The Goddess of Democracy, also known as the Goddess of Democracy and Freedom, the Spirit of Democracy, and the Goddess of Liberty, was a 10-meter-tall (33 ft) statue created during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The statue was constructed in only four days out of foam and papier-mâché over a metal armature. The constructors decided to make the statue as large as possible so the government would be unable to dismantle it. The government would either have to destroy the statue—an action which would potentially fuel further criticism of its policies—or leave it standing. Despite these efforts, the statue was destroyed by soldiers clearing the square of protesters, but has been copied a number of times.
The statue was built by students of the Central Academy of Fine Arts beginning on May 27 at their University. It was built in hopes of bolstering the movement which “seemed to be losing some of its momentum; the students suspected that the government was waiting for them to tire and leave the Square”. Working with a sense of urgency and expedience, to create the model the larger statue would be based on the students reworked an academic exercise built to demonstrate the effect of the distribution of weight on a piece: “a half-meter high clay sculpture of a man grasping a pole with two raised hands and leaning his weight on it.” “The students cut off the lower part of the pole and added a flame at the top to turn it into a torch; they leaned the sculpture into a more upright position; they changed the man’s face to a woman’s, and otherwise added feminine characteristics to make the him into a her.” They then transferred the measurements of the model, adjusting them for the larger proportion, to the foam that once carved became the monument. Jeff Widener, known for his iconic Tank Man photograph, took other photographs of the fateful rally, including two widely publicized images of the Goddess; one under construction, and another in context of the demonstration.
While many people have noted its resemblance to the Statue of Liberty, a sculptor present during its construction, Tsao Tsing-yuan, has written that the students decided not to model their statue on the Statue of Liberty because they were concerned that it would be unoriginal and “too openly pro-American.” Tsao further notes the influence on the statue of the work of Russian sculptor Vera Mukhina, associated with the school of revolutionary realism. Her piece Worker and Kolkhoz Woman was especially influential for their statue’s head and facial features.