Chinese Language Blog

Chairman Mao – From Birth to the PRC Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 in Culture

Mao's portrait on the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen).

Mao’s portrait on the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen).

It was 37 years ago today that the People’s Republic of China lost its founding father, Mao Zedong (毛泽东 – máo zé dōng). Although Chairman Mao may have moved on to the great beyond many years ago, his presence is still felt on a daily basis in China. Reach into your wallet, and you’re sure to see his face, as he is on the front of the 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 RMB notes. Step onto a university campus, and there’s a good chance you’ll find a massive statue of the Great Helmsman somewhere. Go shopping for souvenirs anywhere in China and you’ll stumble upon Mao t-shirts, posters, playing cards, and even flasks. Enter a home or taxi in the Middle Kingdom, and chances are you’ll see his face somewhere on the wall or dashboard. In short, Mao remains a very important and influential figure in China to this very day. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny his importance in modern history. In case you don’t know very much about the man who founded the PRC, here’s a brief rundown about his life, from his birth to the birth of a new China:

A very short biography on Mao.

Mao's childhood home in Hunan province.

Mao’s childhood home in Hunan province.

  • Born on December 26, 1893 in Shaoshan (韶山 – sháo shān), Hunan province.
  • Father, Mao Yichang, was born a peasant but became a wealthy farmer.
  • Mother, Wen Qimei, was a devout Buddhist.
  • Had two brothers and one sister, who was adopted.
  • Began attending school at age 8, and was working full-time in the fields by 13.
  • Father arranged a marriage for him when he was 14 to his distant relative, Luo Yigu. Mao never recognized the marriage, however.
  • Went to middle school in Changsha (长沙 – cháng shā), the capital of Hunan, in 1911.
  • Inspired by Sun Yat-sen, he joined the rebel army during the Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命 – xīn hài gé mìng).
  • Graduated from Hunan First Normal School in 1918 as a certified teacher.
  • Moved to Beijing, where he found a job as a library assistant at Peking University (北京大学 – běi jīng dà xué) and shared a crowded room with seven other people.
  • Was a founding member of the Communist Party of China (中国共产党 – zhōng guó gòng chǎn dǎng), and he set up a branch in Changsha.
  • Married Yang Kai-hui in 1921.
  • Aligned with the KMT to overthrow the warlords in charge in northern China.
  • When civil war broke out with the KMT, he helped to found the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (中国工农红军 – zhōng guó gōng nóng hóng jūn).
  • Wife was executed by the KMT in 1930.
  • Married He Zichen in 1930.
  • Led Communist forces on the Long March (长征 – cháng zhēng), a 6,000 mile trek from Jiangxi to Shaanxi to evade the KMT.
  • Wife was injured and sent to Moscow to receive medical treatment. While she was gone, he fell in love with and married an actress named Jiang Qing.
  • Taking refuge in Yanan, he became the clear leader of the Communist movement.
  • Once again aligned with Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT to fight the invading Japanese in 1937.
  • After the end of World War II, civil war once again broke out in China.
  • Communist forces drove the KMT out of mainland China to Taiwan.
  • Established the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.
Establishing the PRC on October 1, 1949.

Establishing the PRC on October 1, 1949.

Of course, our story is only just beginning at this point. This month, we’ll dive deeper into the story of Chairman Mao here. From the Great Leap Forward, to the Cultural Revolution, to his meeting with US President Richard Nixon, there’s much more to discuss.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Nicole:

    Thanks for the post. Whatever one’s feelings are about Mao, you’ve got to know about him if you want to understand China. Nice timeline and links, looking forward to watching the A&E bio too.
    Awesome post as always!

  2. Marjolein Hoekstra:

    Thanks for this post. Since you published it, the link to the A&E bio has become invalid. I presume this is the video you intended to link to:, part 1 of 4 on the Alpha History channel.

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