Chairman Mao’s given name was Mao Zedong (毛澤東). He was born on December 26, 1893 in Shaoshan, in Hunan Province, China, and his original family name was Jiang (江). Mao Zedong was the founder and leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important figures in twentieth-century history.
Mao Zedong was born in a poor peasant family. His father, Mao Yichang, was a wealthy peasant who had been prosperous through hard work, but his mother, Wen Qiying, was from a much poorer background. Mao was the eldest of three siblings, and according to custom, he was expected to carry out his responsibility as the eldest son, which included taking care of his younger siblings.
Mao Zedong’s early life was filled with hardship and poverty. After his father suffered an economic reversal caused by bad harvests, the family was unable to afford the tuition needed for Mao to attend school. So, at the age of 13, Mao left home and worked as a domestic laborer in the nearby city of Changsha to support himself.
In 1911, aged 17, Mao Zedong joined the Chinese Republican Movement, helping to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. During the following years, he became increasingly radicalized, developing views that were both nationalist and Marxist. In 1921, he attended the first National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, eventually rising to become its leader in 1943. He launched the 1950-53 Korean War, used famine and purges against his opponents, and essentially declared himself supreme leader.
During his reign, he implemented a number of agrarian reforms, drastically changing the face of Chinese agriculture. These changes increased agricultural output, provided farmers with better housing, education, and medical care, and helped reduce absentee landlordism. He was also responsible for the Great Leap Forward, a national effort to jumpstart the economy. This effort led to increased industrial production, but also resulted in food shortages and a terrible famine.
Mao Zedong’s legacy remains controversial, as he was responsible for millions of deaths during his reign, as well as multiple campaigns of repression. Despite this, he was a beloved figure in many circles, and his principles and vision remain deeply ingrained in modern Chinese society.