China has around 180 outdoor Mao statues left after political shift

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/25 18:03:39 Last Updated: 2016/12/26 8:29:04

A Mao statue stands at the south gate of Beijing Sport University. Photo: Li Hao/GT

A Mao statue stands at the south gate of Beijing Sport University. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Mao waves to passersby at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Mao waves to passersby at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Two students feed a stray cat beside a Mao statue at the China University of Geosciences. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Two students feed a stray cat beside a Mao statue at the China University of Geosciences. Photo: Li Hao/GT 

Students wearing masks on a smoggy day pass by a Mao statue at Beijing University of Chemical Technology. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Students wearing masks on a smoggy day pass by a Mao statue at Beijing University of Chemical Technology. Photo: Li Hao/GT

A bird rests on a Mao statue at the University of Science and Technology Beijing. Photo: Li Hao/GT

A bird rests on a Mao statue at the University of Science and Technology Beijing. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Monday marks the 123rd anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, founding father of the People's Republic of China. To celebrate his birthday, people pay tribute to statues of the chairman and hold various commemorative activities.

But most attendees of these activities are seniors. The remaining statues on Beijing college campuses stand quiet in the cold.

In 1967, the Red Guards of Beijing's Tsinghua University erected a tall Mao statue, initiating a nationwide wave of making Mao statues. A uniform standard has been set, which says the figure of Chairman Mao should stand 7.1 meters tall to coincide with the founding date of the Party, and the total height including the base should be 12.26 meters to symbolize his birthday. The statues must show Mao standing, either waving the right hand or with his hands at his back.

The fever cooled down in June 1969 when the central government issued a document, calling for the end to "formal and pompous" ways of promoting Mao's image.

A veteran sculptor estimated that more than 2,000 Mao outdoor statues were erected between 1967 and 1969, the Beijing Youth Daily reported last year.

In 1980, the central leadership released an instruction telling everyone to curb the personality cult. Since then many Mao statues have been taken down, including the statue in Tsinghua.

Incomplete statistics show that there are about 180 outdoor Mao statues built during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) still standing, and some of them have been classed as cultural relics.

In 1993, the 100th anniversary of Mao's birth, some places re-erected Mao statues, and the creation of Mao statues restarted. But unlike the old days when sculpture work was voluntary, the statues are now sold for cash.

In 2008, a stainless steel Mao statue was placed at Chongqing Medical University. With a total height of 37.4 meters and a weight of 46 tons, the statue was said to be the country's largest one of Mao and cost nearly 5 million yuan ($720,000).

From a political symbol to a product, the changes in how China uses Mao statues also convey the gigantic transitions of Chinese society.

Though, Mao statues now only stand in a few colleges, Mao's legacy is still affecting a vast number of young people in China. The Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought is a required course for college students.

Global Times
Newspaper headline: Shifting legacy


Posted in: IN-DEPTH

blog comments powered by Disqus