2016

Mao Zedong


Mao Zedong was born on December 26, 1893 in the village of Shaoshan village, in Xiangtan county, Hunan province. in South China.

The eldest son of four children, his father, Mao Yichang, was a grasping money lender and middle class peasant farmer who through hard work and peasant shrewdness had grown comparatively prosperous.

Mao Yichang was a stern disciplinarian, who would beat Zedong and his three younger siblings the boys Zemin and Zetan, and an adopted girl, Zejian.

Zedong's mother, Wen Qimei, was a devout Buddhist who tried to temper her husband's strict attitude.

Mao's childhood home in Shaoshan, 

His schooling was intermittent. Young Zedong received his preliminary education at Shaoshan Primary School. However, he resented and rebuffed the classical Chinese texts preaching Confucian morals and was instead more interested in popular novels.

In 1911 Mao joined the Revolution Army and fought against the Qing Dynasty. After that he went  to college with the aim of becoming a teacher. At the Fourth Normal School of Changsha, Zedong became an advocate of physical fitness and collective action.

Mao in 1913

After graduation from college, Zedong traveled to Beijing, but despite being a certified teacher, he was unable to find himself an employment. With the help of his mentor, Professor Yang Changji, Zedong secured the job of a library assistant at the Beijing University, but left after being unable to get promotion. He moved to Changsha where he was employed as a history teacher at the Xiuye Primary School.


Working on his father's farm, Mao read voraciously. He first developed a political consciousness from Zheng Guanying's booklet which lamented the deterioration of Chinese power and argued for the adoption of representative democracy.

During this time as assistant librarian at Beijing University.Mao Zedong gained information about the successful Russian Revolution which occurred at the other side of the globe.

After moving to Chsangsa, Zedong organized protests against the pro-Duan-governor of Hunan Province, Zhang Jinghui. He also co-founded the Hunanese Student Association and started a weekly radical magazine, Xiang River Review.

When the Communist Party of China was founded in 1921, Zedong became an inaugural member and opened a branch at Changsha.

He soon became a leader in the party. When the communists forged an alliance with Sun Yat-Sen’s Nationalist party, the Kuomintang, Zedong left work to become a full time revolutionary. He worked for Sun Yat-sen in Hunan and continued to organize peasant and industrial unions.

Mao the revolutionary in 1927.

With the death of Sun Yat-sen, the alliance collapsed as the successor, Chiang Kai-shek, was extremely rightist in his views. Chiang began a violent purge against the Communists, which eventually led to the loss of about 25,000 party members. Zedong accepted defeat and led his survivors on a 6,000 mile walk from Kiangsi, South East China to Yanan, North West China under harassment from the Nationalist army, a retreat which is called the Long March today.

During the 1934-35 Long March, Mao and his followers walked 30-40 miles a day crossing mountains, rivers and rugged grasslands. Although most of the 130,000 soldiers and civilians died during the journey, around 8,000 survived.

By 1935, the Chinese Civil War had caused 500,000 deaths. The Civil War subsided for a while when the Japanese invaded China in 1937 and during World War II, but picked up again quickly after the war.

By the end of World War II, Mao and the communists were stronger, having gained many supporters in the farms and the countryside. They routed the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island of Taiwan.


In 1949 Mao attained power when he drove Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalist party from the mainland at Nanking. He declared the beginning of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Mao Zedong declares the founding of the modern People's Republic of China. By Orihara1 - Wikipedia Commons

Mao ruled China from his emperor sized bedroom in his huge bed clad in an open dressing gown surrounded by books, food and women. He rarely went near an office.

In 1957 Chairman Mao announced The Great Leap Forward, an agrarian technological revolution, which he hoped would provide the pattern for the development of communist China.

One of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward was The Great Sparrow Campaign. The extermination of all the Chinese sparrows who were eating the rice upset the ecological balance, and enabled crop-eating insects to proliferate.

Mao saw grain and steel production as the key pillars of economic development. He encouraged the Chinese to smelt steel in their back gardens.

The Great Leap Forward was a huge failure, and as many as 50 million starved to death. Mao declared he would “share weal and woe with the nation,” and temporarily gave up eating meat.

His successor, Deng didn't blame Mao too much. He claimed his mistakes were "those of a great revolutionary and a great Marxist."

