CHANGSHA - Central China's Hunan province on Monday promulgated standards for the manufacture of Chairman Mao statues to curb the production of substandard products.
The Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision in Hunan province officially promulgated the technical standards in Shaoshan city, Mao Zedong's hometown.
"The move is expected to curtail the production and sale of low-quality Mao statues that harm the tourism market and people's feeling for the great man," said the bureau's chief engineer, Jiang Tao.
Tourists visiting Shaoshan -- known as one of China's "red tourism" sites -- have complained about the inferior quality of the statues peddlers and small stalls sell.
Some souvenirs sold were physically disproportional while others were made with low-quality materials in a slipshod way, said Jiang.
"Many statues don't look like the man himself. Some have a weird appearance and others have obvious quality defects," said 67-year-old Shaoshan resident Mao Anping, a relative of the "Great Helmsman."
The regulation that takes effect July 1 prescribes the appearance, materials and surface-thickness and -hardness for the statues, a popular tourism souvenir among Chinese and foreign tourists.
Mass-produced statues must pass a strict examination by at least five experts to ensure the expression, hairstyle, facial- and body-features, costume and posture reflect Mao's real appearance, the regulations say.
Copper alloys, silver and unsaturated polyester resin (UPR) are materials allowed to be used to make the statues. But gesso, plastic and composition brass are proscribed.
From July, Mao statues failing to meet the new technical criteria may be confiscated and destroyed by the relevant authorities, said Yu Guoxin, a Shaoshan Municipal Government official who participated in drafting the standards.
The enactment of the technical standards is "unique, extraordinary and significant," said Mao Xinyu, Chairman Mao's grandson.
"The establishment of the standards reflects people's respect and love for my grandfather...It will have significant bearing on the promotion of China's revolutionary traditions and patriotism," said 40-year-old Mao Xinyu.
The Shaoshan souvenir market reported sales income of 124 million yuan ($18.2 million) in 2009, 70 percent of which was from Mao statues, the city's tourism bureau said.
A survey conducted by Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group in 2008 in 40 Chinese cities and towns showed 11.5 percent of Chinese worship Mao statues at home.
A lot of people ask Mao to bless their career, studies, luck and life.
Only a few companies in Shaoshan are able to produce qualified statues, said Yu.
"Many people only recognize the image of Mao impersonators, and I'm afraid the new products may not become popular," said Xia Youxin, curator of Shaoshan Mao Zedong Memorial Museum.