|Born||October 15, 1870
Shaoshan, Hunan province
|Died||23 January 1920
|Occupation||Farmer, grain merchant|
Mao Yichang[a] (October 15, 1870 – January 23, 1920) was a Chinese farmer and grain merchant who achieved notability as the father of revolutionary political theorist Mao Zedong. The nineteenth generation of the Mao clan, he was born and lived his life in the rural village of Shaoshanchong in Shaoshan, Hunan Province.
The son of Mao Enpu, he was raised into a poverty-stricken family of farmers. Marrying Wen Qimei when he was ten, he subsequently served for two years in the Chinese army. Returning to agriculture, he became a moneylender and grain merchant, buying up local grain and selling it in the city for a higher price, becoming one of the wealthiest farmers in Shaoshan, with 20 acres of land. He and Wen had four surviving children, Zedong, Zemin, Zetan, and Zejian, the latter of whom was adopted.
According to family oral histories, the Mao clan had lived in the valley around Shaoshanchong since the 14th century. Their ancestor was the warrior Mao Taihua, who had left his native Jiangxi Province to fight in the Yunanese army against the governing Yuan Dynasty. After the monarchy was overthrown and rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368, Mao Taihua married a woman in Yunnan, in 1380 bringing her to Hunan, settling in Xiangxiang county. Around ten years later, two of his sons moved north to Xiangtan county, settling in Shaoshanchong and founding the lineage to which Mao Yichang belonged.
Mao Yichang was born on October 15, 1870, the only child of Mao Enpu and his wife Liu. Mao Enpu was a farmer who had lived in poverty throughout his life, leaving his son debt-ridden. He was betrothed to Wen when she was thirteen and he was ten; the wedding took place five years later when he was fifteen. Due to his father's debts, Yichang then had to serve for two years in Zeng Guofan's local Xiang Army, during which time he saved up sufficient funds to purchase much of the land that his father had lost. Hardworking and frugal, he earned a lot of money. According to one of Mao Zedong's daughters, Yichang would reiterate his views that:
- Poverty is not the result of eating too much or spending too much. Poverty comes from an inability to do mathematics. Whoever can do sums will have enough to live by; whoever cannot will squander even mountains of gold!
Yichang's mother, Liu, died aged 37 on May 20, 1884.
Raising Mao Zedong
Prior to Zedong's birth, Yichang and his wife had had two sons, both of whom had died in infancy. After the birth of Mao Zedong, his parents were presented with a rooster, as was the local custom.
Two years later, a second son was born, who was named Zemin, followed by a third son, Zetan, who was born in 1905. Two further daughters died in infancy, but the family began fostering another daughter.
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