The failure of The Great Leap Forward temporary diminished Mao's influence. For several years afterwards he mostly abstained from the operations of government, making policy largely the domain of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Maoist ideology consequently took a back seat in the Communist Party,

Mao's Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, which was also known as the Little Red Book was first given to delegates of a conference on January 5, 1964.  A book of selected statements from speeches and writings by Mao Zedong it was half the size of a normal paperback. Party members were encouraged to carry a copy with them and possession was almost mandatory as a criterion for membership. As a result it is one of the top selling books in the world.

The Cultural Revolution, which Mao launched on May 16, 1966, marked his political comeback. Officially it was a campaign to rid China of its liberal bourgeois elements and to continue the revolutionary class struggle. By purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society he hoped to preserve 'true' Communist ideology in the country.

The Cultural Revolution banned all western films, even The Sound Of Music (an example according to the Chinese leader of western pornography), and only allowed uplifting films and songs which upheld the class struggle.

The Cultural Revolution also halted performances of traditional opera, as well as the scholarly study of ancient Chinese music that had begun in the Qing dynasty.

Cultural Revolution propaganda poster

The theme song of the 1966-69 Chinese Cultural evolution was "The East is Red". The song begins "The east turns red, day is breaking, Mao Zedong arises over Chinese soil."

Mao even decided that grass and flowers were bourgeois and ordered grass from lawns to be pulled up.

Mao knew nothing about economics and it showed. His cultural revolution led to much destruction of property, the loss of skilled manpower, managerial expertise and lower productivity.

Mao met with President Richard Nixon in 1972 in an effort to show openness to the west. As Mao was in poor health, Nixon mostly met with the Chinese leader's second-in-command Zhou Enlai. The meeting was an important part of the Cold War as China began to move closer to the US and away from the Soviet Union.

Mao greets United States President Richard Nixon during his visit to China in 1972

Mao could be humorous, often in a coarse way. An example was a little speech that Zedong used to use for visitors, which went as follows:"Our Fathers were indeed wise. They invented printing but not newspapers. They invented gunpowder but used it only for fireworks. Finally they invented the compass, but took care not to use it to discover America."

After coming to power Chairman Mao  tried to rid China once and for all of Christians, whom he considered to be imperialist traitors. Clearly he didn't succeed. Despite all the persecution the Chinese Christian church has endured, it is estimated that there are currently over 50 - 70 million Christians compared with five million in the mid 1980s. It is believed that at its present rate of growth China will have the largest Christian congregation in the world by 2030.


Raised as a Buddhist, Mao's teenage hero was George Washington. He only started being influenced by Marxist philosophy at the age of 22.

The political theory derived from the teachings of this Marxist-Leninst leader of China is called Maoism.


Mao had four wives:

Luo Yixiu (October 20, 1889 – February 11, 1910),  When Mao finished primary education at the age of 13 his father had him married to the 17-year-old Luo Yigu, uniting their land-owning families. Mao refused to recognize her as his wife, becoming a fierce critic of arranged marriage and temporarily moving away. Luo was locally disgraced and died in 1910.

Yang Kaihui (November 6, 1901 – November 14, 1930)  The daughter of Mao's mentor Professor Yang Chang, they married in 1920 without any wedding ceremony or other celebrations. Together they had three children: Mao Anying (1922-1950), Mao Anqing (1923-2007) and Mao Anlong (1927-1931).

Yang Kahui and children

In August 1927, Mao ended their marriage and Yang was beheaded by Chiang Kai Shek's nationalists during the revolution three years later for her refusal to renounce the Chinese Communist Party and Mao Zedong.

Yáng Kāihuì

He Zizhen (September 1909 – April 19, 1984)) They were married 1928 to 1939. A lifelong Communist and expert guerrilla fighter, she completed the Long March with Mao, He bore him three sons and three daughters, but except for their daughter Li Min ll their children died young or were separated from their family.

Mao with He Zizhen, 1928

Jiang Qing (March 19, 1914 – May 14, 1991) Mao first met the neurotic, imperious, failed actress Jiang Qing at the the Chinese Communist headquarters in Yan'an in 1937.  Some communist leaders were scandalized by the relationship once it became public. At 45, Mao was nearly twice Jiang's age, and Jiang had lived a highly bourgeois lifestyle before coming to Yan'an. in addition, Mao was still married to He Zizhen at the time. Eventually, Mao arranged a compromise with the other leaders of the  party:  He was granted a divorce and permitted to marry Jiang, but she was required to stay out of public politics for thirty years. Jiang abided by this agreement.

