World Press Photo winner: The Return of the Native, Mao Zedong Remembered

February 13, 2012Jing Gao2 Comments, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

World Press Photo, a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is known for holding the world’s largest and most prestigious annual press photography contest. The winners of the 2012 World Press Photo contest in were announced Friday. Three Chinese photographers made the list: LI Yang from China Daily placed the third in Spot News Singles category for his single photo Saving The Desperate ‘Bride’; XU Shaofeng won Honorary Mention in Contemporary Issues category for his photograph of a Chinese protester; KUANG Huimin took home the third prize in Arts and Entertainment Stories category for his photo series The Return of the Native, Mao Zedong Remembered.

(All photos and captions from World Press Photos unless otherwise noted. Click to enlarge.)

Kuang Huimin

Kuang Huimin

The WPP-winning photo essay titled “The Return of the Native”by Kuang Huimin was previously published by news portal NetEase in its special photography column “Spectators.” Not all photos in the original series were submitted to the WPP contest. Besides, captions and cutlines of photos provided in the NetEase version are slightly different than those of the WPP version. Therefore, Ministry of Tofu has included photos in the original version that were later left out, and translated cutlines of the NetEase version (noted as NE) to make the photo essay more informative.



Though he died more than 30 years ago, Chinese people still often commemorate Mao Zedong (a.k.a. Mao Tse-tung), founder of modern China, in various ways, here in Xiangtan, Hunan province.


29 November 2009

WPP: Among these families in Hunan, walls are posted with portraits of Mao Zedong in different periods.

NE: The living room of a rural family in a village of Hongjiang, Hunan province. In Hunan, many rural families still follow the custom of posting portraits of Chairman Mao on the wall. People often position him above other deities.


19 December 2009

WPP: Oil paintings of Mao Zedong’s portrait are quite saleable. Dafen Village, which is located in Shenzhen of Guangdong province, is considered the ‘top village of oil painting in China’. After just a decade, the village produces 60 percent of the images in the world’s oil painting market.


25 December 2010

WPP: Unfinished statues of Mao Zedong outside a workshop after snowfall in Shaoshan, Hunan Province.


26 December 2007

WPP: A woman holds a portrait of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong during a ceremony marking the 114th anniversary of his birth in his hometown of Shaoshan, Hunan province.

NE: On December 26, 2007, Mao Zedong’s 114th birthday, a group of tourists, led by one holding a portrait of Mao, came to pay homage and pray for good fortune. Ever since the 1990s when enthusiasm for Mao and his legacy was rekindled nationwide, fate of people in Shaoshan, Mao’s hometown, has been changed forever. In 2010, Shaoshan drew 6.5 million visitors to Mao’s old house and made more than 1.5 billion Yuan (US$230 million) in tourism revenue.  Shaoshan has become a role model for China’s “Red Tourism” and “Red Economy.”


25 December 2010

WPP: In some areas of Hunan, the manufacture of Mao Zedong’s image is an emerging industry. Many new enterprises, institutions, shopping malls and clubs place his image in eye-catching locations with the hope that it will bring fortune and remove evil.

NE: In Shaoshan, December 2010, villagers carried a new statue of Mao home to honor. In the days considered auspicious, to ensure good luck, “honoring Mao’s statue” is a ritual indispensable to other activities, be it a housing renovation or a wedding ceremony.


26 December 2010

WPP: In southern China, it is common for people to buy various kinds of statues of Mao Zedong, which are put in a shrine at home. People kill hogs as a sacrifice to celebrate his birthday each year. In Shaoshan, Xiangtan, Hunan province.

NE: On December 26, 2010, Mao’s birthday, villagers in the small town of Shaoshan kill hogs as offerings to Mao. In Shaoshan, almost each household has a statue of Mao placed in a shrine at home. Each year, on Mao’s birthday, villages gather spontaneously, kill hogs and sheep, boil water over pots, cook birthday noodles to share.


12 May 2005

WPP: When a bronze statue of Mao Zedong was brought back to his hometown, people spontaneously went out into the streets here at Dongfanghong (Note: literally ‘East Is Red’) Square, Xiangtan, Hunan province, to welcome him home.


26 December 2003

WPP: Mao Zedong’s 110th birthday was marked on 26 December 2003. Villagers in his hometown of Shaoshan, Xiangtan, Hunan province, dressed in traditional Chinese costume to commemorate and bow to him.

NE: On December 26, 2003 in Shaoshan, senior villagers gathered in a square, where a huge bronze statue of Mao is situated, and kowtowed to the statue in front of a table full of lavish dishes such as red braised pork and roast fish, crying, “These are all food that you grand old man loved to eat!”


26 December 2008

WPP: Each year, villagers from Mao Zedong’s hometown in Shaoshan display prized souvenirs of his likeness.

