Mao Zedong Thought: an Integration of Marxist-Leninism & Hakka Attitudes

Mao Taihua (毛太华) – Latter Yuan-Early Ming Dynasties

Original Chinese Language Article By:

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Translator’s Note: Mao Zedong was an ‘Internationalist’ inspired by the works of Marx and Engels, and Marx and Lenin. He correctly perceived Joseph Stalin as a great Proletariat leader, and was dedicated to improving the physical and psychological living conditions of the Chinese people and the world. However, it has long been discussed in China that Mao Zedong’s family was of ‘Hakka’ origin. This term is written in Chinese text as ‘客家’ and is written in pinyin as ‘Ke Jia’. When Chinese people of Northern origin migrated into already occupied Southern areas of China, the local speaking Guangdonghua (i.e. ‘Cantonese’) population pronounced ‘客家’ as ‘Hak Gar’, and this has entered into Western translation as ‘Hakka’. The term ‘客家’ (i.e. ‘Guest People’) was originally intended as an ethnic slur, and was used to refer to newly arrived migrant communities who were not welcome, and subject to a permanent political, social and cultural exclusion. These Northern ‘Hakka’ were forced to exist on the worst areas of Southern land that the local population did not want, whilst forced to pay extortionately high rates. Whilst demonised at every turn, the Hakka used their ingenuity and turned barren landscapes into fertile farming grounds. The Hakka spoke a Northern dialect, were dedicated to a Confucian reverence for scholarly endeavour, were experts at farming in harsh conditions, and extensive practised martial systems for health and self-defence. In many Hakka areas, the Hakka people became famous for their self-contained ‘round houses’ which resembled Western castles (whilst other Hakka built their dwellings in Confucian square formations). Due to the persecution experienced, the Hakka people developed a very robust sense of identity that strove for ‘justice’ and ‘equality’. Life for the average Hakka clan was one of exclusion, hard-work and political, social and cultural inequality. This led to a continuous rebellious streak within the Hakka personality which lended itself to any and all progressive Revolutionary movements. During the fight for ‘Liberation’ the Hakka people found acceptance within the Communist Party of China and the Chinese Red Army. This gave them the means to enter fully into Chinese society as ‘equal’ citizens who expanded their search for justice and equality to include all Chinese people and the entirety of humanity. During the successful Socialist Revolution in China, the Hakka people became highly trusted and effective Revolutionaries at every level of society. This article suggests that the concept of ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’ is in fact Marxist-Leninism integrated with the Hakka Revolutionary view of the world. (ACW 3.3.2018)

Mao Zedong (毛泽东) was not an ‘ethnic Hakka’, but he was a ‘Hakka by descent’. He was a thoroughly modern Chinese person who contributed extensively to the development of China, and whether conscience or not, he expressed a life-long interest in Hakka culture that appears to be a product of his ancestry. Indeed, the above portrait is of ‘Mao Taihua’ (毛太华) who lived during the latter Yuan Dynasty and early Ming Dynasty. His home territory was Jishui County situated in Jiangxi Province. However, due to invasion he migrated to the Lancang Wei area of Yunnan (now known as Lijiang City, Yongsheng County). Therefore, Mao Taihua maybe considered the first of Mao Zedong’s ‘Hakka’ ancestors to have migrated southward, the generational lineage of whom eventually produced the First Chairman of the People’s Republic of China.

