Arts & Entertainment

Madame Mao’s Nietzschean Revolution

Mao’s wife Jiang Qing helped lead the Cultural Revolution with a Nietzschean philosophy of art. Through revolutionary operas and ballets, she sought a heroic consciousness to could transform society.

Whether it comes in the form of a musical composition, a ballet, or a violent revolution, a great work always involves self-overcoming. Palladium correspondent Dylan Levi King’s new piece on the philosophy and art of Jiang Qing, a leader of China’s Cultural Revolution and wife of Mao Zedong, takes a look at the philosophy that motivated “Madame Mao’s” performance art. Believe it or not, it came less from Karl Marx and more from another nineteenth-century German philosopher of a completely different caliber—Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche’s philosophy stressed self-overcoming and a “transvaluation of all values” in which superior humans shed traditional moral values to embrace their natural role as masters over society. One would think such a radically anti-egalitarian philosophical system would repel those who believed in building a classless society, but as it turns out many communist revolutionaries of the early twentieth century were directly or indirectly influenced by his work. Such was the case with Jiang:


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