Chairman Mao badges can be seen as icons of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). They were worn by everyone from the smallest child to Prime Minister Zhou Enlai (except for ‘class enemies’ who were forbidden to wear them at all) as an expression of loyalty to Chairman Mao. Mass-produced throughout China, made in plastic, metal, bamboo and porcelain, and in a great variety of different styles, they have been collector’s items ever since.

Today, serious Mao badge collections in China start at 10,000 badges. By comparison, the British Museum has a small collection of 300 Mao badges. This project looks at those 300 badges in detail, exploring the symbolism and slogans on them in a systematic way. The publication will also provide extensive text and image glossaries relevant to the Cultural Revolution.

This project has been completed. The catalogue was published in 2008.

H. Wang, Chairman Mao Badges: Symbols and Slogans of the Cultural Revolution (BM Research Publication 169, 2008, ISBN 978-0-86159-169-5.

Read the publication online 

Chairman Mao badge

A Chairman Mao badge from China, made during the Cultural Revolution, 1960s.