The Functions of Mao Zedong’s Enigmatic Language


  • Ping Sun the Teaching Department of the Ideological and Political Theory, North China Electric Power University Beijing 102206 P.R.China



Criticize, enigmatic language, inspire, satirize, warn.


Mao Zedong was a voracious reader in various fields and an expert in philosophy and history, and he knew the ancient Chinese history stories so well that he became highly skilled in applying those strategies and deceptions used by the ancient rulers in his own administration. Whenever he was dealing with some tough issues, he would make the past serve the present, using the characters in the ancient Chinese history stories to allude to some people or using the ideas in the philosophical books to explicate something. This special speech style adopted by Mao Zedong is called “enigmatic language”, an indirect language which is quite close to present “riddle”. Its real implied meaning changes with the specific referents and the concrete situations. This paper studies the functions of one of his commonly used enigmatic language styles, that is, his recommendation of the proper books to the people working close to him. Results show that by recommending the different books to those surrounding him he intended to inspire, to warn, to criticize and even to satirize his subordinates or his colleagues, insinuating his real political intentions as well as his purposes of gauging their genuine political loyalty. However, we also find that his enigmatic language depressed most of people surrounding him, who could not interpret his words properly to understand his implied intentions.

Author Biography

Ping Sun, the Teaching Department of the Ideological and Political Theory, North China Electric Power University Beijing 102206 P.R.China

an associate professor in the Teaching Department of the Ideological and Political Theory, North China Electric Power Universitymajor in CPC history


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