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The Mao Zedong Mausoleum

Mao Zedong Mauoleum on Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Mao Zedong Mausoleum / Mao Zedong Memorial Hall (Máo Zhǔxí Jìniàntáng – 毛主席纪念堂)

Mao Zedong had absolute power over millions of people for decades. Now he lies under a red flag in a glass case in a hall on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. Mao Zedong is seen as the father of modern China, and is still a heroic figure to most Chinese.

The atmosphere is reverent, it feels like a church. This place is a shrine not only to Mao, but to the hopes and ideals that lead a nation to revolution and rebirth. Many tourists will find the adoring attitudes of the Chinese people they see here much more interesting than the fleeting glimpse they get of a waxy body. Many Chinese are genuinely moved to finally see Mao in the flesh (or wax).

Rumours abound about the body interred here. Some people believe it is nothing more than a wax imitation. Others say that the body is decaying so badly that it needs repairs almost on a daily basis. Rumour has it that Mao’s left ear fell of and had to be stuck back on. Whilst not on display, the corpse is kept in a freezer directly below the Mausoleum.

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Mao’s personal physician Li Zhisui did nothing to quell the rumours with his description of the somewhat amateurish embalming process, and the surrounding political chaos in his memoirs ‘The Private Life of Chairman Mao’. He claims that the body was pumped so full of formaldehyde that it bloated beyond recognition, and had to be drained down again.

The queues are long but move quickly. You enter first of all into the North Hall, where there’s a white Mao statue which people leave flowers in front of. Next is the viewing hall, where you file past the body in less than a minute.

You exit into a small market area selling all the Mao memorabilia anyone could possibly want. This is probably the best place in the world to stock up on Mao watches, Mao lighters, Mao books and even Mao china.

Construction of the hall was completed in 1977, one year after Mao Zedong died at the age of 83. The Chairman had actually requested to be cremated, but for once he didn’t get his way.

Mao Zedong Mausoleum Practical Info

The queues are always enormous. Fear not, they move pretty quickly.

Entrance is free, but you have to pay 10Y to store your bags, and cameras are not allowed inside. You’re sometimes asked to show passports.

The atmosphere inside the hall is like a church. Don’t fool around, and take off your hats. The Mausoleum is a low building at the centre of Tiananmen Square.

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