John Gittings

Chinese posters and popular art

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* This essay originally appeared as “Excess and Enthusiasm” in Harriet Evans and Stephanie Donald, Picturing Power in the People’s Republic of China (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), pp. 27-46. The letter-number codes cited in the text refer to posters in the collection of the University of Westminster, which is available at “China Posters Online”,

Chinese posters and popular art

To travel in China during the Cultural Revolution was a bewildering business. The normal sense of disorientation in an unfamiliar land was heightened by the very special political culture of the time with its unwritten and usually unfathomable rules. In between set-piece visits to schools, factories, communes, and theatres the inquiring visitor would seize any opportunity to disengage from the guided tour, get down from the bus or out of the hotel, and try to see something that was not prefaced by an officially presented "brief introduction." This worried Chinese hosts considerably. At the lakeside resort of Hangzhou in 1971, an attempt to ride into town on an ordinary bus was frustrated when the bus was flagged down and the driver ordered not to move till the foreigners on board had been transferred to the safety of a hotel minibus. Later, in Beijing, a quiet stroll in the backstreet lanes, or hutongs, was abruptly terminated by a group of vigilant schoolgirls who arrested the two stray foreigners on suspicion of spying.

Deprived for most of the time of the normal contacts that help build up understanding in a foreign culture-the casual strolls, chance encounters, and random conversations-we searched for other reference points among the abundance of visual images on display. These ranged from stark slogans in black or red characters to colourful posters on billboards, or smaller printed versions on sale in bookshops. Designed to catch the eye and to convey propaganda -- xuanchuan -- the posters, literally "propaganda pictures" (xuanchuanhua), were emphatic and exuberant, often stating topics with greater emphasis and clarity than our own guides. Many of them delivered messages of harsh conflict and struggle, especially in the early phase of Red Guard violence and high-level political warfare (1966-1969). Yet others conveyed a sense of excitement and commitment to genuine social change that developed when the violence was reduced and attempts were made to "revolutionize" education, health, workplace relations, and local government. This aspect of popular involvement is now denied, and the years 1966-1976 have been officially designated as "Ten Years of Chaos" in which "nothing good took place." Poster art, too, has been written off by Chinese art historians as a worthless product of those years -- a contention I shared neither at the time nor since.

The propaganda poster belonged to a much larger family of artistic endeavour of the time that will be described in detail later. From traditional painting to woodcuts and cartoons, all forms of art had been thoroughly "revolutionized" by the Cultural Revolution to convey a uniform range of aspirations and exhortations. For visitors to China the posters, on sale for a few cents per copy, provided the easiest access to this cultural continuum of revolutionary art. They could be purchased in the state-run Iyeu China Bookshop (Xinhua shudian) found in every town. In these usually cavernous premises, with their bored assistants, dusty windows, and half-empty shelves, they provided the one bright feature. Examples of posters in stock were pinned on the wall or ceiling and identified by numbers for easy purchase. Posters of Chairman Mao were naturally most prominent. The appearance of any other leader would be of political significance. Marx, Lenin, Engels, and Stalin would be on display. Figures from the revolutionary operas promoted by Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, were also frequent subjects, as were model heroes such as the soldier Lei Feng. Current campaigns in the Cultural Revolution generated posters illustrating the appropriate slogan. In the early years many were artistically very crude, but in the early 1970s the stark themes of "struggle" gave way to the advocacy of social goals, such as taking education to the countryside, promoting women's equality in the workplace, and working harder to help national construction. Posters of this period showed much more variety artistically, departing from the more hackneyed approach-familiar from the Soviet Union-to adopt images and techniques of traditional Chinese painting and folk art and making a conscious effort to look attractive.