NE: Senior villagers in Shaoshan held high their prized possession of Mao memorabilia, gathered in front of the bronze statue and chanted “Long Live, Chairman Mao.” People in Shaoshan have always had the greatest appreciation and reverence for Mao.


26 December 2006

WPP: Each year on Mao Zedong’s birthday, crowds gather in the village square in Xiangtan, Hunan province, singing songs to commemorate him. Though he died more than 30 years ago, Chinese people still often commemorate Mao Zedong, founder of modern China, in various ways.

NE: Each year on Mao Zedong’s birthday, a grand commemorative celebration kicks off in Shaoshan. In the past few decades, Shaoshan’s reputation has spread all over the country. People in Shaoshan have prospered. Villagers in Mao’s hometown have erected statues one after another and at the same time left imprints of Mao on themselves.


22 November 2009

WPP: Mao Zedong’s image frequently appears in modern art works. In October 2009, a 32-meter statue of Mao Zedong’s image was built in Juzizhou, Changsha City, Hunan province.

NE: On Juzizhou, an islet in the midst of Xiang River near Changsha city, a statue of a young Mao under construction. The half-length figure is 83 meters (272 ft.) long, 41 meters (134.5 ft.) wide and 32 meters (105 ft.) high. The total investment was approximately 70 million yuan (US$10 million). It is China’s tallest sculpture representing people.


NE: On December 26, 1993, the 100th anniversary of Mao’s birth, a bronze figure standing 10.1 meters tall and weighing 3.7 metric tons was inaugurated in Shaoshan. Over 260,000 people attended the commemoration. “Chairman Mao, the grand old man, has come back,” people shouted loudly. Since then, Shaoshan has started to reverse the downhill trend of its tourism industry following the end of the Cultural Revolution by taking the 100th anniversary as an opportunity and a critical turning point.


NE: In October, 2010, a tourist shop in Shaoshan had portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao hanging high up on the wall, and a line of bronze statues of Mao of various sizes positioned below. Within the radius of several kilometers is the biggest retail hub of Mao memorabilia, which include badges, commemorative coins and audio and video products. Mao memorabilia generate over 10 percent of the tourism revenue. Because of having to peddle products to visitors from all over the country, people in Shaoshan have a better command of standard Mandarin than those in any other region in Hunan province.


NE: In December, 2009, in Shaoshan’s Mao Zedong Square, people brought along their newly bought bronze figurines of Mao and waited for the kaiguang ritual, or the consecration of their figurines. In Shaoshan, a Mao statue is sold anywhere between a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. Local businesses forbid tourists to say “buy” a Mao statue and require them to say “request/invite” a statue instead. After they successfully “invited” the statue, they must go to the square for consecration.


NE: In November 2010, a worn-down statue removed from a square in renovation had been restored and was waiting for its buyer. In Hunan, many newly founded businesses and institutes place Mao statues in significant sites. Other localities capitalize on making Mao statues and see a booming business. Authorities in Hunan often rack their brains over counterfeits of Mao statues. In 2010, Hunan introduced industrial standards on Mao memorabilia to better regulate the local manufacturing sector and market.


NE: On December 26, 2006 in Shaoshan, tourists jostled for a chance to take picture with a specialist Mao lookalike actor, who got dressed for the part. Each year, many Mao doubles come to Shaoshan to experience life here (before they reenact Mao’s childhood and political life on stage and on screen). In 2008, Hunan’s provincial drama troupe announced their plan to recruit Mao doubles. Within three months, they received altogether 130 applications.


In 2005, a group of statues, named “Love of Hometown”, were inaugurated in the city of Xiangtan, which administers the town of Shaoshan. The work, which cost over 5 million yuan, or US$605,000, depict Mao’s visit to his hometown in June 1959. The sculpture soon became the landmark of the city. The picture taken in November 2008 shows residents in Xiangtan queuing for discount coupons issued by a property developer at a real estate trade fair, with the monumental sculpture in the background.


NE: In November 2006, a man in the city of Xiangtan “invited” a Mao statuette from the fair. He was going to put “Chairman Mao” in a shrine at his home.


NE: In May, 2011, a yellowing portrait of Mao hung on the wall of an office at a manganese mining plant.


NE: December 2007, a statue of Mao in a home furnishing shopping mall in Xiangtan city. In Hunan, Mao’s statues can be found in many shopping centers and upscale hotels.


NE: December, 2009, busts and statuettes made of pure gold on display in a jewelry store in Xiangtan. During holiday seasons, jewelry businesses in Hunan like to showcase Mao figurines made of gold, which sell very well and are considered the ideal gift by Chinese businessmen.


NE: January, 2009. In a shop near a Buddhist temple in Hunan, Mao figurine is on the rack for sale alongside other Chinese deities.

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2 comments to “World Press Photo winner: The Return of the Native, Mao Zedong Remembered”

  1. Guy In China | February 13, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Strange how uneducated people can do stuff like this. In another 500 years, he may receive god status! I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar went down with our pal JC.

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