Famous Family History Mao Tse-Tung Parents

About the family of famous Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung, history of his father and mother.

MAO TSE-TUNG (1893-1976),

Chinese political leader

His Roots: Hallowed by centuries of religious tradition, the ancient Chinese family system rigidly defines the status of each individual, and the rules of filial piety are intended to anchor an entire society. But these rules were unconventionally ignored in Mao's boyhood home. Since his paternal grandfather was relegated to a subservient role in the family, Mao identified his father as the "ruling power." And that is why Mao himself turned social revolutionary.

By Mao's own account, his father Mao Jensheng (?-1927?) was an illiterate, miserly taskmaster. "I learned to hate him," said the son. By shrewd dealing, Jen-sheng secured a small prosperity for his family by acquiring a bit of land in Shaoshan, a village in Hunan Province. There he planted rice and became a grain merchant. With his own sons, he tried to invoke the paternal law he had himself ignored, but found his position often undercut. Mao Tse-tung, who had a secret ally in his mother, quarreled incessantly with Jen-sheng. One night in front of guests, Jen-sheng denounced his oldest, son as lazy, gluttonous, and disrespectful. Enraged, the lad shouted, "Go to hell!" and vowed that he would commit suicide if Jen-sheng came near him. The father demanded an instant apology and total submission. "Confucius says elders must be kind and affectionate to the young." replied the son. "However, I will kowtow on one knee if you promise not to beat me." Mollified because this allowed him to save face, Jen-sheng agreed. Yet, as biographer Lucian Pye, author of Mao Tse-tung: The Man in the Leader, points out, "Mao's credibility in his claims of mistreatment by his father is weakened by the fact that Mao in later years upheld his father's values and never sought to justify contrary ones."

Wen Ch'i-mei (?-1918), Mao's mother, by contrast, "criticized any overt display of emotions," said Mao. A gentle, pleasant-faced woman and a devout Buddhist, she believed in all the local superstitions and performed the workhorse role of Chinese wife without complaint, expecting little of life. Yet she supported her firstborn in his central position as eldest son, and he strongly identified with her. They secretly conspired and shared small subversions against Jen-sheng, though the mother never openly resisted her husband's authority. The son bore a striking physical resemblance to Wen Ch'i-mei.

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