Spinning Mao

Statuette of Chairman Mao

Ceramic statuette of Mao. Image by Greentea Design.

Mao Tse Tung was the Chinese Communist revolutionary who instigated the Chinese revolution and established the People’s Republic of China, and held the nation under his authoritarian control for over 30 years.

Mao button

Mao button. Image from Cafe Press.

There remains controversy on how he would be portrayed in history. People either love him or loathe him. His regime was pretty barbaric, with the massacre of his enemies, widespread violence and terror, and a purging of everything in Chinese culture that did not serve his purposes — religion, personal wealth, opposing ideologies, and all foreign influences and contributions.

Despite his reputation as monstrous mass murderer, there’s no denying how he has he has made an indelible mark on the Chinese culture and psyche. He has become a kind of a god for many Chinese, who gravitate toward the power that he represented. Portraits of him can be found in many Chinese homes. His speeches are rendered in beautiful calligraphy and proudly hung in public places. Shaoshan, his birthplace, from which emerged the death of Chinese religion, ironically has become a shrine to which thousands make their pilgrimage.

Mao pop art

A suite in Hullet House, Hong Kong.

Mao Tse Tung has become a cultural icon that symbolizes China. His face and figure can be found in every souvenir shop in China — where T-shirts, mugs, keychains, refrigerator magnets are emblazoned with his image, sometimes in an absurdly irreverent manner.

Image from Bootstrappin'.

Mickey Mao bust. Image from Say No to Crack.

Mao T-shirtImage from Cafe Press.


Whether his elevation to the status of icon and element of Chinese art and design has evolved naturally or contrived artificially, Mao Tse Tung’s image has indeed undergone a spin into the artsy and cool.

Andy Warhol's MAO screenprints, 1972.

Mao Pop Art

Print by artist Tom Kristensen

Glitch art by David Szauder

Posted in Culture, Design, Travel | Tagged

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