1. Built environment
  2. Architecture & design
January 6, 2016updated 20 Jul 2021 2:31pm

“I may be dead, but I’m still important”: 10 ridiculously giant statues from around the world

By Barbara Speed

A huge gold statue of Chairman Mao has made headlines this week, but it’s not exactly the first of its kind. Humans have been building giant, garish statues of other humans for hundreds of years.

So, because we’re, y’know, us, we’ve collected together some particularly ridiculous ones. 

Henan province’s giant Mao

Image: Getty.

A group of businessmen in China’s Tongxu county recently clubbed together to build 120m tall gold statue of Chairman Mao. The ironies of a group of capitalists building a tribute to the Communist leader aside, Henan province was also the site of a terrible famine in the 1950s brought on by Mao’s policies.

The statue cost around £313,000 to build and sits in an otherwise rather barren field, so at least those disgruntled with its existence can easily avoid it.  

Genghis Khan in Mongolia 

Image: public domain.

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Allegedly, Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol empire, once found a golden whip on the bank of the Thul river. To commemorate this event, a tourist company erected this 40m tall statue of the emperor on horseback atop a circular building in 2008.

It’s very shiny, and you can walk through the horses chest and up into its face to see a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.. 

A young, attractive Mao 

Image: Getty.

Back in 2009, some bright spark decided it’d be a good idea to create a giant rock topped with a portrait of a vaguely annoyed-looking 25 year old Mao Zedong, long hair blowing in the breeze. The statue is located in Changsha, China, the site of the young Mao’s conversion to communism.  

Mao in China, again

Wow, they really like this guy. This 30m model stands in Chengdu’s Tianfu Square, and in the picture is being specially cleaned for the country’s National Day, a day of government-organised festivities when portraits of (yep, you guessed it) Mao are prominently displayed. 

St Helens’ squashed head 

Image: geograph.co.uk. 

This sculpture, located in St Helens, Merseyside, looks like a girl with her eyes closed in mediation, who has then had her head inserted into a vice. It was commissioned as part of Channel 5’s Big Art Project, and cost almost £2m. Jaume Plensa, the artist behind the sculpture, says that the nine year old is meant to represent “the future” – hence the sculpture’s title, “Dream”. 

Mount Rushmore

Image: Public Domain.

When you take a step back, it’s creepy, right? A bunch of 18m tall polticians’ faces carved into a mountain? Can you imagine what would happen if George W. Bush announced his intention to chisel a picture of himself onto one of the Rockies?

Judging by his artistic attempts to date, however, it’s unlikely the finished product would be recognisable, which is some consolation. 

Hamburg’s lady of the lake

Image: Getty. 

Partially included for reasons of gender diversity (very few powerful women have been commemorated with enormous statues – who knew?), this statue is also hilariously ugly.

The steel and styrofoam monstrosity was designed by artist Oliver Voss, and was installed in Hamburg’s Binnenalster lake for only ten days in 2011. Judging by the nonplussed expressions of these kayakers as they pass through the sculpture’s greying knees, this was probably a good thing:

Image: Getty. 

Russia’s sword lady

Image: Rob via Flickr. 

Another woman! This one is Mother Russia, wielding a sword at the city of Volgograd in commemoration of the battle of Stalingrad.

At the time it was built, “The Motherland Calls” was the tallest statue in the world, and is still the tallest statue of a woman in the world if you exclude pedestals. If you include them, the State of Liberty wins.

Easter Island

Image: Hhooper1 via Wikimedia Commons.

OK, so these statues aren’t giant per se, but the overall effect is an island ringed by stone heads, which in my mind at least warrants inclusion. 

As far as we know, Easter Island’s moais are an old-timey version of Mount Rushmore: some dead, powerful chaps get a sculpture of their faces installed to make clear that, while they may be dead, they are still powerful and important.

Lenin, everywhere

What is it with Communists and giant statues?

Leninplatz, Berlin:

Image: German Federal Archives.

Central Ashgabat, Turkmenistan:

Image: Bjorn Christian Torrisen.

Seattle, USA: 

Image: Emil Venko.

Dubna, Russia:



Image:Harveyqs at Wikimedia Commons.

To name a few.

“It’s all about the people, but I would also like very tall, vaguely phallic statues of myself erected all over the world.” 

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