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The Little Red Book

The Little Red Book – Quotations of Mao Zedong

See Also: Chairman Mao Zedong

The Little Red Book, more properly known as ‘The Quotations of Mao Zedong’, is the world’s second most published book. It’s estimated that around 900million copies have been printed. Only the Bible has been printed more, and it had a head start of almost 2000 years.

The Little Red book is a collection of 427 quotations from Mao Zedong. The quotations are divided into the 33 sections of life to which they apply with sections on discipline, patriotism, and the role of women.

The Little Red Book – Politics

The Little Red Book was first published by the Chinese government in 1966 and owes its popularity to the Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s. During this dangerous time, not carrying, reading and quoting the book would have been seen as a sign of divergence from Mao’s way, which could lead to ostracisation or even death.

At this time it was so important to show the ‘correct’ political attitude that even scientific papers regularly quoted Mao’s works, and virtually every citizen owned a personal copy of the book.

Little Red Book Quotes

Some of the quotes have become very well known, for example, this from the section of the book dealing with war and peace: “Every Communist must grasp the truth; Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Others, such as this not so fascinating titbit from the section involving the role of women in society, have remained less well known ‘In agricultural production our fundamental task is to adjust the use of labour power in an organised way and to encourage women to do farm work.’

Little Red Book Imitators

The Little Red Book has spawned numerous imitators, there are now ‘little red books’ on every subject from golf to God. Nowadays you’re more likely to see Chinese people reading the ‘Little Red Book of Sales’ than Quotations of Mao Zedong, but they are still popular among tourists keen to take back a piece of China’s political history.

Mao Zedong the Poet

Mao Zedong was also quite a poet, although his status as demi-god and supreme dictator obviously did more than a little to help his literary career.

In the following poem, he foresaw the building of the Yangtze River Three Gorges Dam, something which has been an ambition of Chinese leaders ever since. The poem is entitled ‘Swimming’.

I have just drunk the waters of Changsha
And come to eat the fish of Wuchang.
Now I am swimming across the great Yangtze,
Looking afar to the open sky of Chu.
Let the wind blow and waves beat,
Better far than idly strolling in a courtyard.
Today I am at ease.
It was by a stream that the Master said –
‘Thus so things flow away!’

Sails move with the wind.
Tortoise and Snake are still.
Great plans are afoot:
A bridge will fly to span the north and south,
Turning a deep chasm into a thoroughfare;
Walls of stone will stand upstream to the west
To hold back Wushan’s clouds and rain
Till a smooth lake rises in the narrow gorges.
The mountain goddess if she is still there
Will marvel at a world so changed.

Recommended Chinese culture articles:

Traditional Chinese Architecture: Evolution and History, Chinese Siheyuan Courtyards

Chinese Religion: How To Tell Chinese Temples Apart, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism

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Beijing Society: Er Nai, Lucky Numbers, Chinese Etiquette, Drugs in China

Chinese History: Chairman Mao Zedong, Eunuchs, Chinese Emperors, Ancient History Timeline, Concubines, 20th Century Timeline


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