Chairman Mao’s handwritten notes to be auctioned by Sotheby’s

Pen to paper

All across China, reminders of the immense personality that was Chairman Mao persist. On the walls of the Forbidden City to the little red books that still exist in the millions in private. None, however, possibly capture the spirit of the great man. But this remarkable collection of handwritten notes – to be auctioned by Sotheby’s London on 11 July 2017 – might.

Dating from 1975, they reveal Mao the man’s interest and engagement with Classical Chinese literature as he entered his final years. A constant love throughout his life, even as outwardly he attempted to purge tradition through the Cultural Revolution, these notes are the fruit of meetings between Mao and Di Lu, a scholar from Mao’s native Hunan. With his eyesight failing and with difficulty articulating words, the Party Central Committee tasked Di Lu to read classical works to Mao. But because verbal communication was challenging, she asked Mao to write his thoughts onto a notepad. These are those notes.

Capturing entire conversations on poetry and politics, including the poets Bai Juyi, Du Fu and Li Bai – all of whom described the plight of the common people – the notes passed into the ownership of Di Lu’s family. Next week they will appear at the English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations sale, with an estimated price range of £60,000-80,000 (RM333,600-444,800).


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