Long Live the Mao Suit

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Source: McKirdy Euan and Shen Lu, CNN: “China: Giant gold Mao statue torn down,” 2016, Henan Province

The image above was taken for a CNN news article titled “China: Giant gold Mao statue torn down.” In this image, a giant statue of Mao looms over agricultural Henan province, a bright symbol in an otherwise dreary landscape. The golden Mao statue is dressed in a traditional Mao suit in which four pockets, representing propriety, justice, honesty, and a sense of shame, and five center front buttons are present. The article explains how this 120-foot statue, which was funded and constructed by businessman and rural communities, has reportedly been demolished at the hands of state authorities.

The image exemplifies how Maoist China, as aesthetically characterized by Chairman Mao in the Mao suit, representing a uniform and militarized society, has persisted into the modern political fabric of China, leaving ideological and symbolic remnants in its wake. Further, the image of Chairman Mao in a Mao Suit stands as an ironic symbol of failed socialist reforms. When viewing this image, one can observe various signs upon conducting a deep connotative analysis of the image:

Landscape: In the image, the barren agricultural landscape stands in contrast to the bright golden Mao statue in the forefront of the picture. The golden statue represents how a wealthy central state in China has often been accrued at the expense of the peasants. The CNN article mentions how the erecting of the statue in the Henan province has been controversial given that the area had been “hardest hit by the famines of the 1950s and 60s, which were brought on by Mao’s disastrous “Great Leap Forward” economic and social reforms” (McKirdy and Lu). The contrast between the statue and the landscape is ironic considering that, though Maoist policies killed many people in the Henan province, his iconic image in the Mao suit is still glorified by the proletariat peasant class.

Height and Size: The sheer size and height of the statue is significant to consider.  Standing tall at 120 feet, the Mao statue looms over residents of the Henan province. The height and size of the statue demonstrates Mao’s power and control over mass amounts of people. The modern statue continues to glorify Mao’s political reign and portray him as a godly and heroic manifestation. These values place control and power at the hands of political leaders rather than at the hands of a democratic public. The statue cost 3 million yen to build, a large sum of money disproportionately and nonsensically connected to the land and population to which the statue was built under.

Mao Suit and Legacies: The image represents a clear glorification and deification of Chairman Mao and his legacies. It is interesting to note, also, that Mao’s image in the Mao suit is glorified in other public locations, including the Tiananmen Square. In these images, Mao can be noticeably recognized in the Mao suit, both a model and legacy of a uniformed and socialist past. This legacy and past as aesthetically represented by Mao in the Mao Suit is in contention with the current Chinese government, as they have ordered the statue to be torn down. any critical comments that can be made about the contrast?

The image ultimately shows how Mao in the Mao suit is a symbol of a socialist era and a political past that is symbolized, celebrated, and glorified by pockets of Chinese citizens. Legacies of Maoism have endured time, ideological and symbolic components of the political era persisting into the modern era.

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