Posted on

Mao and libraries

I thought you might enjoy a summary of Mao’s early connections with books and libraries, drawn from my weekend reading:

Mao Zedong was born in 1893 and in August 1918, he left Hunan, his home province, for the first time. He followed Yang Changji, his social sciences teacher at the Hunan Provincial Fourth Normal School in Changsha, to Beijing. Yang had received an appointment at Peking University (‘Peking’ is generally used for this institution, not ‘Beijing,’ though its nickname is Beida) and he found Mao a job registering people who came to the library to read magazines and newspapers. Spence writes, “In the library, Mao saw many of the influential figures of the new intellectual elite,” including Li Dazhao, the head of the library. Li and five professors had by then started a magazine called New Youth, which Mao had contributed in 1917 a long essay on “physical education, its spiritual and physical effects, and the best ways to exercise different pats of the body.”

Mao had spent 1913 in private study in the Changsha public library, where, “According to his later memories, he concentrated his reading on ‘world geography and world history,’” and also Western political theory.

1920, back in Changsha after the death of Yang and a realignment of power that left friends of Mao in charge, he became director of a primary school and the principle instigator of the Cultural Book Society, a collectively owned business that was quickly financially successful under Mao’s management. Outgrowing its rented offices in the Hunan-Yale medical school building in only a year, it had seven full branch stores and another seven small outlets in schools and homes by the time Mao attended the First Chinese Communist Party Congress in Shanghai in 1921.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *