Mao as a Complicated Man

August 2, 2016

Mao was fifty-six when he became China’s leader and seventy-two at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. But who was Mao for the other fifty-five years before he ruled China?

Many outside of China only think of Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) as a brutal dictator, but he was more than that.

For instance, as a child, his father was a stern disciplinarian who beat him and his three siblings often, and Mao became an avid reader.

And while commanding the Red Army during The Long March (1934-1935), he was a man respected by China’s peasants. Then there was Mao’s move away from Communist Russia after Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, when Mao said to Nixon, “Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, doesn’t approve of this.”

In 1935, Mao’s poem, “The Long March”, reveals an awareness of the sacrifice and the willingness to suffer to accomplish great things.

The Red Army fears not the trials of the March,
Holding light ten thousand crags and torrents.
The Five Ridges wind like gentle ripples
And the majestic Wumeng roll by, globules of clay.
Warm the steep cliffs lapped by the waters of Golden Sand,
Cold the iron chains spanning the Tatu River.
Minshan’s thousand li of snow joyously crossed,
The three Armies march on, each face glowing.

Mao was a complex man, and it wasn’t until after the failure of the The Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1961) that the fatal attraction and power of leadership corrupted him leading to the horrors of The Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), that Mao’s many critics outside of China use to define him.

Anyone who follows all of Mao’s life instead of relying on his last decade would understand that he cared deeply about the common people while punishing the landowners and wealthy, who abused the people he cared about.  On the other hand, his foe, Chiang Kai-shek, supported the landowners and wealthy while crushing the peasants and workers, but few outside of China condemn this brutal dictator who was a U.S. ally.

Mao Zedong Poems reveals what Mao might have been thinking about as President Johnson increased America’s involvement in Vietnam. Was Mao also warning us of what he was about to do in 1966, when he launched The Cultural Revolution?

Two Birds: A Dialogue (1965)

The roc wings fanwise,
Soaring ninety thousand li
And rousing a raging cyclone.
The blue sky on his back, he looks down
To survey Man’s world with its towns and cities.
Gunfire licks the heavens,
Shells pit the earth.
A sparrow in his bush is scared stiff..
“This is one hell of a mess!
O I want to flit and fly away.”
“Where, may I ask?”
The sparrow replies,
“To a jewelled palace in elfland’s hills.
Don’t you know a triple pact was signed
Under the bright autumn moon two years ago?
There’ll be plenty to eat,
Potatoes piping hot,
Beef-filled goulash.”
“Stop your windy nonsense!
Look, the world is being turned upside down.”

Through Mao’s poetry, we learn more about the man beyond the demonized stereotype created in the media outside of China.

And Do the Chinese People Currently Consider Mao Zedong to Be Evil or a Hero. In Forbes, Kaiser Kuo writes, “If I were forced to say there’s a dominant view of Mao among mainlanders, it would be that Mao was ‘good’ up until the very early 1950s — before the Anti-Rightist Campaign got into full swing, and before he set China on a course toward collectivization. Whether or not these beliefs can be supported by fact, it’s widely believed among Chinese that Mao led the Communist Party and its Red Army in effective resistance against the Japanese invaders; that they represented a morally superior vision over that offered by the Guomindang (the Nationalist Party) — a vision that championed egalitarianism, feminism, anti-imperialism, anti-feudalism, nationalism; and that they allowed China to ‘stand up’ after a century of abject humiliation beginning with the Opium War. After 1949, land redistribution and the Marriage Law (which was, by any measure, a very progressive piece of legislation) won them plaudits too.”

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Did Mao Zedong have Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)? – Part 2 of 2

July 13, 2016

Mao born in 1893 grew up during a period of madness in China’s history. To learn more, I suggest reading The Roots of Madness.

The Chinese Civil War lasted from 1926 to 1949 with a few years out to fight the horrors of the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.

The horrors of Mao’s Long March by itself was enough to cause PTSD in all 6,000 of its survivors from the more than 80,000 troops that started the year-long journey of retreat, battle, and severe suffering that was threatened by death on a daily basis.

After Mao was China’s leader, there was an assassination attempt by one of his most trusted generals, Lin Biao, a man Mao had named as his successor after he died.  In addition, during China’s Civil WarChiang Kai-shek ordered more than one failed assassination attempt on Mao.

However, the threats and violence that shaped Mao’s life began before The Long March and before he was a leader in the Chinese Communist Party.