Over 500 years ago, Mao Taihua’s people constituted the Hakka population in the Ji’an area of Jiangxi. Prior to this, Mao Taihua’s clan ancestral home was the Xiangtan area of Hunan. The Mao clan was successful and became stronger and expanded as the generations came and went. Although these Hakka people did not know this at the time, their clan would produce one of the most important figures in modern Chinese history. However, although ‘Hakka’ in origin, the Mao clan would eventually become recognised and accepted as ‘locally originated people’ (本地人 – Ben Ti Ren) – as if they had always lived in the south and had never migrated into the area. Overtime, this Mao clan assimilated into the local culture and became indistinguishable from it – this is why Mao Zedong was not born into ethnic Hakka culture. although Mao Taihua would never think of Mao Zedong – his 20th generation descendent – Mao Zedong, on the other hand, could not stop thinking about his Hakka past. Many consider the Mao clan ‘blessed’ for this reason, particularly as Mao Zedong met two extraordinary women during his early life – one was named Yang Kaihui (杨开慧), and the other was named He Zizhen (贺子珍). One was a ‘Hakka by descent’, whilst the other was an ‘ethnic Hakka’.

Yang Kaihui (杨开慧)


Yang Kaihui, like Mao Zedong, was a Hakka by descent whose family had migrated from Hunan to Jiangxi. Although this is a fact, very few people know this today.  A poem written by Mao Zedong in the classical form is entitled ‘Butterfly Loves the Flower – answer Li Shouyi’ is in memory of his late wife. In the sentence which reads ‘I lost the noble and proud Yang (who was strong like a) willow tree’ – ‘proud Yang’ refers to the deceased Yang Kaihui. Yang Kaihui was born on the 6.11.1901 and her other last name ‘Xia’ (霞) and her other first names were ‘Yunjin’ (云锦). Her father was a famous scholar and professor at the Normal University in Hunan. He was Mao Zedong’s first academic teacher. Mao Zedong married his daughter in winter, 1920.

Yang Changli (杨昌济)


Yang Changli’s family was from the Changsha County area of Hunan (near Bancang) which is today known as ‘Kaihui township’, but his ancestors were from the Ji’an area of Jiangxi. Yang Changli’s father was called ‘Hong Fen’ (宏芬) and was also a university professor in Hunan. This Hakka Yang family spread to Pu Tang, Jian Shan, and Ba Mao Tian in Jiangxi, as well as Xiao Dong, Yang Shan and other places. In 1948, the Yang Hakka clan had produced 24 generations with a population of over 7000 people. In the 40th year of the reign of the Qing Emperor Qianlong (乾隆) – that is 1775 CE – this Hakka Yang family built an Ancestral Hall in Ba Mao Tian.

He Zizhen (贺子珍)


The ‘Respected Yang Township of Pu Tang’ is now in the Kaihui Village area of Kaihui Township. Yang Changli’s ancestor was ‘Yang Wenbin’ (杨文斌), who was from the Ji’an area of Jiangxi. Mao Zedong’s ancestor – Mao Taihua – was also from the Ji’an area of Jiangxi. Yang Wenbin migrated in Hunan during the first year of the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongjie (永乐), where he established the foundation of the Respected Yang Township in the Changsha County area. Mao Taihua migrated from Jiangxi to Yunnan, and then from Yunnan to Xiangxiang County area of Hunan during the 13th year of the reign of the Ming Emperor Hongwu (洪武) – or 1380 CE. In this sense, Yang Changji’s ancestors came to Hunan more than 20 years earlier than Mao Zedong’s ancestors. Therefore, by 1948, the Hakka Yang family stood at 24 generations, whilst the Hakka Mao family stood at 20 generations. The Hakka Yang family was also slightly more populous than the Mao Hakka family. Yang Kaihui and Mao Zedong might never have realised the ‘love’ that exists between all Hakka clans, but many generations after the founding of these clans, these two came together expressing feelings of affection. Mao Zedong encountered another extraordinary Hakka woman in He Zizhen. He Zizhen was formerly known as ‘Gui Yuan’ (桂媛) and was born in Huangjuling Village (near Yunshan Township) during the Mid-Autumn Festival in 1909, which lies in the Southern Wan Yang Shan area of Yongxin County, Jiangxi. He Zizhen was the eldest daughter of He Huanwen (贺焕文) – a member of the Yongxin landed gentry. Mao Zedong and He Zizhen became partners in 1928, at the Jinggangshan base situated in Yongxin County, Jiangxi. Although the Inggangshan base was spread over a wide geographical placement, the Yongxin County area of it was very important. Speaking both Hakka and Gan dialects – He Zizhen was an ethnic Hakka by birth. Sho Long (舒龙) states in the ‘The Traditional Virtue of Hakka Women in the Zhu Mao Red Army’, that He Zizhen (and her people from the Yongxin County area) were of Hakka ethnicity.

