Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Electronic Helmsman: Mao Posters on the Web

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There can be no doubt that Mao Zedong played a major role in the People’s Republic of China since its founding in 1949. Explaining his political stature and the cult of personality surrounding him to students is a challenge, since there are no comparable figures in American history. The adulation accorded Mao and his pervasive presence in Chinese society can be conveyed, however, through an examination of his portrayal in Chinese posters. Fortunately, several collections of these posters are available online, providing ready access to any classroom, teacher, or student with an Internet connection. The bright colors of the posters and their layers of meaning serve as useful tools for instruction from elementary through undergraduate levels. From a strictly visual standpoint, even young students can examine the perspective, placement, and depiction of Mao to understand his importance in China.