Here's What Really Happened To Mao Zedong's Corpse

Born in 1893, Mao Zedong was a communist leader and founder of the People's Republic of China (via BBC). Although revered by many, his legacy is complicated, to say the least. To some, he is a political genius and military mastermind (via Biography). To others, he's a genocidal maniac who caused the deaths of millions and whose efforts to eradicate traditional Chinese were tantamount to self-sabotage.

On September 9, 1976, Mao died due to Parkinson's complications. According to The Guardian, even at age 82, no one expected him to die, so there was little instruction on what to do with his body. Although Mao had requested to be cremated, that was out of the question for both his widow and powerful officials. Ultimately, it was decided that like Vladimir Lenin and Ho Chi Minh, he would be put on display. But this was easier said than done, and the clock was ticking against the natural process of decay.

Preserving the body was complicated

First and foremost, Mao Zedong's body had to be cooled down without freezing it (via The Guardian). The technology was finicky, but within hours, officials succeeded. Things, however, were so tense that those working on the body didn't sleep for days at a time. After eight days, the entire process was over. Still, details of the actual embalming process are a little less clear, and no official accounts of how Mao was actually preserved have ever been published.

Nonetheless, Mao's body was put on display in 1977 in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where it can still be found today. According to The Anthrotorian, his body lies in a crystal coffin that is draped with a red flag bearing a hammer and sickle. His hair is defined by gray streaks, and underneath him is a refrigerator. At night, Mao's body is lowered and stored. Visitors flock to the mausoleum (which is only closed Mondays) day after day. Due to Mao's bloody history, some say his body should be taken off display. In China, however, he is seen as a hero, so it seems like he isn't going anywhere for now.