CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 28, December 2011


Mao Zedong at West Lake | China Heritage Quarterly

Mao Zedong at West Lake
A Chronology
Part I: 1953-59

Based on material compiled by Wang Huai 汪槐
Translated with additions by Geremie R. Barmé

The following account, taken from a 2005 volume titled simply Mao Zedong and West Lake, offers an overview of the Party Chairman's activities during his frequent sojourns in Hangzhou. Even this elliptical account offers some insight into the complex interplay between formal and informal politicals as pursued at the Lake during the Maoist era. We get a sense of Mao's literary and cultural pursuits, his interest in swimming and climbing hills, as well as diplomatic endeavours and careful plots, In this sketchy chronology—a more substantial study must await archival access—we see how even in China's most revolutionary and radical era, from the 1950s to the late 1970s, West Lake was a place where, as we have argued elsewhere in this issue of China Heritage Quarterly, politics and power, representation and imagination, discrete leisure and overt display commingle.—The Editor


August: Mao Zedong passes through Hangzhou on his way from Jiaxing to Hunan province following the reconvening of the first Congress of the Communist Party of China (having initially gathered in Shanghai the delegates to the congress were forced to relocate to Jiaxing, Zhejiang province).


27 December: Mao takes up residence at Building No. One at Liu Zhuang villa, with an office a 84 Beishan Road. He climbs Beigao Mountain for the first time. Hereafter, unless otherwise stated, Mao stays at Liu Villa when living on West Lake.


January: formal drafting of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China begins; Mao leads the writing group including secretaries, scribes and thinkers Chen Boda, Hu Qiaomu and Tian Jiaying. Work on the draft continues through January and February. Also in January Mao meets with the Soviet ambassador to China and hints at the fall of Gao Gang (see 'Revolutionary Retreats'). At the same time, he writes to Liu Shaoqi, President of the People's Republic, suggesting that the Fourth Plenum of the Seventh Party Congress be convened in Beijing. During this month he visits local agricultural co-operatives while, via a series of telegrams to Beijing, he orchestrates at a distance political developments in the capital.

February: Mao's second ascent of Beigao Mountain, and later in the month he comments on an outline speech that Zhou Enlai will be making at Party meeting devoted to the Gao Gang case. He says that Gao has been engaged in 'splittist' activities and declares that 'this is also a reflection of how the bourgeoisie is plotting to rent, destroy and corrupt our Party during this transitional stage.' The draft Constitution of the People's Republic of China is completed.

March: Mao orchestrates matters related to international policy, including China's participation in the Geneva Conference on Korea (on the sidelines of the conference Britain and China agree to upgrade their relations and Zhou Enlai shows a film he calls 'China's Romeo and Juliet', which is set in Hangzhou; see 'West Lake Liberated'). During this month, Mao also visits various local Hangzhou sites, including Yuhuang Shan and Wuyun Shan, as well as places further afield at Xiao shan, Mogan Shan and Shaoxing.
He writes to the educator and former political activist Huang Yanpei (see 'Children of Yan'an'). In his letter he touches on support for the Communist Party from the rump of the Republican-era democratic parties. He observes that, '[writing] too many blank cheques may give people a false impression. If education and study aren't improved, if people don't have their political awareness enhanced, those who feel badly done by will be dissatisfied with me.'

14 March: return to Beijing


9 April-20 June: in residence in Hangzhou

April: Mao undertakes some of his own fieldwork to research matters related to agricultural cooperatives. He climbs Beigao Mountain again and also sends a telegram to the army leaders Peng Dehuai and Huang Kecheng to direct China's response to the siege of Điện Biên Phủ in Vietnam. This month he composes two (doggerel) poems: 'Looking at Mountains' (Kan shan 看山) and 'Wuyun Mountain' (Wuyun Shan 五雲山)

May: in a series of important political moves he warns against excesses in the movement to 'suppress counterrevolutionaries', which has actually claimed countless victims in a nationwide campaign. He writes the introduction to the materials collected as part of the purge of the 'anti-Party clique' of the writer and literary theorist Hu Feng, a man previously lauded by the Party. Also in this month he issues a written directive (piyu 批語) to admonish Party members not to arrange banquets, take formal photographs or present gifts to cadres with new work assignments. He also writes an internal communiqué on issues to do with grain supply.

5 November-10 January 1956: in residence in Hangzhou

November: Mao revises a People's Daily editorial on the nationalization of private businesses. He also convenes a major conference on agricultural cooperatives and questions related to nationalizing private enterprise.

December: He revises a document on the transformation of and Party control over intellectuals and scientific personnel. He also issues documents setting grain quotas for various regions of China and directives related to public hygiene and literacy. In late December, shortly after his sixty-second birthday, he reedits a key volume on the 'high tide of socialism in China's villages' and writes 104 introductory notes for chapters in the volume. This book repeatedly admonishes its cadre readers to pursue frugality (qinjian 勤儉) in all matters related to agricultural production. This text and the politics surrounding the book will be critical in the collectivization of Chinese agriculture, and its eventual communization.


January: early in the month Mao convenes a conference of key Beijing and provincial leaders to determine an agricultural plan covering the years 1956-1967. On the day he leaves Hangzhou he sends a congratulatory telegram marking the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of Albania.

