The first photo above collected in Irony Lives In China: A Photo Album triggered some memories from the very interesting book, Rhetoric of The Chinese Cultural Revolution by Lu Xing.
(p. 121) In traditional operas, loyalty to the emperor and obedience to authority were highly praised. The Mandate of Heaven mythology of ancient China was naturally extended to adoration for Mao Zedong in modern times. When revolutionary songs equated Mao with the gold sun and his teachings with sunshine, the Chinese embraced such exaltation and took it in stride. Loyalty to the emperor was transferred to Mao and the party. Obedience to authority became obedience to Mao’s teachings. Similarly, traditional Chinese values emphasized sacrifice for the community and state. The new revolutionary art forms celebrated sacrifice for the proletarian cause.
In Chinese language the two characters guo Âúã (state) and jia ÂÆ∂ (family) are always used together, implying that the head of the county is also the head of the family. As China has had three thousand years of practicing filial piety in relation to the family, it was not difficult to extend the practice and apply it to the head of state. Though Mao presented himself as a radical reformer of Chinese society and was critical of traditional Chinese attitudes concerning filial piety and loyalty, he allowed the masses to worship him as another Chinese emperor. The only difference was that no Chinese emperor before him had ever been elevated to such a grand scale of deification.