(b. 1914, d. 14 May 1991).
Wife of Mao Zedong Born at Chucheng (Shantung province), she became an actress in Shanghai, where she was rumoured to have had a string of affairs with Guomindang officials. In 1937 she fled from the Japanese to Communist-controlled Yan'an, where she became a drama teacher. Here she met Mao Zedong and married him (1939), though the condition was imposed upon her by the party leadership to stay out of politics for thirty years. She almost kept this promise, but launched herself into political activity in 1963, when she urged a reform of the Beijing Opera along revolutionary lines. She propagated a return to popular art forms in opera and ballet, which should be filled with socialist values. Her influence increased dramatically during the Cultural Revolution, which she used to settle old scores with former opponents and those who knew about her past activities in Shanghai. She joined the Politburo in 1969, and consolidated her power by forming the Gang of Four. However, upon Mao's death, Hua Guofeng moved swiftly to remove her from office. She was arrested and, in a show trial in 1981, sentenced to death, though this was commuted to life imprisonment. She committed suicide by hanging herself.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).