A giant Mao statue is being erected on farmland in the small village of Zhushigang in central China. The giant effigy pays homage to the communist leader who is historically known for being the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China and Communist Party of China.
Sky News reports the giant Mao statue has taken nine months to build so far and has cost nearly 3 million yuan ($460,000). According to The People’s Daily, the golden painted statue depicting Chairman Mao (also known as Mao Zedong) sitting in thoughtful repose with his hands crossed was mostly funded by entrepreneurs, while villagers also made financial contributions. Overall the statue measures an impressive 120 feet (36.6 meters) in height.
The giant statue has received criticism on several fronts online. Weibo user @Xinjiangkankan joked “It doesn’t look like Chairman Mao. I guess it’s someone from the village.” It has been suggested that the Mao statue lacks resemblance to the deceased communist leader.
Some are showing their appreciation for the statue, with one Weibo user simply saying “Bada**” and others suggest that the 3 million yuan is money well spent as it will drive millions more in tourism revenue for the region.
Primarily, the giant Mao statue is facing disapproval for not only being a waste of money and resources, but also for the location in which it stands. Ironically, the Zhushigang village is located in the Henan Province, which is one of China’s poorest regions and was the center of The Great Chinese Famine that lasted from 1959 to 1961. The famine stemmed from Chairman Mao’s policies implemented during the Great Leap Forward where he launched a social and economic campaign for agricultural collectivization from 1958 to 1961.
The Great Leap program aimed to establish large agricultural communes with up to 75,000 people working in the crop fields. Mao offered to provide workers a share of the profits and land. In the beginning, the campaign seemed promising until major disasters hit. Bad harvests and floods diminished the country’s food supply and triggered a famine that destroyed entire villages and took the lives of millions.
In a synopsis of Yang Jisheng’s book Tombstone (his personal account of The Great Chinese Famine), The Guardian quoted Jisheng noting the death toll as staggering. “Most officials have admitted is 20 million…It is equivalent to 450 times the number of people killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.” Other reports have cast the death toll to around 45 million people over a three-year span.
Despite being responsible for the loss of so many lives, Mao is still highly regarded by many in China (hence the giant statue). His legacy is the revolution that he ignited in China when he founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Over his 27-year reign, Mao is credited with raising the status of women in China, increasing life expectancy, ending the civil war and unifying the country.
Some accredit Mao’s favorability to the current communist leadership that has a tight grasp on the interpretations of China’s history and use his legacy to ensure its support.
On November 5, 2015 China File curated data on all of the Mao statues across China. Once completed, this one in progress will be the second tallest. The largest of all giant Mao statues was erected in 2008, and can be found in Chongqing, in southwestern China. It stands at 122.7 feet (37.4 meters), weighs 46-tonnes and can be seen from five kilometers away.
Mao has been commemorated in more than 2,000 statues in cities across China with the Henan Province being a Mao statue hotspot.
[Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images]