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avant-garde_chauvintist wandering through the garden of ideals

Chairman Mao

CHINA | Thursday, 31 January 2008 | Views [938] | Comments [2]

My sister has called him the "pickled historical figure". Some people worship him. Others liken him to Hitler and Stalin. And still others wait in line to see his corpse.

In the middle of Tian'anmen Square there is a shrine to Mao Zedong. (Tian'anman, by the way, translates to "Gate of Heaven and Peace", directly.) It is his tomb. It's built in the Soviet style (concrete, grey, huge, columns). It has statues of workers during the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward earnestly doing the work they were told to do. It has Mao's dead, not decomposing body in it. Along with other Mao trinkets and memorabilia.

I went to visit it today. I obligingly took off my hat when prompted by the signs. I stared up his nostrils as I walked in and glanced at his caligraphy on the walls as I walked out. I could not stop thinking, "This is so f-ed up," during the entire 20 minutes that this excursion took.

Mao, some people may know, made China kind of what it is now. And he killed many millions of people in the process. From the Great Leap Forward (during which making steel was the nation's only concern, letting them forget that pesky task of growing food) to the Cultural Revolution (saying anything was pretty much going to get you denounced, so you might as well act like hard labor at the food of the Himalayas is your idea of a freakin' BLAST, man), Mao really turned the country around.

But the trouble is, most Chinese people (most people in general, for that matter), have no idea who he was, why he was so successful, or all the horrors that the Chinese people faced while he was Chairman of the Communist Party of China. We know so little of him, in fact, that it's easy for the Chinese who visit the masoleum to pay their respects to assume that the Westerners are there to worship their beloved hero as well. It's implausible for many Westerners to do such a thing, but I have a feeling many have no idea why this man is, in fact, pickled. Or why the Chinese seem to regard him so highly while Westerners scoff at his name.

I have a minute knowledge of Chinese history. Just a second of time in my brain compared to the eons that have transpired. And all this Cult of Mao in an atheist country, all this communism with Chinese characteristics, all this alliteration with the letter C that I've learned over the last six months has basically made me want to explode.

In other news, the Great Fire Wall of China is no longer censoring the news articles about the Olympics. And they're getting interesting -- people being arrested for having blogs, threats to the rest of the world that the Olympics aren't a way of making China back down...

What will Chinese history say about today's China?

Tags: Culture



i miss you... :(

  gabe Feb 12, 2008 11:20 AM


his spirit is left...you know,HARMONIOUS SOCIETY! this is ridiculous.

pickled historical figure! first time to hear this description.it rocks.

  You Feb 25, 2008 12:06 AM

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