Possibly the most printed book in history, ''Quotations'' had an estimated 5 to 6.5 billion copies printed during Mao's attempt to transform Chinese society. The book's phenomenal popularity may be due to the fact that it was essentially an unofficial requirement for every Chinese citizen to own, to read, and to carry it at all times during the later half of Mao's rule, especially during the Cultural Revolution. At the height of the period, for people out of favor with the Communist party, the punishment for failing to produce the book upon demand ranged from being beaten on the spot by to being given years of hard-labor imprisonment.
During the Cultural Revolution, studying the book was not only required in schools but was also a standard practice in the workplace as well. All units, in the industrial, commercial, agricultural, civil service, and military sectors, organized group sessions for the entire workforce to study the book during working hours. Quotes from Mao were either bold-faced or highlighted in red, and almost all writing, including scientific essays, had to quote Mao.
To defend against the theory that it would be counter-productive, it was argued that understanding Mao's quotes could definitely bring about enlightenment to the work unit, resulting in production improvement to offset the time lost.
During the 1960s, the book was the single most visible icon in mainland China, even more visible than the image of the Chairman himself. In posters and pictures created by CPC's propaganda artists, nearly every painted character, except Mao himself, either smiling or looking determined, was always seen with a copy of the book in his or her hand.
After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 and the rise of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, the importance of the book waned considerably, and the glorification of Mao's quotations was considered to be and a cult of personality.
Mao's quotations are categorized into 33 chapters in the book. Its topics mainly deal with Mao's ideology, known in the West as Maoism and officially as "Mao Zedong Thought."
Content and format
''Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong'' comprises 427 quotations, divided thematically into 33 chapters. The quotations range in length from a sentence to a few short paragraphs, and borrow heavily from a group of about two dozen documents in the four volumes of Mao's ''Selected Works''. In the book's latter half, a strong empiricist tendency evidences itself in Mao's thought. Usually the quotations are arranged logically, to deal with one to three themes in the development of a chapter. The table below summarizes the book. Please note that the summaries represent what Mao is claiming or writing in each chapter.
Parodies and homages
The popularity of the red book has inspired any number of parodies and imitations. Many are either tongue-in-cheek borrowing of the format by supporters of the person being quoted, others are collecting embarrassing quotes from a political enemy. Some of these include:
*''Quotations from Chairman Bill'', 1970
*''Quotations from Chairman LBJ'', 1968
*''Quotations from President Ron'', 1984
*''Quotations from Speaker Newt: The Little Red, White and Blue Book of the Republican Revolution'', 1994
*''The Little White Book'', by Ben Klassen
*''Monty Python's Big Red Book''
*''The Green Book'', by Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi
*''The Little Red Schoolbook'', by Soren Hansen and Jesper Jensen of Denmark, 1969
*'''', 1972, a record album by progressive rock group Matching Mole
*''Little Red Book of Selling'', by Jeffrey Gitomer
*''Little Red Book of Sales Answers'', by Jeffrey Gitomer