21 March-7 April: in residence

21 March: Mao arrives in Hangzhou following a tour of inspection (called shicha 視察, although later writers would term his tours nanxun 南巡) that covered Tianjin, Jinan (Shandong), Xuzhou (Jiangsu), Nanjing (Jiangsu) and Shanghai. In this month he meets with the premier of Czechoslovakia, with Zhou Enlai and Xi Zhongxun in attendance, and visits orchards on the upper reaches of the Qiantang River.

April: he climbs General's Hill (Jiangjun Shan), inspects PLA units, meets with foreign delegations and holds a regional conference on agricultural and industrial policy in East China.

Early June to 6 July: in residence
During this time Mao meets with a delegation of Albanian parliamentarians at the Hangzhou Hotel.

10-20 September: in residence
In what is a relatively rare move Mao flies to Hangzhou from Beijing.

11 September: in the morning the Chairman goes to the Seven Star Temple (Qixing Miao 七星廟) at Haining to view the famed 'Autumn Bore of the Qian River' (Qian jiang qiu tao 錢江秋濤); in the afternoon he takes a swim in the river. He composes a seven-line poem entitled 'Looking at the Bore' (Guan chao 觀潮). In 1994, a pavilion with a stone stele inscribed with Mao's poem is erected on the spot where he viewed the Hangzhou bore. The poem, which was not celebrated during his lifetime, reads:


12 September: after reading a draft of a People's Daily editorial entitled 'Why Do We Say that the Bourgeois Rightists are Reactionaries?', Mao suggests improvements and corrections. This is a key period in what would be known as the Anti-Rightist Campaign. Three days later, on 15 September, he reviews the draft editorial 'This is a Socialist Revolution in our Political Line'. The following day he pays a visit to the Zhejiang provincial Party office to investigate the rectification campaign and socialist education movement in the villages of Hang county.
13-25 October: in residence
12 December-5 January 1957: in residence
During December 1957, Mao reviews documents related to agricultural and industrial issues and emphasized the importance of: industrial production; agricultural production; and, ideological matters. He holds a series of local and national meetings to discuss reports on hygiene in Zhejiang province. These inform national propaganda priorities related to health policy. He also meets with a delegation from Burma.


January: in residence
Mao drafts notes on 'two kinds of contradiction' that would eventually become the basis for a major policy related to social classes and class struggle in the socialist phase of China's revolution. During the previous month he revised material published locally in Hangzhou which later runs in the People's Daily and supports the Great Leap Forward. He also continues to pursue health and hygiene issues through a visit to local housing on 5 January.
30 June: in residence
Excited by a report in the People's Daily on the elimination of schistosomiasis in Yujiang county, Jiangxi, Mao says that he stayed up all night (which was his wont, anyway) to compose what will be two of his most famous poems:

Farewell to the God of Place (a poem in regulated verse)


So many green streams and blue hills, but to what avail?
This tiny creature left even Hua Tuo powerless!
Hundreds of villages choked with weeds, men wasted away;
Thousands of homes deserted, ghosts chanted mournfully.
Motionless, by earth I travel eighty thousand li a day,
Surveying the sky I see a myriad Milky Ways from afar.
Should the Cowherd ask tidings of the God of Plague,
Say the same griefs flow down the stream of time.


The spring wind blows amid profuse willow wands,
Six hundred million in this land all equal Yao and Shun.
Crimson rain swirls in waves under our will,
Green mountains turn to bridges at our wish.
Gleaming mattocks fall on the Five Ridges heaven-high;
Mighty arms move to rock the earth round the Triple River.
We ask the God of Plague: 'Where are you bound?'
Paper barges aflame and candlelight illuminate the sky.







20-28 September: in residence


21-24 March: in residence

6-10 April: in residence
Mao chairs an enlarged meeting of the Politburo attended by Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Chen Yun, Deng Xiaoping, Tan Zhenlin and Yang Shangkun.

21-22 May: in residence
Mao and Chen Yun meet with the Korean leader Kim Il-sung at the Nanping Hotel and the following day Mao chairs a meeting of Party Central leaders at the same hotel.

21-24 August: in residence

31 October-5 January 1960: in residence

3-4 November: Mao chairs a meeting of provincial and municipal leaders from East China, followed by a smaller meeting attended by Zhou Enlai, Peng Zhen, Wang Jiaxiang and Hu Qiaomu at which issues of international import are discussed.

12 November: Speaking at the Dahua Hotel, Mao for the first time discusses the threat of the US-led strategy of 'peaceful evolution' (for details on this, see Qiang Zhai, '1959: Preventing Peaceful Evolution').
28 November-5 December: Mao chairs an enlarged meeting of the CCP Politburo with Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yi, He Long and Peng Zhen in attendance.

9 December: at Mao's suggestion a reading group comprising the Chairman, Chen Boda, Tian Jiaying, Deng Liqun and Hu Sheng convenes at Liu Villa to read and study the socialist-era related material in the Soviet text book Political Economics.


Ye Jianxin 叶建新, Mao Zedong and West Lake (Mao Zedong yu Xihu 毛泽东与西湖), Hangzhou: Hangzhou Chubanshe, 2005, pp.173-81.