Mausoleum of Mao Zedong
The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall , commonly known as the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, or the Mao Mausoleum, is the final resting place of Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

, Chairman of the Politburo
Politburo of the Communist Party of China
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China or Political bureau of the CPC Central Committee , formerly as Central Bureau before 1927, is a group of 24 people who oversee the Communist Party of China...

 of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 from 1943 and the chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is the highest authority within the Communist Party of China. Its approximately 350 members and alternates are selected once every five years by the National Party Congress....

 from 1945 until his death in 1976.

Although Mao had wished to be cremated, his body was embalmed, and construction of a mausoleum began shortly after his death. This highly popular attraction is located in the middle of Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the center of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen Gate located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world...

, in Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

, the capital of China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. On this site had previously stood the Gate of China
Gate of China, Beijing
The Gate of China in Beijing was a historical ceremonial gateway in Beijing, China, located near the centre of today's Tiananmen Square. It was demolished in 1954. This gate formed the southern gate of the Imperial City during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was situated on the central axis of...

, the southern (main) gate of the Imperial City during the Ming
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 and Qing
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....


The remains of the Great Helmsman, as he is sometimes known, are on display for public viewing. People line up for hundreds of feet (dozens of meters) every day to see the former chairman, many paying tribute to him with flowers which can be rented at the entrance on the north side. There is a souvenir shop at the exit on the south side.


The mausoleum was built right after Mao's death on (September 9, 1976). The groundbreaking ceremony took place November 24, 1976, and the mausoleum was completed on May 24, 1977. Hua Guofeng
Hua Guofeng
Su Zhu, better known by the nom de guerre Hua Guofeng , was Mao Zedong's designated successor as the Paramount Leader of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China. Upon Zhou Enlai's death in 1976, he succeeded Zhou as the second Premier of the People's Republic of China...

, who supervised the mausoleum project, has his handwriting on the mausoleum's sign.

According to China Pictorial, Issue 9, 1977, people throughout China designed and built the mausoleum. Material from all over China was used for the construction: granite from Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

 Province, porcelain plates from Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

 Province, pine trees from Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

, Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

 Province, saw-wort seeds from the Tian Shan
Tian Shan
The Tian Shan , also spelled Tien Shan, is a large mountain system located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Victory Peak , ....

 Mountains in the Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

 Autonomous Region, earth from the quake-stricken Tangshan, color pebbles from Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

, milky quartz from the Kunlun Mountains
Kunlun Mountains
The Kunlun Mountains are one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending more than 3,000 km. In the broadest sense, it forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim Basin and the Gansu Corridor and continues east south of the Wei River to end at the North China Plain.The...

, pine logs from Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

 Province, and rock samples from Mount Everest
Mount Everest
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. The international boundary runs across the precise summit point...

. Water and sand from the Taiwan Straits were also used to symbolically emphasize the People's Republic of China's claims over Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

. 700,000 people from different provinces, autonomous regions, and nationalities did symbolic voluntary labour. It was closed for renovations for 9 months and reopened on September 20, 1977.

Crystal coffin

Although the embalming of the body was solved by learning the Soviet trade from Vietnam, displaying the body proved a more difficult problem to solve during this era of Soviet-Chinese tensions
Sino-Soviet split
In political science, the term Sino–Soviet split denotes the worsening of political and ideologic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during the Cold War...

. Because the crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

A coffin is a funerary box used in the display and containment of dead people – either for burial or cremation.Contemporary North American English makes a distinction between "coffin", which is generally understood to denote a funerary box having six sides in plan view, and "casket", which...

 for Hồ Chí Minh
Ho Chi Minh
Hồ Chí Minh , born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and also known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc, was a Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader who was prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam...

 was provided directly by the USSR, Vietnam could not pass on the necessary expertise to China. As a result, China was forced to develop the know-how indigenously. This proved to be a much greater task with huge difficulties.

Original Soviet crystal coffin

The first attempted solution for the display of Mao's body was to use the crystal coffin the USSR had provided for Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese doctor, revolutionary and political leader. As the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is frequently referred to as the "Father of the Nation" , a view agreed upon by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China...

