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September 19, 2007

Sad Mao, Happy Mao.

I'm not sure how well-known this little trick is, so I've decided to share it with the teeming masses seeking entertainment. With a few simple folds, you can make Mao's straight-faced portrait on any denomination of Chinese currency smile and cry. Here's a diagram of how to do the folding:

How to fold Chinese currency to make Chairman Mao smile and cry.

These steps are a bit overcomplicated, so if you prefer you can just look at step 6 and make the folds as you prefer. The spacing between the folds needs to be about 0.3cm - 0.4cm for the optimal smiling/crying effect, with the center fold going right through Mao's philtrum (the groove above the upper lip).

By tilting the bill up and down a bit after the folding is done you can expect these hilarious results:

Mao turns his frown upside-down.

For some reason, when I took the photo of Mao frowning his eyes turned a bit Sloth-like (as in Sloth from The Goonies). This trick looks better in person than it does above. The folding isn't an exact science, but with a bit of practice you'll be able to entertain any man, woman, or child in China at a moment's notice.

Of course, the hard part is making sure you've always got a portrait of Chairman Mao in your pocket. Maybe it's time you gave up that teaching job and started selling heroin? (Positions available; inquire within.)

Much thanks to the lovely Song Linxuan of Tianjin for showing me how to do this.

UPDATE: It turns out that this is actually a well-known optical illusion, at least for US currency. For better results you should make a fold through each of the eyes first and then an opposite fold in the middle. Mao's emotions will be yours to play with as you wish:

Better folding means better results.



posted September 19, 2007 at 08:52 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | HaoHao This!


The optical illusion seen here is a similar illusion to the one you find in the Mona Lisa... part of the mystery of her smile comes from the way our brains process vision in the front view vs our peripheral vision. When switching between processing what's in front of us and what is on the periphery, we switch between seeing Mona Lisa smile and Mona Lisa frown. Although what you show here is because of the paper folding, if you switch the way you look at the unfolded picture of Mao, you will probably see him smile and frown also... give it a shot and let me know how it turns out.

The comment above was posted by David Feinberg at September 20, 2007 05:05 AM unofficial Xinjiang time.


You're right, although the smile and frown are very slight (almost imperceptible) without the folds. More of a smirk and grimace.

The comment above was posted by michael at September 20, 2007 08:41 AM unofficial Xinjiang time.

Cool stuff. :-)

The comment above was posted by Peter at September 20, 2007 02:13 PM unofficial Xinjiang time.

Haha, I've been showing students of mine this since I was shown it shortly after washing up on these shores a couple years ago - why it never occurred to me to post about is beyond me. Thanks for sharing man - ace trick.

The comment above was posted by The Humanaught at September 20, 2007 02:22 PM unofficial Xinjiang time.

heheheh! been doing this to the queen for years, but it never occurred to me that mao might also be as emotional! thanks.

The comment above was posted by monkeymind at September 22, 2007 02:24 PM unofficial Xinjiang time.

this is pretty funny!!

The comment above was posted by GUS at December 16, 2007 08:28 PM unofficial Xinjiang time.

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The comment above was posted by fj at January 30, 2008 05:05 PM unofficial Xinjiang time.