You Say You Want A Revolution…

In preparation for our discussion of Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro’s Son of the Revolution in History 306 on Tuesday, I’m pleased to discover that Stefan Landsberger’s collection of Chinese propaganda posters is still up, on a new site. Here is one from the heyday of the Mao cult:


“The sunlight of Mao Zedong Thought illuminates the road of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” Reproduced by permission of Marien van der Heijden of

Another artifact from the Cultural Revolution, one that Mr. Liang himself amassed a collection of: the Chairman Mao badge. A representative sample of these may be seen at When I visited China in 2005 one could buy them here and there, although my hunch is that most of them didn’t actually date from the Cultural Revolution. Still, they made good souvenirs, and I acquired a number as gifts for people in North America. Here are a couple I kept for myself:


And if you’re going to be buying Mao stuff, how can you not pick up a Little Red Book?


Now, as everyone knows, China is not really Communist anymore, even though the CCP jealously retains its grip on power. Deng Xiaoping (d. 1997) was the figure largely responsible for steering the Chinese economy away from its Maoist shackles and replicating some of the success of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Mao, however, remains a revered figure; his disastrous policies (like the Cultural Revolution and especially the Great Leap Forward) are explained away with the party-line fact that “Mao was 70% right and 30% wrong.” Thus, the series of currency notes released in 1999 featured a portrait of Mao on all denominations! Here is one left over from my trip:


(One woman suggested that this was a sop to old people who felt betrayed by China’s current direction. Nineteen ninety-nine also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of the People’s Republic of China.)

Other appearances of the Great Helmsman include:

tienanmengate copy

Mao’s portrait on the Tiananmen Gate, where he proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.


A line of people waiting to be admitted to Mao’s Mausoleum in Tiananmen Square.


Poster of Mao (accompanied by posters of Stalin, Lenin, and Marx) in a bookstore window, Beijing.


Statue of Mao in Kashgar, Xinjaing Province.