, who died in 1925. This proved unfeasible, however, because the length of the coffin (1.75 metre) was not sufficient for Mao's 1.8 metre height. Furthermore, as the Soviets had made only the cover out of crystal, with the sides and the bottom made of steel with nickel plating, visitors would have been forced to look down at Mao’s body in a way that was deemed unacceptable by the authorities.

Main Contractor

Projects to develop an indigenous crystal coffin were distributed to enterprises all over China in code names, and the one named "Task # 1" was assigned to the 608th Factory. The 608th factory was originally the 2nd Spectacles Factory, and was famed for its good quality products. For example, in 1963, merchants in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 placed an order of 6,000 pairs of lenses, the largest single foreign order China received at the time, and later, the camera lenses it produced were exported to East German Zeiss firm. Once its products were used for military applications, the name of the factory was changed to 608th Factory for security reasons. In 1976, the factory was one of the few in China equipped with advanced imported equipment and a mainframe computer
Mainframe computer
Mainframes are powerful computers used primarily by corporate and governmental organizations for critical applications, bulk data processing such as census, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning, and financial transaction processing.The term originally referred to the...

. Mao's spectacles and magnifying glasses were made in this factory, under the plant manager, Mr. Cai Dengyuan (蔡登元), who was a famous optometrist/optician before becoming the plant manager. The communist party secretary of the plant was Mr. Wang Zhuqian (王著谦).
The design was a political task, and started immediately after the order was received, even before the design team had an opportunity to inspect the Soviet crystal coffin delivered to China in 1925 for Dr. Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese doctor, revolutionary and political leader. As the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is frequently referred to as the "Father of the Nation" , a view agreed upon by both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China...

. The only reference the team had was the photo of the crystal coffin of Lenin
Lenin's Mausoleum
Lenin's Mausoleum also known as Lenin's Tomb, situated in Red Square in the center of Moscow, is the mausoleum that serves as the current resting place of Vladimir Lenin. His embalmed body has been on public display there since shortly after his death in 1924...

 faxed to them by the Chinese embassy in Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. Just two days after receiving the fax, the design was completed, and a 1:4 scaled mock-up made of plastic was built soon after.

Material and technical challenges

Quartz glass is a vital material for the production of crystal coffins, but the raw material - quartz crystals - were rare in China. Furthermore, less than 10% of the total available quartz met the requirements to manufacture quartz glass. The largest piece found in China was no larger than 40 cm (15.7 in), and there was no good grade crystal in the world of the required size: 2 metres (6.6 ft).

Compounding the material shortage, there was no equipment in China large enough to handle the size of the required material. The largest piece China was equipped to handle was only 0.5 metres (1.6 ft) or less.

Overcoming the difficulties

The subcontractors to produce the quartz powder for the quartz glass surfaces of the crystal coffin were numerous, including the 603rd factory, the 605th factory, and the Beijing General Glass Factory. The crystal used was from the East China Sea
East China Sea
The East China Sea is a marginal sea east of China. It is a part of the Pacific Ocean and covers an area of 1,249,000 km² or 750,000 square miles.-Geography:...

, solving the raw material shortage problem, but there was a new problem: after the annealing, it would take three years for the internal stress of the large piece of quartz glass to disappear. Xu Zhaocai (徐兆采), a senior technician of the 605th Factory, developed a new technique of processing that solved this problem by welding 20 square centimeter pieces into the larger 2 square meters plate. The melting point was over 2000 °C (3,632 °F), and a senior technician, Shi Weicheng (石维成) was assigned the task of welding with a hydrogen-oxygen flame gun. During the welding process, the metallic protective gear worn by Shi Weicheng (石维成) began to smoke due to the high temperature, and he had to stand in a specially designed pool while other workers poured water on him to cool him down; when he was finished, the water level reached his ankles.

Processing the crystal plate

The 100 mm (3.9 in) crystal plates needed to be ground down to 45 mm (1.8 in) in order to be built into the crystal coffin, and China had no technology to do so. The 608th factory staff finally found equipment large enough for the task in the Beijing First Machine Tool Factory: a single West German 2 metres (6.6 ft) precision grinding machine and eight planer-type milling machines. The equipment did not exactly meet the requirements, so the teams of both factories sacrificed other production to join forces and modify the equipment to fit the exact need of the political task.


