A popular Chinese television celebrity apologized Thursday night for insulting the founder of Communist China, after his remarks at a private dinner caused a stir in China and rekindled debate on the complicated legacy of the revolutionary figure.

Bi Fujian, the host of the talent show "Avenue of Stars" at the state broadcaster China Central Television, issued the apology on his personal microblog that has 1.3 million followers.

"I feel extremely guilty, and my heart aches," Bi wrote. "I sincerely expressed my deep apology to the public." Bi said, as a public figure, he would draw a lesson and better discipline himself.

In a home video that circulated widely online before censors removed it this week, Bi apparently was amusing his audience at a private dinner by singing a revolutionary song about Communist Party-led soldiers battling bandits in northeastern China in the 1940s.

To the laughter of guests, Bi adds his own commentary in a speaking voice between lines.

After the lyrics mention Mao, Bi refers to him using a vulgar Chinese insult that includes a reference to female genitals, and says "he has ruined us all." Bi also mocks the soldiers, suggesting their battles were pointless and the song's claim of victory boastful.

The incident renewed debate both on free speech and about Mao, who many Chinese feel should be held responsible for disastrous periods such the 1959-1961 famine and the chaos unleashed by the decade-long Cultural Revolution in 1966 when Mao appealed directly to the masses to root out reactionaries.

Though some of Mao's policies have been officially critiqued, the ruling Communist Party can hardly renounce him because it has built much of its legitimacy upon the imagery surrounding the revolutionary leader. A huge portrait of him still hangs in the heart of Beijing.

Bi's remarks have caused a stir in China, drawing stern criticisms from state media and staunch and vocal supporters of Mao. But others argue he should not be persecuted for the private comments.

CCTV announced Wednesday that it launched an investigation into the incident.