Red Book. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung
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Quotations from Chairman Mao, better known in the West as The Little Red Book, was published by the Government of the People's Republic of China from April 1964 until approximately 1976. As its title implies, it is a collection of quotations excerpted from Mao Zedong's past speeches and publications. The book's alternative title The Little Red Book was coined by the West for its pocket-sized edition, which was specifically printed and sold to facilitate easy carrying. The closest equivalent in Chinese is simplified Chinese: 红宝书; traditional Chinese: 紅寶書; pinyin: hóng bǎoshū, literally "The Red Treasured Book", which was a term popular during the Cultural Revolution.
The most printed book written in the twentieth century, Quotations had an estimated 5 to 6.5 billion copies printed during Mao's attempt to transform Chinese society. The book's phenomenal popularity may be due to the fact that it was essentially an unofficial requirement for every Chinese citizen to own, to read, and to carry it at all times during the later half of Mao's rule, especially during the Cultural Revolution. Chinese citizens caught not carrying the book were usually beaten by the Red Guards.
During the Cultural Revolution, studying the book was not only required in schools but was also a standard practice in the workplace as well. All units, in the industrial, commercial, agricultural, civil service, and military sectors, organized group sessions for the entire workforce to study the book during working hours. Quotes from Mao were either bold-faced or highlighted in red, and almost all writing, including scientific essays, had to quote Mao.
To defend against the theory that it would be counter-productive, it was argued that understanding Mao's quotes could definitely bring about enlightenment to the work unit, resulting in production improvement to offset the time lost.
During the 1960s, the book was the single most visible icon in mainland China, even more visible than the image of the Chairman himself. In posters and pictures created by CPC's propaganda artists, nearly every painted character, except Mao himself, either smiling or looking determined, was always seen with a copy of the book in his or her hand.
After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, the importance of the book waned considerably, and the glorification of Mao's quotations was considered to be left deviationism and a cult of personality. The original books now became a collector's item and some editions are highly sought after.
Mao's quotations are categorized into 33 chapters in the book. Its topics mainly deal with Mao's ideology, known in the West as Maoism and officially as "Mao Zedong Thought".