Mao Zedong and He Zizhen


Kong Dongmei (孔东梅), in ‘Listen to Grandmother About Past Things – Mao Zedong and He Zizhen’ (Central Literature Publishing House, February 2005) states that ‘In the spring of 1928, Grandmother and Grandfather came to Bian Village in Yongxin, to launch the land reform campaign in Jinggangshan. However, the local Hakka dialect was difficult to understand, and so Grandmother acted as translator for Grandfather. This is how the two became close to one another.’ Of course, He Zizhen was an ethnic Hakka, and Mao Zedong’s close association with her meant that he learned much about Hakka culture and thinking. This is how Mao Zedong – as a Hakka of descent – re-encountered ethnic Hakka culture.

Hakka Preference for Revolution in China

The Hakka people in question descend from ancestry in Ji’an (Jiangxi) during the early Ming Dynasty. Mao Zedong was a native of Xiangtan (Hunan), but during the 1920’s and 1930’s, almost as if by an act of destiny, Mao Zedong returned to the origin of his Hakka ancestry. Just as fish cling to the water, and the tiger heads to the hills, Mao Zedong was historically drawn toward Jiangxi. It was from here that his career as a great Revolutionary leader was born.

Mao Zedong was already a man of authentic Hunan origination, and had a liking for spicy food and loved to eat roasted pork. Whilst fighting for a Socialist Revolution in Hunan, Jiangxi and Fujian, he often ate rejuvenating Hakka food. This included steamed fish, dumplings and ‘four stars – full moon’. In many ways, the Revolutionary situation ensured the unshakeable bond between Mao Zedong and ethnic Hakka culture. Indeed, the Revolutionary Period of modern China contributed to the people of Hunan re-discovering their Hakka culture and the Hakka love of rebellion and Revolution. When Hakka people and the non-Hakka Chinese people united, they both changed the world forever.

Autumn Harvest Uprising

During the Second Revolutionary Civil War, the border areas of Hunan and Jiangxi, Jinggangshan Base Area and the Central Soviet Area became the headquarters of the Red Revolution and the National Soviet Movement. This area almost coincides with the geographical area of the ‘Hakka Base Camp’ (southern Jiangxi, western Fujian and eastern Guangdong). The importance of the two ‘strongholds’ have given sacred historical missions to Hakka people descended from ancient times.

From the ‘Thunderbolt Riot’ of the Autumn Uprising of September, 1927, to ‘Huangyang Sector Cannon Booming’ Incident, and the later ‘Gan River Snow Blizzard’ operation, the Red Flag was carried by Hakkas and non-Hakkas alike across rivers and up mountains. Finally, there was the Long March which began in October, 1934. Mao Zedong and his companions led the Red Army of the Chinese Workers and Peasants for 7 years, whilst traversing the vast Hakka regions of Hunan, Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong.

The ‘Xingguo County’ records state that: ‘During the Second Revolutionary Civil War, the lives of 230,000 people improved, whilst recruitment for the army reached more than 80,000 people. During the Revolutionary fighting there was sacrificed more than 23,000 martyrs. The Red Army then had to participate in the endless Long March. After every mile there was buried yet another Hakka hero from Xingguo.’ Xingguo was a place known as a ‘pure’ Hakka area which became known as the ‘County of Generals’ – producing 62 Generals in all (even the Nationalist KMT possessed 30 Generals from the Xingguo area).

