14 May 2014

The Young Mao of Changsha

As a young man Mao Zedong who would later become universally known as Chairman Mao found himself converted to communism in the city of Changsha in south central China.  When a memorial to the founding father of the People’s Republic was decided upon, the people of Changsha decided to go against the norm.  Instead of the mature leader most of the monuments of Mao depict, they decided that they would remember Mao as the young man who discovered his destiny in their city.

The granite statue stands over 100 feet tall and captures the Great Helmsman in rather more poetic terms than usual.  It stands on Juzi Island in the middle of Xiang River where Mao wrote an elegant and expansive poem praising the city.  The city has now returned the compliment in some style.


The Chairman is usually seen (in terms of statues, at least) standing and waving – and almost always standing.  However, this statue breaks with this tradition by showing Mao in a seated position, something the designers did deliberately to differentiate it from the imagery of times gone by and to make it more of a ‘fit’ with modern China.

Image Credit Flickr User Jon Cassie
Image Credit Flickr User Jon Cassie

The designers also chose to depict Mao at the exact age he wrote the poem about the city – he was 32 at the time.  Yet where the poem described how he gazed in rapture at Yeulu mountain, the statue has Mao with his back to it.  This was done for aesthetic purposes but the irony was not lost on the people of the city who immediately noticed it. Yet for many the statue and mountain framed in this way together gives the perfect picture of the young Mao and his aspirations for his nation.

Image Credit Flickr User Phileole
Image Credit Flickr User Phileole

Although the statue is generally admired throughout China some have pointed out that its cost – over $US50m was a little excessive and that perhaps the great man himself may not have approved of such extravagance, despite the country’s booming economy.  This may well, of course, be true: however it would be difficult for even the most modest of men not to be flattered.

Image Credit Flickr User Goh First Image Credit Flickr User Nar89

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