As a child, he grew up among farmers and peasants with an average expected life span in China of 35 years. In the 1920s, as an idealist and a sensitive poet, he believed in helping the worker and led several labor movements that were brutally subdued by the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek.

Once, Mao barely escaped with his life.

In 1930, Yang Kaihu, his wife at the time — Mao was married four times — was arrested and executed. In addition, Mao had two younger brothers and an adopted sister executed by Chiang Kai-shek’s troops.

If you had several close calls with death; lost a wife, two younger brothers and an adopted sister in this way, how would that affect you?

To judge Mao by today’s Politically Correct Western values is wrong, because he grew up in a world ruled by a completely different set of values that shaped him to be tough enough to survive.

Anyone that survived and went on to rule China at that time would have been judged as brutal by today’s Politically Correct Western values. In fact, Chiang Kai-shek was a brutal dictator who ruled Taiwan — after he fled mainland China in 1949 — under military marshal law until his death in 1976. But Chiang didn’t have as many people to rule over so the death count he caused was smaller but no less significant.

The History of Humanitarianism shows us that this concept was born and nurtured in the West and developed slowly over centuries with the result that the individual was made more important than the whole.

However, in China, the whole is still more important than one person as it was during Mao’s time. If you were to click on the link to the History of Humanitarianism and read it, you would discover that China was not part of this movement while Mao lived. (Discover more about China’s Collective Culture)

PTSD as a war wound and a trauma was not recognized or treated until well after America’s Vietnam War.  Prior to its discovery, it was known as shell shock. The diagnosis of PTSD first appeared in the 1980s, and Mao died in 1976.

In fact, if Mao were alive today he would not be alone. In the United States, it is estimated that 7.8% of all Americans suffer from PTSD, and among that segment of the population, more than 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans have PTSD in addition to 1.7 million Vietnam veterans.

Return to or start with Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet, is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Did Mao Zedong have Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)? – Part 1 of 2

July 12, 2016

Was Mao the monster that the Western media often makes him out to be, or was he just a product of his environment and life?

Mao has been judged by a Western value system that did not exist in China or the United States during his lifetime. In addition, it is now known that who we grow up to become as adults is partially due to genetics but mostly from environmental and lifestyle influences.

Mao grew up in a world nothing like most in the West have ever experienced.  He was born into China’s collective culture where the individual was not more important than the whole.

There is a strong possibility that Mao also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and this may have influenced his behavior and decisions during the years he ruled China [1949 – 1976].

Helping Psychology reports, “PTSD victims tend to be in a continuous state of heightened alertness. The trauma that precipitates the disorder essentially conditions them to be ever-ready for a life threatening situation to arise at any moment … But the continuous releases of brain chemicals that accompany this reaction time – and their inability to control when this heightened reactivity will occur – take psychological and biological tolls on PTSD victims over time.”

Then Medicine Net.com reports, “Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) usually results from prolonged exposure to a traumatic event or series thereof and is characterized by long-lasting problems with many aspects of emotional and social functioning.”

American combat veterans are not the only people on this planet to suffer from PTSD. Every person is susceptible to the ravages of a violent trauma, and if we examine Mao’s life, it could be argued that PTSD played a strong role in the decisions he made as he aged.

We will examine Mao’s long history as a victim of violence in Part 2

Continued on July 13, 2016 in Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet, is the best-selling, award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on March 13 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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China’s Stick People – the rural urban divide

December 25, 2012

I’m always looking for information about China, and I learned something new from The Economist’s May 6, 2010 issue. Click the link to read the entire piece or read this summary. I bought the magazine.

China has two classes—rural and urban.  The urban people have prospered for the last thirty years as China built a middle class.  Most rural Chinese have not been able to benefit from the booming economy and are getting restless.

Rural land outside China’s cities usually belongs to collectives. When Mao won China, the Communists divided the land among villages—not individuals. Individuals do not hold title to farmland and cannot sell land that no one owns.

China saw what was happening in India when farmers sold their plots to developers.  Rural people in India flocked to the cities and built sprawling slums. To avoid that, the Chinese government created a system to keep rural people on their farms.  Another motivation was fear of another famine like the one that struck China from 1959 to 1961 killing millions from starvation. If farmers left the fields for a better lifestyle in cities, that nightmare might return.

An experiment was tried in rural areas outside Chongqing to see if the land can be divided among individuals while increasing food production. Since the government still hasn’t figured out how to make the transition smoothly, don’t expect rural land reforms to happen quickly.

