For half a century, Mao Zedong ( 毛澤東 ) has stared down at the throngs who visit Tian’anmen Square. In what is one of the world’s most recognizable portraits, his gaze meets visitors straight on – as it has ever since October 1th, 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution.
Over the years the portrait has become an archetypal image of the former chairman of the Communist Party of China, yet what many of those who visit today may not appreciate is its subtle difference to an earlier portrayal that once hung in its place. That version, a side-on portrait showing only the left side of Mao’s face, fell out of favor due to fears it suggested he heeded and trusted only one side. Far better the version that remains today, in which Mao looks straight forward, both ears visible, open to all sides.