Li Yinqiao, Mao Zedong’s bodyguard and good friend, recollects in Quan Yanchi’s book Mao Zedong: Man, Not God the reality of the great liberator of China. Included in his memories of Mao is an analysis of his personality. Presented to the reader are Mao’s nuances, his likes and dislikes, fears, aversions, and feelings. The man that Mao was is taken out of the historical perspective and placed in the light of humanity. It is pleasing to know that someone of Mao’s stature could cry at the sight of a sick and dying child. Mao’s humanity is well displayed in this book.
Yinqiao presents Mao Zedong as a very complex individual. Most works of this type give only basic recollections of the subject, but Yinqiao’s memories call forth small details. Mao was a “rustic” individual. He stayed close to his roots as a Chinese peasant. Like his body-guard, Mao felt closer to his mother, who he described as a “Buddhist, a woman with a golden heart” (8). Mao was also ready to take on any challenge. Yinqiao noted that Mao had much confidence in his own strength, leading him to do “extraordinary things.” His image soared as bombs exploded and Mao would be still standing, not spilling even a drop of tea (14). He was also stubborn, not budging an inch if he wanted something. During the bombing of Chengnanzhuang Mao refused to enter the bunker until he watched the enemy drop the bombs. After some struck he said, “Now I’ve seen it” and nonchalantly walked into the bunker (33). Mao was easily upset by tears, often lapsing into tears himself. Upon seeing a sick girl, tears welled up into his eyes and he commanded his physician to nurse her back to health, even using the small and rare supply of antibiotics. His care for the good of the people went so far as to create “canteens” that attempted to provide food to the starving peasant people. Although these projects failed it proves that Mao was not insane with power, but humane and caring about the people he fought for. But he did occasionally throw a temper tantrum. But Yinqiao pointed out that Mao had severe problems with sleep and often his temper was associated with the lack thereof. He was a strict but caring parent, making sure that his children made intelligent decisions. But like anyone else Mao had a sense of humor. Unlike most great leaders of the world, Mao Zedong was real.
The image that he conveyed to his soldiers and people around him is quite different from what Yinqiao saw in him. He appeared strong and unwavering in the face of death. His strength was shown when wanting to swim in choppy ocean waves. His bodyguards when with him, warning him that it was potentially dangerous to swim in the waters during those conditions. But Mao did not care for he wanted to swim, and he invited his bodyguards to do the same. After several dives the guards grew tired but Mao taunted them, not tired or even phased. Mao demonstrated enough strength for the entire army. He was a fare leader, recognizing the pangs of the common people. He would pass around moldy loaves of bread brought from small farming villages and passed it around making everyone try a bite of it. He did this so he and his men realized how lucky they were to be fed as they were. These kinds of actions led the men to have great respect for Mao. His love for his country was strong, being obvious to the people on October 1, 1949. On the day of the birth of New China the people shouted “Long live Chairman Mao!” To which Mao responded “Long live our comrades! Long live our people!” (123). Mao appeared to his fellow officers, soldiers, and people to be strong of will and spirit. These qualities made him to be a great leader.
History does not view leaders kindly, only recording victories and defeats from the ultimate victor’s standpoint. The events recorded in Mao Zedong: Man, Not God would never be considered by history to be important events. His thoughts and feelings would be irrelevant from an objective point of view. But on the other hand the recollections of Yinqiao are very believable. Mao becomes real for the reader, more human than history. He becomes a George Washington type of leader figure. His selflessness and dedication to the people of the nation borderline that of a saint. Very few could have done what Mao has done with so much reserve and respect. His nature is extremely commendable.
As a final note, Mao Zedong was an interesting human being, very important to the history of China. It is sad to say that not all great leaders are portrayed in this way, exploring their humanity and what they attempted to accomplish. Mao Zedong was a great man deserving great respect which he received that respect from his people and his fellow revolutionaries. Mao Zedong was truly just a man and not a god.