Living Revolution | Dying for Revolution

Mao Zedong

A Long Life Comes to an End

All this chanting of ‘Long Life!’ is in contravention of natural laws. Sooner or later, people die. They might be invaded by germs, or crushed by a collapsing building, or blown to pieces by an atom bomb. One way or another they end up dying. Once you're dead you shouldn't occupy any space. Burn the bodies. I'll take the lead. We should all be cremated when we die. Be turned into ashes and used to fertilize the fields.

Comments made by Mao Zedong in January 1956, upon the signing of
"A Proposal for Central Leaders to Support Posthumous Cremation."

Mao died on September 9, 1976 at the age of eighty-two. His body became a factor in the struggle to succeed him. Anyone wishing to honor his earlier desire to be cremated would have been politically doomed, and his corpse was therefore embalmed for permanent preservation and display. It was eventually housed in a dedicated memorial hall constructed in Tiananmen Square. (See the Mao Mausoleum page of the Tiananmen Square tour.) Unfortunately, the embalmers didn't quite make it to the corpse in time, and it bears the unmistakable signs of decay.


Mao lying in state

With Mao’s death, the Cultural Revolution had finally come to an end.

For more information, see the essay MaoBody, by Geremie Barmé.


Hall of Last Respects


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