Mao Zedong took an active interest in radical politics from an early age. Many of his first forays into communist thinking began in the south-central Chinese city of Changsha, where he is now honored with a massive granite version of his head.
Unlike most representations of China’s Great Leader, the 105-foot-tall sculpture built on Changsha’s river-bound Orange Island remembers the controversial figure as a man in the full blush of youth. With stone hair looking as though it is playing in the wind, and the smooth features of a dashing rogue, the bust, built in 2007, is based on Mao’s look circa 1925. This differs from the usual portrayal of an elder statesman, or “helmsman” of the country.
The statue stands out not just for its size but its bold presentation. This being the case, the piece was not without its critics. Given the estimated cost of $300 million, many people found the tribute wasteful. However, Changsha’s pride in Mao’s history with the city was so great as to overcome any objections.
No matter how one feels about the great leader, or communism in general, Changsha’s towering piece of hero worship is an impressive sight and an indelible reminder of the man’s continuing influence in Chinese culture.
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