While overcoming the problems of processing the crystal into the quartz plates, the issue of appropriate illumination was being worked on simultaneously, led by project manager Ren Fuguang (任夫广), the head of the optical research and design department, with the optical engineer Li Jiaying (李家英) as the chief designer.

Beijing Medical University (now merged into Beijing University) provided a ten-year old specimen head for the project, and after harmonizing colors by varying the colors, angles, and intensity of the illumination, the skin color appeared to be closer to that of a living person instead of the original gray, and the appearance of wrinkles was significantly reduced. After evaluating numerous designs, it was decided to adopt illumination via xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...

 lamps installed inside the coffin. The xenon lamps were from a brand new design that adopted fiber-optic technology, could not be seen by visitors when viewing Mao's body, and would continue to provide the correct illumination if one of the lamps was extinguished. The xenon illumination system inside the crystal coffin was designed by Cai Zuquan (蔡祖泉).

Shape of the coffin

In order to eliminate reflections, as well as obtaining the greatest strength, the crystal plates had to be connected at precise angles. Optical engineer Wang Daheng(王大珩) was enlisted to help and after numerous calculations the best angles were obtained. It was discovered that the selection of the angles was so precise that even without the adhesives and other methods of connection, the plates would not collapse. The dimensional tolerance was up to 10 µm (0.000393700787401575 in).


On November 27, 1976, the crystal coffin built by the 608th factory was sent for earthquake (magnitude 8.0), vibration, temperature, and other environmental tests. Nearly two dozen crystal coffins from all over China were also there for the competition, and Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 had six in total. A unique design came from Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

: a circular shape with red carpet inside, symbolizing the red sun, the symbol of Mao during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

. However, the crystal coffin built by the 608th factory defeated its competitors and was selected on the spot.

The building of the crystal coffin for Mao was a closely guarded secret until recently, and Dr. Xu Jing (徐静), who participated in the design and later headed the managerial bureau of Mao Zedong's Mausoleum before his retirement, wrote a book titled The Place where a Great Man Rests after the declassification to finally reveal the previously unknown process to the public.


Mao Zedong's surviving family members always visit the mausoleum annually on Mao's birthday and the day he died. However, according to the publications of Mao's granddaughter Kong Dongmei (孔东梅, the daughter of Mao's daughter Li Min 李敏), Mao's ex-wife He Zizhen
He Zizhen
He Zizhen was the third wife of Mao Zedong from May 1930 to 1937.- Biography :He Zizhen was born in Yunshan , Jiangxi, during Qing Dynasty China, and joined the Communist Youth League in 1925. She graduated from the Yongxin Girls' School and joined the Communist Party of China in 1926...

 (贺子珍) was initially banned from visiting the mausoleum, for reasons never explained by the Chinese government. After more than a year of repeated appeals and after nearly two million people had already visited the mausoleum, she was finally allowed a single visit, with heavy restrictions: the visit must be made in secret and she must not cry, make any noise, nor talk to the press about the visit. She was allowed to be photographed with her ex-husband's statue in the mausoleum by Lu Xiangyou (吕相友), Mao's personal photographer since the late 1950s. Dr. Xu Jing (徐静), the author of The Place where a Great Man Rests, documented the visits of important people to the mausoleum, but his visit on September 8, 1979 was barred from the book, by order of the Chinese government, again for reasons never explained.

See also

  • National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
  • Lenin's Mausoleum
    Lenin's Mausoleum
    Lenin's Mausoleum also known as Lenin's Tomb, situated in Red Square in the center of Moscow, is the mausoleum that serves as the current resting place of Vladimir Lenin. His embalmed body has been on public display there since shortly after his death in 1924...

  • Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum
    Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum
    Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum is situated at the foot of the second peak of Mount Zijin in Nanjing, China. Construction of the tomb started in January 1926 and was finished in spring of 1929. The architect was Lu Yanzhi, who died shortly after it was finished.- History :Dr...

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
    Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
    The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a large memorial in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is located in the centre of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.- History :Construction...

  • Kumsusan Memorial Palace
    Kumsusan Memorial Palace
    The Kumsusan Memorial Palace, sometimes referred to as the Kim Il-sung Mausoleum, is a building located northeast of downtown Pyongyang, the capital city of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea . The palace is the former official residence and office of North Korea's president and founder,...

External links

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