Shaoshan – The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Birthplace of Chairman Mao

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Shaoshan (韶山) is a small village in the heart of China. It may have stayed just a small unknown farming village if it had not been the birthplace of the famous Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong, also known as Chairman Mao changed China forever. This is a Shaoshan travel guide of the birthplace of Mao Zedong. An ultimate guide for everything you need to know about visiting Shaoshan from how to get to Chairman Mao’s birthplace and how much it costs to visit Shaoshan to other useful things to know. Firstly though, who was Mao Zedong and why is he so important to China today?

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What is Shaoshan?

Shaoshan is a small village where visitors can see the birthplace of Chairman Mao. There are also various other things to see and do in Shaoshan. Yet little is known of this place outside of China. Very few foreign tourists visit Shaoshan. Chinese tourists on the other hand flock to Shaoshan, often to pay their respects to the leader. This Shaoshan travel guide will help you plan your trip to Mao Zedong’s birthplace and know what to expect.

What does Shaoshan (韶山) mean?

Shaoshan (韶山) can be roughly translated as ‘splendid mountain’.

Who was Mao Zedong?

Mao Zedong was born in 1893 and became the founding father of modern-day China. He was a communist revolutionary and created the People’s Republic of China. Mao Zedong was one of modern history’s most influential leaders. Yet his long reign is not without controversy. Chairman Mao is very much loved in China, mainly thanks to the successful personality cult he successfully implemented in his later years. His followers praise him for riding China of imperialism, modernising the country, improving education and creating a world power. Yet others criticise him for his totalitarian regime, destruction of historical sites, mass repression and claim he was responsible for up to 80 million deaths of Chinese. Mao Zedong changed China forever and his birthplace is an excellent place to learn more about this infamous man.  This Shaoshan travel guide will help you plan your Shaoshan itinerary.

Where is Shaoshan?

Shaoshan is in Hunan province in the heart of China. It is 120km from the city of Changsha and 370km from the famous Avatar mountains aka Zhangjiajie national park.

How to get to the birthplace of Chairman Mao

china train

There are a few ways to get to Shaoshan.

Shaoshan is served by several high-speed trains which makes the train a great way to get to Mao Zedong’s birthplace. There are several high-speed trains leaving from Changsha South train station. They leave every hour and take just 25 minutes.

Once you arrive at Shaoshan train station there are 3 ways to get to Chairman Mao’s birthplace. You can get a taxi, hop on the tourist bus or take the local bus. The taxi will be the most expensive and if you don’t speak Chinese you will struggle getting the right local bus. The tourist bus is therefore the best option. The Shaoshan tourist bus will cost between 3-5RMB and will take you directly to the Shaoshan visitor centre. This also includes your return fare back to Shaoshan train station.

If you wish to travel by air to Shaoshan the closest airport is Huanghua Airport.

Things to do in Shaoshan

There are many things to see and do in Shaoshan. There is Mao Zedong’s birthplace, the Chairman Mao museum, the Mao Memorial park, the Water Dripping Cave and the statue of Chairman Mao in Mao Zedong square.

Chairman Mao’s Birthplace and Childhood Home

shaoshan chairman mao birthplace

You can visit the house in which Mao Zedong was born. This is the building everyone has come to visit. You cannot take a large bag or DSLR in here. First you must put them in one of the lockers. You will then most likely have to queue for a while before being allowed to enter the house. Once inside you follow a one-way system through various rooms. You then exit and can wander over the fields surrounding the property. As it is quite small, you will be pushed along. There are various signs telling tourists not to take photos but many do so anyway.

It is also worth noting that this house is a replica. The original Mao Zedong residence was burnt down by the government in the late 20ies. In the 50ies the house was rebuilt and designated as a museum and site of cultural importance.

Chairman Mao Museum

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There is a free museum about Mao Zedong’s life and his policies. Much of the information is in English. There is a heavy focus on highlighting Mao Zedong’s successes. Make sure you do not miss the Korean War graph. The same graph can be found in the War memorial museum in Seoul. Yet in Seoul, the graph highlights how outnumbered the south were due to the north having support from both Russia and China. The graph in the Chairman Mao museum on the other hand demonstrates the might and power of the Chinese army. Fascinating to see both sides of the same conflict.

Water Dripping Cave

The Water Dripping Cave is a curious thing to see in Shaoshan. Located 3km from Chairman Mao’s birthplace this was a purpose-built conference centre. Used in 1966 it is now an odd museum. There are exhibitions which include a ping pong table Mao Zedong played on during his stay in the Di Shui Cave. You can hop on the shuttle to reach the Water Dripping Cave in Shaoshan.

Mao Memorial Park

Another interesting place to stop off at is the Mao Memorial park. There are a few signs in Chinese.

Bronze Statue of Mao Zedong

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The Bronze Statue of Mao Zedong is one thing you cannot miss when visiting Shaoshan.