Read about China’s middle class expanding

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Beauty of Art through Silence

December 11, 2012

The art displayed in this post comes from deaf artists, who are graduates of the Shandong Provincial Rehabilitation and Career School, an institute in China that trains young Chinese with disabilities.

 

In 1949, Mao Zedong launched the People’s Republic of China and ruled with an iron fist for almost three decades.

During Mao’s time, there was almost no free artistic expression in China unless the art served the propaganda needs of the state. But today, that has changed.

Zhang Guoli, Sons

After Deng Xiaoping opened China to a global market economy, the post Mao generation was introduced to Western art and theory.


Huang Jinpo, Earth

It wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that art from China started to emerge.


This is the dormitory where the artists live.

The photos in this post are presented with permission from “Embracing the Uncarved Wood, Sculptural Reliefs from Shandong, China“, which was made possible by a generous grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and with assistance from the Office of the Provost of Franklin & Marshall College. ISBN: 978-0-910626-04-0

Discover Chinese Yu Opera with Mao Wei-tao

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine SagaWhen you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Mao and Snow

December 3, 2012

During one of our trips to Shanghai, China, my wife and I went to see a film called Mao Zedong and Edgar Snow.

Edgar Snow (1905 – 1972) was an American journalist known for his books and articles on Communism in China and the Chinese Communist revolution. He is believed to be the first Western journalist to interview Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, and is best known for Red Star Over China (1937) an account of the Chinese Communist movement from its foundation until the late 1930s.

The film was in Mandarin and wasn’t subtitled, so I had to watch carefully to understand what was going on. I Googled the move and found little about it on the Internet.

However, I discovered that Edgar Snow’s wife threatened to sue China if the movie was released but that didn’t stop the Chinese.

There’s no doubt that Mao had to have charisma to lead so many men in battle for so many years to win the civil war.


Edgar Snow and Mao

However, Mao changed after he became a modern emperor, and the power corrupted him. The evidence—the results of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the purges that killed so many.

There was a positive side too.  Mao’s success in the CCP’s war against poverty, the increase in life expectancy that almost doubled during Mao’s rule and the health programs that were implemented such as the bare foot doctors. The reason so many Chinese still think of Mao as the George Washington of China was because life after 1949 was better than life before the CCP won the Civil War.

Students of China may want to see this movie, but the only place one may buy a DVD of this movie is probably China.

When Edgar Snow came down with pancreatic cancer, Zhou Enlai dispatched a team of Chinese doctors to Switzerland to treat him.

The next best thing would be to read Snow’s book about Mao, Red Star Over China and/or discover about Health Care During Mao’s Time.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Chinese Poetry during the Tang Dynasty

October 22, 2012

The Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD) is regarded as one of the most prosperous times in China’s long history.

It was also the golden age of Chinese art and literature.

Crossing the Han River
Song Zhi-wen (656 – 712 AD)

No news, no letters – all winter, all spring —
     Beyond the mountains.
With every homeward step more timid still
I dare not even inquire of passerby
.

Song Zhi-wen, the poet, was found guilty of accepting bribes and executed. He had good reason to fear returning home from exile.


In this video is a famous Tang poem.

The classical form of Chinese poetry developed in the late Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty.

Most Tang poems have four or eight lines, with five and seven Chinese characters in each line following certain rules.

Another example of Tang Dynasty poetry is Spring Perspective by Du Fu (712 – 770 AD).

When the post of prime minister was awarded to a cousin of the imperial concubine, there was the military rebellion of An Lu–shan in 755 AD.

The nation has fallen, the land endures
Spring trees and grasses flourish in the town.
Troubled by the times — flowers bring tears;
Dreading parting — birds startle the soul.

With turmoil of battle three months on end,
A letter from home is worth a fortune in gold.
As it is, they can barely hold a pin.

This poem demonstrates what happens when the Chinese people get tired of nepotism and corruption, which should be heeded as a warning today to crack down on corruption in Communist China.

The next poem is one of many that Yuan Zhen (779 – 831 AD) wrote for his dead wife, who he married when he was poor. She did not live long enough to share his fame and fortune.

In former years, we chatted carelessly of death and what it means
     to die.
Since then, it’s passed before my very eyes.
I’ve given almost all your clothes away
But cannot bear to move your sewing things.
Remembering your past attachments, I’ve been kind to maids you
     loved.
I’ve met your soul in dreams and ordered sutras sung.
Certainly, I know this sorrow comes to all
But to poor and lowly couples, everything life brings is sad.

See Mao Zedong, the Poet

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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