Mausoleum of Mao: The Monument to the Chairman

Beijing Travel Report Mao Mausoleum from South

Looking at Mao's Mausoleum from the Qianmen Tower

No, I am not talking about Frank Sinatra here.  THAT chairman is buried in the Palm Springs.

Chairman Mao (full name of Mao Zedong) was the spiritual head of the Communist movement.  It was he that declared the People’s Republic of China in Tiananmen Square in 1949, and he that went on to lead the nation through the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960’s.

With his death in 1976, it was appropriate that the nation build a monument to honor him.   At least, that is what happened.  Chairman Mao himself signed up to be cremated, but that is not the Chinese traditional way.  So, they chose to preserve his body for veneration.

Mao was enshrined inside for public display so that the people could continually pay their respects. The mausoleum opened in 1977 and became a pilgrimage site for loyal communists and others.

My, What a Big Tomb Mao Has

Beijing Travel Report Mao Mausoleum Peoples Liberation Statue 2

Communist Revolution moving forward - Statue before Mao's Mausoleum

The building itself is huge, and is built on the location of the previous “Gate of China”.  The old symbolic gate of the nation was replaced by the remembrance to (and literally the flesh of) the spiritual founder of the new nation.

The North and South entrances are both flanked by two huge communist style “peoples’ liberation” style statues.  Unfortunately, I cannot find out much about these statues.  As I did  not go in the Mausoleum, I did not get any literature.  Perhaps there is some available in inside.  Hmmm, another good reason to actually stand in that long line next time. 😉

What to Expect Inside

Everything I have read tells me that Chairman Mao’s body is kept in a clear crystal coffin for display purposes.  It is lowered into the basement freezer each night, and then raised for display during the day. Yes, I have heard the rumors that the body is wax…

If you wonder what he looked like in real life, there is an idealized marble statue of him seated inside, aka “Lincoln” style.

These is also supposed to be a display on the second floor to the different communist leaders of the Standing Committee.  This is the committee that basically sets the direction for the country.  Leadership changes happen about every 10 years, so there are a limited number to honor.

It’s a Busy Place

Beijing Travel Report Mao Mausoleum Queue

"Get in the queue" as the British say

Many Chinese citizens line up every day to see the body of the Chairman and pay their respects.  Be prepared to see lines well over 1000 feet.  Many visitors will purchase flowers at the north entrance to take inside to honor this great historical figure.

With a population over 4 times that of the United States, I don’t think they will run out of people any time soon to see Chairman Mao’s body.   Even today, despite the controversy over the later years of his life, he is still revered by a large segment of Chinese society.

Can I Go?

Sure.  As a foreigner, you too may enter the mausoleum and see the body on display.  There is no admission fee, but you do have to abide by some rules.  The opening hours are from 9 AM to 3 PM.  I have seen some indication that it opens at 8:30 AM, so check to be sure.

Here are the rules as stated in Wikipedia:

  • No talking or smoking inside
  • No photography or video of either Mao’s casket or any other place inside
  • All hats or other materials covering the head will have to be removed
  • No shorts or miniskirts may be worn

Here is one that I am going to add:

  • No playing or singing Frank Sinatra music, or cracking jokes about Dean Martin’s drinking, while in line or inside

Do I really need to explain that one?

My Personal Experience

Actually, I have not been inside.  The line was so long when I visited Tiananmen Square that there was no way for me to visit the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong and still keep my daily schedule.  Even in November, on the weekend that I was there, the lines queuing up to enter were huge.  I will add this to my list of things to definitely do, and update this post after.

If you want to go inside the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, I suggest you get up early on a weekday and be there before the opening at 9 AM.  This way you avoid many of the hordes of Chinese tourists that take over this area on the weekends.

I don’t mean hordes in a bad way.  Just that there are lots of Chinese tourists showing up to visit, and their elbows are sharp.

If you have visited Mao’s resting place, please share your impressions below.

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