10 Peculiar Mausoleum of Mao Zedong Facts

Ever since the mummified body of Vladimir Lenin became a popular tourist attraction at his mausoleum following his death in 1924, the remains of multiple other Communist leaders have followed suit.

One of these is one of the most important figures in modern Chinese history, and in this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, one of the most popular mausoleums in the world located in the heart of Beijing.

1. It’s located on one of the most famous squares in the world

The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is the final resting place of Mao Zedong (1893-1976), the Chairman of the Communist Party of China between 1945 and his death in 1976, and the man who is considered to be the founding father of the people’s Republic of China.

Just like the Mausoleum of Vladimir Lenin which was built on the iconic Red Square in Moscow, the building was constructed in one of the most prominent locations in Beijing called Tiananmen Square, one of the most famous squares in the world in the heart of China’s capital.

Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
The mausoleum on Tiananmen Square / Jorge Láscar / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

2. It was built shortly after Mao Zedong’s death in the 1970s

The building was constructed on the location of the former China Gate, an important ceremonial gate into the Imperial City that dates back to both the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable facts about the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is that man actually wanted to be cremated instead of being pickled and put on public display, perhaps a common wish for any of us.

The Chinese government went ahead and embalmed the old man who just passed away anyways and the groundbreaking ceremony of the building took place just a few months after. Mao Zedong died on September 9, 1976, and the cornerstone of the building was laid on November 24, 1976.

Mao Zedong in 1963
Mao Zedong in 1963 / Lưu Ly / Wiki Commons

3. Quite a few people helped with the construction of the mausoleum

Even though the building isn’t huge compared to just about any other structure in China, 700,000 people were reportedly, directly and indirectly, involved in its construction.

Most people were involved in so-called “symbolic labor” which was completely voluntary and mostly revolved around collecting the building materials of the structure. These were sent in from all across the country and included:

  • Granite from Sichuan province
  • Porcelain plates from Guangdong province
  • Pine trees from Yan’an in Shaanxi province
  • Saw-wort seeds from the Tian Shan mountains in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region
  • Earth from quake-stricken Tangshan
  • Colored pebbles from Nanjing
  • Milky quartz from the Kunlun Mountains
  • Pine logs from Jiangxi province

To top things off, rock samples from Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, were used during the construction as well.

Mausoleum of Mao Zedong facts
View of the mausoleum / Shizhao / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en

4. His embalmed body is on public display inside the structure

Just as the various other Communist leaders of the world, Mao Zedong’s remains were carefully embalmed and are preserved in a glass coffin that serves as a cooler.

This coffin is located in the central hall of the building and is heavily guarded by the Chinese military. To make the atmosphere a bit more fitting, the lights in this space are dimmed as well.

That’s what you call a peculiar tourist attraction, don’t you think?

Mao Zedong body
The embalmed body of Mao Zedong / Alliance/Dpa/Ropi

5. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing

Believe it or not but the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Beijing. Its location at the opposite end of the Imperial City which houses the Forbidden City obviously helps as that’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of China.

This also means that if you’re interested to get a glimpse of the founding father of modern-day China, then you either need to go in time or avoid public holidays and weekends.

The mausoleum can be visited every day of the week except Mondays.

Mausoleum of Mao Zedong tourists
People lining up to visit the mausoleum / Dquai / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

Interesting facts about the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

6. Even though the mausoleum was constructed in the late 1970s, it was completely renovated between 1997 and 1998, a project that lasted for 9 months.

7. The building was constructed in record time. Even though the groundbreaking ceremony only happened on November 24, 1976, the building was already completed on May 24, 1977. This means that building the structure was done 3 months faster than renovating it.

8. The construction of the mausoleum was conducted against the will of Mao Zedong himself. The man responsible for the construction was Hua Guofeng (1921-2008), the man who succeeded him as Chairman of the Communist Party of China.

9. Various Communist leaders have visited the mausoleum during state trips. These included late Cuban leader Fidel Castro (1926-2016) and current (disputed) Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

10. While the interior of the building is decorated with a statue of Mao Zedong himself, the exterior of the building, near the entrance and exit, is flanked by 4 sculptural groups that glorify the Communist Party of China.

Mausoleum of Mao zedong statue
Sculpture and the mausoleum / Morio / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en