Mao Yichang

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Mao Yichang
Mao Yichang.jpg
Born 15 October 1870
Shaoshan, Hunan, Qing Dynasty
Died 23 January 1920(1920-01-23) (aged 49)
Shaoshan, Hunan, Republic of China
Occupation Farmer, grain merchant
Spouse(s) Wen Qimei
Children Mao Zedong
Mao Zemin
Mao Zetan
Mao Zejian (adopted)

Mao Yichang[a] (15 October 1870 – 23 January 1920) was a Chinese farmer and grain merchant who achieved notability as the father of revolutionary political theorist Mao Zedong. The nineteenth generation of the Mao clan, he was born and lived his life in the rural village of Shaoshanchong in Shaoshan, Hunan Province.

The son of Mao Enpu, he was raised into a poverty-stricken family of farmers. Marrying Wen Qimei when he was ten, he subsequently served for two years in the Chinese army. Returning to agriculture, he became a moneylender and grain merchant, buying up local grain and selling it in the city for a higher price, becoming one of the wealthiest farmers in Shaoshan, with 20 acres of land. He and Wen had four surviving children, Zedong, Zemin, Zetan, and Zejian, the latter of whom was adopted.

Early life

According to family oral histories, the Mao clan had lived in the valley around Shaoshanchong since the 14th century. Their ancestor was the warrior Mao Taihua, who had left his native Jiangxi Province to fight in the Yunanese army against the governing Yuan Dynasty. After the monarchy was overthrown and rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368, Mao Taihua married a woman in Yunnan, in 1380 bringing her to Hunan, settling in Xiangxiang county. Around ten years later, two of his sons moved north to Xiangtan county, settling in Shaoshanchong and founding the lineage to which Mao Yichang belonged.[2]

Mao Yichang was born on 15 October 1870, the only child of Mao Enpu and his wife Liu. Mao Enpu was a farmer who had lived in poverty throughout his life, leaving his son debt-ridden.[3] He was betrothed to Wen when she was thirteen and he was ten; the wedding took place five years later when he was fifteen.[3] Due to his father's debts, Yichang then had to serve for two years in Zeng Guofan's local Xiang Army, during which time he saved up sufficient funds to purchase much of the land that his father had lost.[4] Hardworking and frugal, he earned a lot of money.[1] According to one of Mao Zedong's daughters, Yichang would reiterate his views that:

Poverty is not the result of eating too much or spending too much. Poverty comes from an inability to do mathematics. Whoever can do sums will have enough to live by; whoever cannot will squander even mountains of gold![5]

Yichang's mother, Liu, died aged 37 on 20 May 1884.[3]

Raising Mao Zedong

Prior to Zedong's birth, Yichang and his wife had had two sons, both of whom had died in infancy.[5] After the birth of Mao Zedong, his parents were presented with a rooster, as was the local custom.[5]

Two years later, a second son was born, who was named Zemin, followed by a third son, Zetan, who was born in 1905. Two further daughters died in infancy, but the family began fostering another daughter.[5]

Later, Zedong would describe his father as a strict disciplinarian who beat him and his siblings.[6][7][8]



  1. ^ Different historians and biographers have given Mao Zedong's father differing names; Philip Short, in Mao: A Life (1999), named him Mao Rensheng.[1]


  1. ^ a b Short 1999, p. 20. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTEShort199920" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ Pantsov & Levine 2012, p. 11
  3. ^ a b c Pantsov & Levine 2012, p. 13
  4. ^ Short 1999, p. 20; Pantsov & Levine 2012, p. 13.
  5. ^ a b c d Pantsov & Levine 2012, p. 14
  6. ^ Schram, Stuart (1966). Mao Tse-tung. London: Simon & Schuster. 
  7. ^ Terrill, Ross (1980). Mao: A Biography. 
  8. ^ Feigon, Lee (2002). Mao: A Reinterpretation. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. 


Chang, Jung; Halliday, Jon (2005). Mao: The Unknown Story. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-07126-0. 
Feigon, Lee (2002). Mao: A Reinterpretation. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 978-1-56663-458-8. 
Hollingworth, Clare (1985). Mao and the Men Against Him. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-01760-2. 
Pantsov, Alexander V.; Levine, Steven I. (2012). Mao: The Real Story. New York and London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-5447-9. 
Short, Philip (1999). Mao: A Life. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-75198-3. 
Snow, Edgar (1961) [1937]. Red Star Over China. New York City: Grove Press. 
Terrill, Ross (1980). Mao: A Biography. New York City: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-06-014243-8. 
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