Why does Mao's embalmed corpse continue to arouse powerful religious feelings among contemporary Chinese writers after the end of his rule, from fantasies of resurrection to yearnings for redemption? While extant scholarship focuses on the sociopolitical aspects of Mao's posthumous cult, this essay reveals the crucial role that literary narrative plays in the (un)making of Mao's quasi-religious appeal. Drawing on literary genres such as diary, memoir, science fantasy, and satirical fiction, I argue that the political theology of Mao can be read as a grand “political fiction” that linked the doubling of Mao's immortal body with the perpetual sovereignty of the Chinese Communist Party. However, even as literary narrative authorizes the political mythology of Mao, contemporary Chinese literature also demonstrates its capacity for ideological critique. My narrative begins with the party's controversial effort to sacralize Mao's biological remains, from the ritualized display of political sovereignty to the ambiguous allusion to religious miracle. Then I look at the bizarre resurrection of Mao's flesh in Liu Cixin's 劉慈欣 1989 science fiction novel China 2185. The story features a cybernetic uprising in the distant future, when a computer engineer breaks into the Mao mausoleum and “uploads” Mao's mind into cyberspace. Lastly, I draw on the satirical fictions of Yan Lianke 閻連科 and Chan Koonchung 陳冠中 to reveal the desacralizing impacts of neoliberal capitalism on the Maoist political religiosity.

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