Mao Zedong (simplified Chinese 毛泽东, traditional 毛澤東; pinyin Máo Zédōng, Wade-Giles Mao Tse-tung), the son of a peasant farmer, was born on December 26, 1893, in the small village of Shao Shan, Hunan province, China. When he died on September 9, 1976 he had become the Chairman of the People's Republic of China.
The country had suffered through repeated revolutions, decades of interference and war with foreign powers such as Britain, Russia, Japan, as well as many successive civil wars. Mao rose quickly within Communist Party and formed the party's People's Liberation Army (PLA). Throughout the 1930's, he repeatedly evaded Kuomintang (KMT) and Japanese attempts to destroy the Chinese communists through the KMT's encirclement campaigns. He was eventually forced to relocate his forces from the south to the north of China in what is known to history as the Long March. With the formation of the Second United Front, Mao was successful in harassing Japanese forces in China through guerrilla warfare.
After the end of the Second World War and the defeat of Japan, a new civil war erupted in the Republic of China between the Communists and the Kuomintang Nationalists. After several years of fighting, Mao led the communists and the PLA to control of the majority of pre-revolutionary China. He declared the formation of the People's Republic of China before a crowd of 300,000 people in Tiananmen Square on October 1st 1949 and became Chairman.
The period of his rule remained one of turmoil in China and much blame is laid at Mao Zedong's feet. Land reforms and the purges of counter-revolutionaries saw the death of hundreds of thousands of people, possibly millions. In January 1958 he instigated the Great Leap Forward as an attempt to jump start the Chinese economy and catch up with western nations. This had disastrous consequences and the subsequent man made famines claimed tens of millions of victims. Mao ceased to be Chairman of the People's Republic in 1959 as a direct result of the Great Leap Forward's failure. He remained Chairman of the Communist Party of China until his death and so still held significant political control. Fearing that elements within the Party were leading the country away from true Communism, Mao formed his Red Guard, in 1966, from students and young workers who he mobilized to remove the revisionists from power. This was the Cultural Revolution, the death toll and suffering caused during this time can only be estimated. The cultural revolution lasted until Mao's death in 1976. Today, the Chinese refer to this time simply as the "ten bad years".