On November 28, 1938, Jiang and Mao married in a small private ceremony following approval by the Party's Central Committee.

Mao with Jiang Qing, called "Madame Mao", 1946

Jiang became active in politics in the mid 1960s and was the driving force behind the Cultural Revolution.

After Mao died his megalomaniac wife was downgraded to a bus conductor, tried and given a death sentence for treason. Later it was commuted to life imprisonment. She committed suicide in 1991.

Despite his puritan teaching, Mao was served by an increasingly younger collection of Chinese girls. The Chinese leader's doctor for 22 years, Dr Li Zhisu said "Mao's taste for women was like his eating habits. When he had a vegetable, he'd have a lot of it."

Mao claimed to believe in the Taoist assumption that sexual activity prolonged life,


Mao Zedong was broad shouldered and plumpish with black hair, a high forehead and dreamy eyes. In contrast to his early days when he maintained a spartan lifestyle he grew fat once he came to power. He was taller than the average Chinese, about 5ft 10 ins.

Mao Zedong portrait attributed to Zhang Zhenshi and a committee of artists. Wikipedia Commons

Mao was a plain, simple man who in public wore plain, simple clothes, especially a tunic buttoned to the top, without a shirt. During his leadership, most of the Chinese population started wearing similar Mao suits.

In private the Chinese leader rarely bothered to get dressed and spent most of his time in bathrobes. He only ever wore his official Mao uniform in public when the cameras were around.

Having grown up in Hunan, Mao spoke Mandarin with a marked Hunanese accent.


While working for the Peking University library, Mao acquired a taste for books, something he was to retain in later years. One of his favorite tomes was The Golden Lotus, an erotic classic about the 12th century Chinese aristocracy.

Mao wrote poetry, mainly in the ci and shi forms. Its literary merit is difficult to evaluate in the light of the author's political status.

Mao loved to chain smoke English cigarettes - his favorite brand, was State Express SSS. When his doctor asked him to cut down he explained “smoking is also a form of deep-breathing exercise.”

Chairman Mao disliked competitive sport. As he felt it was a barrier to clean living. During his rule China was very much in a sporting wilderness.

However Mao did enjoy swimming. In a power-play against Nikita Khrushchev during the Soviet leader's visit in 1958, Mao forced him to conduct a meeting in a pool. The 200lb Russian, who could not swim, was forced to wear floaters in the children's side of the pool while Mao swam laps and conducted the meeting. Khrushchev felt insulted and the incident furthered the deterioration of relations between the Soviet Union and China. 

On July 16, 1966 the 72-year-old  Chinese leader chose to join 5,000 other swimmers in Wuhan’s 11th annual Cross-Yangtze Competition. He allegedly swam 10 miles (16 km) in just over an hour from the Wuhan bridge over the Yangtze to prove his fitness and to prove himself invincible.

When Mao could swim no longer, the indoor swimming pool he had at Zhongnanhai was converted into a giant reception hall.


Mao was a lifelong insomniac who woke up when he pleased and sometimes remained awake for more than 24 hours. Mao frequently summoned his ministers in the middle of the night and seldom got out of bed before noon.

Mao Zedong suffered from chronic constipation caused by his addiction to opium based sleeping pills. At times the fingers of his guards were required to relieve it.

He refused to brush his teeth; instead he merely washed his mouth with tea.

In his lifetime Mao infected over 1000 girls with VD. As he was only a carrier and wasn't personally affected he refused treatment.

By the time he'd reached his 70s Mao had a weak heart so the Chinese leader was placed on a rigid diet.

According to his personal physician, Dr Li, Mao was probably mad throughout his entire leadership.


In his last years Mao met up with the American Jewish statesman, Dr Kissenger. He spent a lot of the conversation expressing his concern as to what happens when one dies.

He suffered two major heart attacks in 1976, one in March and another in July, before a third struck on September 5th, rendering him an invalid.  Mao also was suffering from Parkinson's Disease.

Mao Zedong died just after midnight, at 00:10, on September 9, 1976, at age 82.

China's billion citizens were asked to stand for three minutes in silent tribute to their late leader, the greatest single act of mourning the world has ever seen. After three minutes sirens and factory whistles were let off all over the land. Mao was embalmed and his corpse was placed in a crystal sarcophagus to be displayed in a Mausoleum in Beijing.

Adler his death, Mao's supporters were jailed, and Deng Xiaoping, who followed Mao, changed Mao's policies so that Chinese people could have more private ownership.


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