After the Long March, the War of Resistance Against Japan, the War of Liberation and the War to Resist the United States and aid the country, more than 100 Hakka people throughout the country became Generals in the People’s Liberation Army. A large number of State-level talents were displayed by Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦). More importantly, in this time (during the period of the Agrarian Revolution), Mao Zedong integrated Hakka cultural thinking with that of Marxism-Leninism – and the reality of the Chinese Revolution. This subsequent body of knowledge has become known as Mao Zedong Thought and serves as the guiding ideology of the Communist Party of China.


What is interesting is that it was a Hakka person who first coined the term ‘Mao Zedong Thought’. In 1941, the Hakka author Zhang Ruxin (张如心) published his article entitled ‘On Bolshevik Education’ (in the 16th issue of ‘Communists’), which first made reference to the concept of ‘Mao Zedong Thought’. At the 7th National People’s Congress of the Communist Party of China held in 1945, Mao Zedong Thought was enshrined in the Party Constitution and Mao Zedong Thought became the guiding ideology of the whole Party.

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Jinggangshan (井冈山)

The Hakka people in the Jinggangshan area basically came from Jiaying (now Meizhou, Guangdong, including Meixian, Pingyuan, Tai Po, Wuhua, Xingning, Longchuan and other eastern regions) of Guangdong in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, but also migrated from Fujian, Hangzhou, Longyan and other Hakka settlements. When the Hakka people first arrived in this area they were very poor and wore skins and lived in bamboo shacks. Hundreds of years later, during the 1920’s and 1930’s, the descendents of these Hakkas met with Mao Zedong and his comrades. Mao Zedong re-discovered his Hakka roots at this time, and was pulled toward ethnic Hakka culture.

In the spring of 1928, Mao Zedong made a survey of two counties, Ningyang and Yongxin. Coupled with the previous investigation into the five counties in eastern Hunan, Mao Zedong made clear the origins and distribution of Hakka in Hunan, Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong Provinces, their economic as well as social status, their urgent desire to turn over their allegiance to the Red Army due to their frustrations about the failure of the National Revolution. This included familiarity with their customs and practices, as well as their historical and existential resentments with non-Hakka natives. This research and its achievements are embodied in his book entitled ‘The Battle of Jinggangshan’, which states:

‘Indigenous issues: There is one more special thing in these Hakka counties. There is a great demarcation between natives of ethnic origin and those who moved from the North hundreds of years ago. History has seen a very deep hatred and sometimes fierce fighting between the two groups. This kind of Hakka people has its origins in the borders of Fujian and Guangdong, and along the border between Hunan and Jiangxi Provinces which stretches to the south of Hubei Province – perhaps numbering a few million. The occupation of the mountains by the Hakka is a product of repression by the natives who occupy the best land, and exclude the Hakka from all political rights. In recent years, the National Revolution has welcomed the Hakkas who have proven to be good thinkers and brave fighters. The Hakkas are frustrated at the failure of the National Revolution and are now prepared to join the Red Army all across their homelands. In all these regions, the Hakkas are oppressed by landlords and the aristocracy. As these are enemies of the people, the Communist Party of China welcomes all the Hakka people into its ranks. Although in the various regions there is much ethnic strife, under the leadership of the Communist Party the enemies of the people will be over-thrown and their tyranny brought to an end. Our approach is to propagandize the slogans ‘Do not kill the farmers even if they resist’, and ‘Give back the stolen fields to all farmers” so that they are free from the influence of the gentry, and can go home with peace of mind. Education is the key to remove the violence between Hakkas and non-Hakkas. All Chinese people are equal and we should not allow the landed gentry to divide us with their bourgeois attitudes.’


This is a classic discourse which uses Marxist dialectics to remedy the Hakka – native conflict issue. Mao Zedong clearly integrates Marxist-Leninist thinking with Hakka ideas and creates a synthesis of the two. Hakka attitudes of steadfastness, fighting spirit and Revolution are all part of Mao Zedong Thought.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2018

Chinese Language Source Article:



































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