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Self-Study University

The reverse inscription records that Chairman Mao established the Hunan Self-Study University in the premises of the  Changsha Chuanshan Association - the building depicted on the obverse.

After returning from the 1st National Congress in Shanghai, Mao and a few like-minded colleagues started the Self-Study University in August 1921  with Mao as director of academic studies. In his founding manifesto Mao criticised traditional shuyuan for being obsessed with the 8-legged essay and "modern" schools for wearing away students' personalities and destroying their souls.

build self study uni

40mm   7.5g

Students at the the new university were encouraged to read and research for themselves from a wide variety of Marxist and other revolutionary works, many of them supplied by Mao through his Cultural Book Society. It was not, however, all book learning and political theorizing - the students were also expected to work together to clean and maintain the fabric of the building. The Hunan Self-Study University lasted only two years; it was closed in late 1923 by the military governor Zhao Hengti on the grounds that it constituted a threat to public order.

I think we should create a new kind of life in Changsha. We should invite comrades to join us and rent a house to establish a self-study university (this term suggested by Mr. Hui Shizhi), where we shall practice a communal life. It can also be called the “work-study group.

Mao Zedong, letter to Zhou Shixhao of the New People’s Association (cited in East West Dialogue  in Knowledge and Higher Education, 1996, ed Ruth Hayhoe and Julia Pan)