Mausoleum of Chairman Mao Zedong
The first leader of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong died on September 9th 1976. Construction of his mausoleum, standing in the south of Tiananmen Square, was started about two months later and was completed in ultra-quick time by May 1977. Much like Lenin, who had wanted to be buried in St Petersburg, Mao had wanted to be cremated, but for both leaders it wasn’t to be. China lacked the technology for embalming the body and, due to poor relations at the time, they couldn’t ask the USSR for assistance. However, they managed to appropriate the USSR embalming secret via Vietnam, which had used it to preserve the body of Ho Chi Minh. Like the other embalmed Communist leaders, there is some dispute over whether the body of Mao Zedong is real or just a wax model.
The mausoleum itself is quite ugly and somewhat spoils the ambience of Tiananmen Square, though the Soviet-realist sculptures outside are interesting. The interior is nicer – rather grandiose and Mao’s body itself rests in a crystal coffin. The mausoleum was constructed using materials drawn from all over China. Queues to see the corpse can be overwhelming at times and mausoleum is only open for a few hours each day. Moreover, visitors are ushered through so quickly that you’ll only have a few seconds to take in the body of the Great Helmsman. Note that bags cannot be taken inside – there’s a bag check across the street on the west side for ¥10.
Admission: Free. Open: Mon-Sat 8:30am-11:30am; Tue & Thur 2pm-4pm.
Directions: The Mausoleum of Chairman Mao looms at the southern end of Tiananmen Square.