Mao Zedong Unveiled: 45 Fascinating Facts About the Notorious Chinese Leader

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1Hundred Flowers Campaign

Hundred Flowers Campaign

Seven years after the Chinese Republic was established, Mao Zedong allowed people to express their opinions on the way the country was being run in a campaign called the Hundred Flowers Campaign. After a year, the campaign was withdrawn and those who spoke against the government were jailed or unheard of since.

2. Mao Zedong’s “100 Flowers Campaign” was promptly followed by the Anti-Rightist Movement Purge. 300,000 to 550,000 people were identified as rightists, most of them intellectuals, academics, writers, and artists, and many were forced into Labor Camps for “re-education.”

3. In 1966, when Mao Zedong launched the “cultural revolution” in China, he banned all cultural work that did not have the required ideological content, including Shakespeare. The ban was removed only in 1977, after China’s economic opening to the Western World.

4. When Dong Xiwen’s oil painting of China's founding was first unveiled in 1953, it was lauded as one of the greatest paintings ever made by a Chinese. Later, Dong had to edit the painting by removing Gang Gao, the man standing next to Mao, who later “committed suicide” because he urged Mao to retire.

5. The “Mao Suit” that is often associated with Chairman Mao Zedong was actually introduced by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, who is considered the “Father of Modern China” by both governments in the Republic of China in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China in the mainland.

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6Mao vs Stalin

Mao vs Stalin

Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong despised each other. Soviet agents claim Stalin had ordered Mao to be fed well during his 10 days' visit to Moscow. Mao’s excrement was collected daily for tests. Scientists wanted to determine the state of mind of the Chinese leader by examining his excrement.

7. U.S. President Harry S. Truman called Mao Zedong ‘Mousie Dung’ in private.

8. When he was young, Mao Zedong dropped out of a police academy, a soap-production company, a law school, an economics school, and a government-run middle school. He spent his time independently studying core works of classical liberalism by Western authors, scientists and philosophers.

9. Mao Zedong was originally an anarchist when he became a librarian's assistant at Peking University in 1919. He was exploring both anarchism and Marxism simultaneously but chose to convert to the latter.

10. Mao Zedong never brushed his teeth and by the time of his death, his teeth were covered in a green film. Mao had a habit, which was shared by many peasants in China, of washing his mouth in the morning with tea and then eating the tea leaves. Once, when his private physician suggested to him that he should use a toothbrush, he replied, “A tiger never brushes his teeth.”

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11Mao's Mandarin

Mao's Mandarin

Mao Zedong was actually a Hunanese speaker and his Mandarin was so bad that he had to have people translate his words into comprehensible Mandarin Chinese.

12. After Mao Zedong gifted mangoes to workers during China's Cultural Revolution, a mango cult developed, with workers preserving mangoes in formaldehyde and making wax mango replicas. Workers worshipped mangoes, holding processions that celebrated them and equating them with Mao’s image. One dentist who compared the mangoes to sweet potatoes in appearance was executed.

13. Mao Zedong’s ‘New Marriage Law’ of 1950 outlawed arranged marriages, enabled women to divorce their husbands, and made it illegal for men to have multiple wives. However, women continued to face pressure to marry workers and farmers to prove their socialist values during his era.

14. The initial 1972 meeting between President Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong was planned for 15 minutes, but it lasted for about an hour. Mao seemed to only want to talk about philosophic questions, although Nixon brought up questions like the India-Pakistan crisis, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Korea.

15. North Korea has its ethnic Chinese community dating to the 1800s, whose members hold passports of the People’s Republic of China. China in the 1960s, 1970s had lower living standards than North Korea and Kim Il-sung’s dictatorship was seen as more predictable and less moody than Chairman Mao.

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16Mao During Civil War

Mao During Civil War

When the Japanese invaded China during World War 2, Mao Zedong allied his party with his opponent in the Chinese Civil War, Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party). At this time, the KMT was a proper military and the Communists were literally a peasant guerrilla army. While KMT bore the brunt of fighting the Japanese, Mao and his army hung around the countryside, recruiting and growing in strength. When the Chinese Civil War resumed, Mao’s army starved Kuomintang forces in some cities and massacred them in many other places.

17. During the Chinese Civil War that lasted between 1928 and 1949, Stalin advised a coalition government between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party in postwar China, but the proposal was rejected by Mao Zedong.

18. During the period of Mao, China made several concessions to North Korea, such as handing over part of the territory of Changbai/Paekdu Mountain to North Korea and granting it other privileges in Northeast China during the early 1960s.

19. Stalin saved the Chinese written script by talking Mao Zedong out of completely replacing it with full-scale Romanization (Latin alphabets to transliterate Chinese). After the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, Mao wanted a radical break with old ways and thought that China’s beautiful yet complicated and inefficient script was a hindrance to the country’s development. After Stalin talked him out of it, the regime instead simplified many Chinese characters, supposedly making them easier to learn.

20. Mao Zedong promoted higher birth rates in China and its population grew from 550 million to over 900 million during his reign as he believed that population growth empowered the country. He then reversed his policy in 1970, where citizens were encouraged to marry at later ages and many were limited to having only two children.

213-anti & 5-Anti Campaigns

3-anti & 5-Anti Campaigns

In the 1950s, Mao’s government purged capitalists and political opponents by abusing them verbally and physically until they confessed, often committing suicide. Jumping from tall buildings became so common that people avoided walking near skyscrapers, afraid that bodies might land on them.

22. In 1972, Richard Nixon was insulted by Mao Zedong’s gift of 50 grams of Da Hong Pao tea, until he was told that it was half of China’s entire crop and was worth around $250,000 in today’s money.

23. Mao Anying was the son of Mao Zedong. He fought for China in various wars, before ultimately being killed in the Korean War. Mao Zedong did not know about his death for about two months, despite being the head of government of China. Mao had originally groomed Anying to succeed him as the head of China but after Anying died none of Mao’s other children or wives were fit to succeed him so he appointed non-relative successor Hua Guofeng.

24. When Hua Guofeng arrived in Beijing in February 1971, he was virtually unknown. Yet just five-and-a-half years later he succeeded Mao as China’s paramount leader, catapulted over the heads of veteran revolutionaries, seasoned senior administrators, and accomplished Marxist theoreticians.

25. Mao Zedong was personally struck by the loss of his son, Mao Anqing, during the Korean War, a war he had effectively started. North Korea and China commemorated each other’s support in their struggle against the United States and there is a Chinese soldiers’ cemetery north of Pyongyang.

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