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All The Chairman’s Statues

Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party and the founding supremo of its People’s Republic, is not a man who has retreated from history quietly. During the last decade of his life, during the Cultural Revolution he unleashed in part to shore up his command, his presence was inescapable. His words, his actions, the objects he touched, and above all his image reached a peak of talismanic power. His face was everywhere and he loomed—literally—over town squares and public parks, in front of hospitals and above schoolyards, in concrete and stone reminders of who was boss.

Today, relatively few of these statues of Mao remain; many were torn down after Mao’s death and in the early years of the Reform era. But Davide Vacatello and Valentina Caruso tracked down a sampling of those that remain, noting the way the size of the effigies reflects a cultural tendency to fetishize numbers. Many of the largest Maos were erected during the early years of the Cultural Revolution, but the tallest of the tall, clocking in at 37.4 meters, owes its height to Bo Xilai’s short red reign in Chongqing; but with Bo in jail and China’s new leader Xi Jinping embracing his Party’s helmsman a little more each day, one wonders how long that Mao will stay at the top of the heap. —The Editors