Posted by: thelocaldialect | March 20, 2010

Mao Zedong and Hu Jintao

In the “out of the mouths of babes” category, my son has come up with a couple of new words that would be sure to raise a few eyebrows back home. After watching (probably too much) Chinese TV, Dylan has decided that anyone dressed like a soldier — from Chinese, to Americans, to WW2 era Germans — is “Mao Zedong.” Watching his dad mow down an enemy combatant while playing some Medal of Honor-esque war game (can you tell we’re not too bothered about limiting his exposure to violence? In our defense, we live in China where there are stories about children grenadeing Japanese troops in the primary school textbooks) on the computer just now he proclaimed “Uh oh, Mao Zedong is broken!” Where does this all stem from, you might ask? A couple months ago we watched a miniseries Red Cradle, which was about the glory days of the Chinese Red Army, back when the Chinese Communist party was full of idealistic young people out to save their country through revolution. This miniseries featured a young Mao Zedong quite prominently and somehow Dylan linked the uniforms to the name Mao Zedong.

A kinder, gentler Mao Zedong in Red Cradle, glowing after the birth of his child

Despite being almost 2 and a half, Dylan doesn’t quite “get” the concept of names. He tends to see them as categories. So what category is Hu Jintao? Naturally, men in suits. After watching the evening news and seeing the Chinese National People’s Congress every single night, which would start off by introducing the members, with Hu Jintao leading the pack. After hearing “Hu Jintao” repeatedly for about a week Dylan took it into his head that men wearing suits and ties were all called Hu Jintao.

The Suited Man himself, Hu Jintao

My husband has pointed out that this particular language quirk could get us some stinkeye in public, especially around old folks who take their Communist heroes quite seriously still. Just today Dylan was looking at old pictures of his dad and calling him “Mao Zedong Jie Jie,” or “Big Sister Mao Zedong,” I suppose making a crack about the vaguely military style clothing Wang Yao was wearing in the picture, along with his long hair loose down to his shoulders. “No,” I said, “that’s not Mao Zedong, and that’s not your jie jie, that’s your father.” But he just cracked up and said it again, “nope, mama, this is Big Sister Mao Zedong!” Dylan can be quite the cutup when he wants to be. Luckily we don’t live in the China of days gone by, otherwise his taking the piss with the names of much revered political figures could land us in a struggle session.


  1. That is hilarious (especially calling his dad Mao Zedong Jie Jie)! It’s so funny how kids will take one example like that, own it as a “category” and then apply it to other people/situations with similar features.

    I’m with you there…good thing this isn’t the Cultural Revolution! 😉

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