Calligraphy of Mao Zedong's Poem "Snow"

Shen Songde (Chinese, b. 1932)
Ink on paper
Sheet : 27 7/8 in. x 4 ft. 6 in. (70.8 cm x 1.4 m)
Mat : 40 in. x 5 ft. (1 x 1.5 m)
Credit Line
Gift of Risa and Chris Engle in Honor of Maiya and Leah
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When the Qing Dynasty ended in 1911, a new Nationalist government took power led by Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek. However, almost from the outset, the Nationalists were opposed first by a series of regional warlords and later by the Chinese Communist Party led by the young revolutionary Mao Zedong. Mao was both a poet and a soldier. He wrote many ideological treatises to support the Communist Party’s claims to power, but also acknowledged that all “political power grows from the barrel of a gun.” This piece of calligraphy features a poem written by Mao in 1936 about his ambitions to unify and lead China. In it he compares himself to the founding emperors of several earlier dynasties, but suggests that whereas many of them possessed primarily military skills, he (Mao) is also a man of intellect and culture. The calligraphy was written in 1969 during the Cultural Revolution, when Mao led a violent effort to eradicate the last vestiges of traditional Chinese society and create a new society based entirely on communist ideals.

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