Chairman Mao lived to the grand age of 82. Had he made it to 100, he would have seen the unveiling of the giant statue. On Mao’s 100th birthday a 7m high bronze statue was unveiled in Shaoshan. This giant replica of the communist leader epitomises the personality cult he excellently executed. People from all over China come to this statue to pay their respects. On the hour, a parade or memorial service is held. Gentleman in uniform march towards the bronze figure and place wreaths at his feet. Visiting the bronze statue of Mao Zedong is one of the best things to see in Shaoshan. This part of Shaoshan is very popular therefore expect crowds whatever time you visit Shaoshan.

How much does it cost to visit Shaoshan

Depending what you wish to see will affect how much it costs to visit Shoashan. You will have to pay 20RMB for the mandatory bus from the visitor centre to the Shaoshan attractions. The Mao Zedong museum is free to visit. The former residence of Mao Zedong, his birthplace costs 60RMB to enter.  Bring 50RMB for the Water Dripping Cave. Although if you are over 65 years old, there are no entrance costs when visiting Shaoshan.      

What can I eat in Shaoshan?

There are a few restaurants in Shaoshan. Remember that Hunan food is particularly spicy so say “xiao la” (small spicy) if you are not a fan of spicy food! Lots of the venues focus on Mao’s favourite dishes such as stinky tofu. You can also purchase stinky tofu from many small stands dotted around Shaoshan.

Where can I stay in Shaoshan?

There are not many places to stay in Shaoshan itself. many visitors stay in Changsha, which is another city closely related to Mao Zedong. In fact, you can see a giant bust of Chairman Mao in Shaoshan. There are plenty of places to stay in Changsha for all budgets. If you need a place to stay in Shaoshan, please consider using the booking.com below. We receive a very small commission which helps with the hosting costs of the website at no extra cost to you.

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What can I buy in Shaoshan?

shaoshan

There are a few souvenirs you can buy in Shaoshan. If you fancy owning your own Red Star Mao Army Military Hat you can choose from a variety of colours! There are many Chinese flags on offer as well as Mao’s little red book. Also, if you have ever wanted your own version of Chairman Mao in your house, there are statues of Mao Zedong of all sizes!

How long should I spend in Shaoshan?

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Officially, the Shaoshan Visitor Centre advises spending 2 and a half hours visiting Shaoshan. You can easily see the museum, birthplace and Mao Zedong statue in this time. However, this is a very popular spot and you may spend much of your time queuing. It is not unheard of to queue for 90 minutes to enter Mao Zedong’s former residence. Also, the water Dripping cave is a little further out so factor that in. Expect to spend between two hours to five hours in Shaoshan.

Is there anywhere I can leave my luggage in Shaoshan?

If you are travelling with a fair amount of luggage as you are on a grand tour of China don’t worry as there is somewhere you can leave your luggage in Shaoshan. You can leave your luggage at the Shaoshan visitor centre for free.

Useful things to know when visiting Shaoshan

It is useful to know that whilst Shaoshan is a very popular tourist destination amongst the Chinese, very few foreigners visit Shaoshan. If you have travelled in China before or have been travelling for some time, you may have become accustomed to stares from locals. However, if you are not used to being stared at this may make you feel uneasy. Locals may ask you for photos.

It is worth noting, that if you are white, often you are assumed to be an American. This is not normally an issue, but you are entering the birthplace of Mao Zedong – an individual who despised American culture and their ‘aggressive expansion’. You may have people whisper or point American at you during your visit.

Remember to put your bag, or large camera in a locker before queuing for the former residence of Mao Zedong. You will not be allowed inside the grand farmhouse with large items.

As this is not a place often visited by tourists, not all of the signs are in English. Many of the signs in the museum and Mao Zedong’s birthplace are but not every sign will have an English translation.

What else can I see near Shaoshan?

There are a few other places to visit near Shaoshan. This is a huge country with many epic places to visit in China. Close to Shaoshan are the following tourist destinations:

Changsha

Changsha

120km from Shaoshan

A city famous for its huge bust of Mao Zedong.

Zhangjiajie National park

Zhangjiajie Best Hikes in China

370 km from Shaoshan

Zhangjiajie is a mysterious and beautiful national park full of floating mountains, otherworldly scenery and friendly monkeys! It is also known as the Avatar mountains due to the inspiration they provided for the popular Avatar movie. This is also one of the best hikes in China!

Yangshuo

Yangshuo Best Unmissable Hikes in China

550km from Shaoshan

Yangshuo is another beautiful landscape in China. Karst mountains beguile visitors as you float along the Xi river or climb one of the lofty peaks. Yangshuo is one of the best places to visit in China.

Xijiang

600km from Shaoshan

Xijiang is known for the Miao people. You can see traditional Miao dancing, try on a Miao outfit and wonder around the pretty wooden buildings.

Has this Shaoshan travel guide helped you?

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Hopefully, this Shaoshan travel guide has helped you plan your visit to Shaoshan! Would you like to visit the birthplace of Chairman Mao? Have you been inspired to see how revered the communist leader is still today? Let us know in the comments below!

Also if you are interested in more Red Tourism destinations, check out this guide to the ethics of visiting North Korea or how to visit North Korea yourself!

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