Sold cheaply, they would be purchased for home use as acceptable decoration on bare walls, alongside the obligatory portrait or poster of Chairman Mao. They were displayed in school classrooms, on the walls of factory workshops, and in the corridors of government buildings. Larger-scale compositions appeared on billboards at road junctions and inside railway and bus stations. For the visitor, they offered a combination of realistic detail with imagistic allegory that richly illustrated the main political and social themes of the time. At both levels, such propaganda posters also provided opportunities for analysis and discussion at a level that was accessible to ordinary Chinese, for whom the images were part of everyday discourse. They sometimes offered clues to political trends or views that were otherwise concealed. Posters in a school showing Premier Zhou Enlai, who was regarded as a moderating influence in the Cultural Revolution, might indicate support for his efforts to restore social order and revive the importance of science and education. Posters in a factory that criticized bureaucracy or denounced "economism" might imply that militant workers were waging a campaign against the management. Billboards calling for fresh efforts to smash the class enemy could reveal a fierce political struggle; those exhorting people to support the Four Strike Hards would indicate problems with crime and theft in the area. Posters calling for good traffic discipline, better-quality goods, or care for the elderly indicated a return to "normality" in which less politicized social goals could again be expressed.

After the death of Mao Zedong in September 1976, his successor, Hua Guofeng, continued to assert the validity of the Cultural Revolution, while reviving the policy of the "Four Modernizations" (originally proclaimed by Zhou Enlai before the Cultural Revolution began and then dropped) as the emphasis began to shift from political struggle to economic reforms. Posters from this period provide an extremely sensitive indication of its changing values. I first visited China in 1971 and began a collection of Chinese popular art and ephemera at that time. In the late 1970s, I was teaching Chinese politics at the Polytechnic of Central London (PCL) to students who now had the opportunity to spend a year attached to a language institute or university language department in China. On pastoral visits to China, I found that the importance of posters as a guide to the rapid shifts in political culture under way was evident to both staff and students. The Chinese Visual Arts Project was established at the PCL, and a public exhibition of posters was held in April 1979. With generous help from a small number of colleagues and friends in the China field who had visited or lived on the mainland, the core of the present collection was quickly established, extending back into the 1960s.

The return to power of Deng Xiaoping, who stressed the need for economic modernization and the revival of education and science, gave poster art a new though short-lived lease on life. Images of thoughtful study and dedication were presented in softer colours with more subtle design. But posters suffered from being an art form so closely associated with the previous epoch of turmoil. The very word "propaganda" began to sound as old-fashioned as "comrade." Diplomats from the Chinese embassy in London invited to the PCL's exhibition found it hard to hide their incredulity at, and even distaste for, the organizers' interest. By the early 1980s, blank spaces were appearing on the walls of the New China Bookshops; very soon most poster themes became anodyne and their images purely decorative. A fresh source of visual appeal was to be found instead on the billboards where advertisements for consumer goods and films at first appeared side by side with, and then replaced, images of Chairman Mao. That is another area of enormous interest, in its blending of the traditional and the modern, the foreign and the domestic, but it lies outside the scope of this collection.

History of the Poster

Propaganda posters in the modern sense began to be produced for mass sale after the 1949 communist Liberation: specialized groups were set up to study Soviet experience of poster design and output, and modern techniques of reproduction became available .or the first time. However, the use of art for propaganda was no novelty: it had been used extensively in both the nationalist and the communist revolutions, particularly in appealing to a largely illiterate population in the rural areas. Such propaganda struck a chord with the peasants, who were accustomed to "reading" messages conveyed visually through shop signs, New Year posters, pictures in the temples, flags and banners on the opera stage, and crudely printed fly sheets that began to circulate in the second half of the nineteenth century. (Antiforeign feeling that culminated in the Boxer Rebellion had been stimulated by illustrated tracts and leaflets depicting the atrocities committed by foreign missionaries.) The advertising poster, linked to commercial design work and influenced by the packaging of Western goods, established a distinctive style that reached its peak in 1930s Shanghai, but it developed in an entirely different world from rural society.

The theoretical basis for all cultural work under communist rule was Mao Zedong's “Yan'an Talks" (May 1942) in which he laid down the principle that literature and art must "serve the people." Mao was elaborating-and forcing into a more rigid mould -- ideas which were already familiar. In 1976 an exhibition of "soldiers' art" in Beijing would give pride of place to an oil painting with the title Chairman Mao teaches us to paint for the revolution. This showed Mao smiling approvingly at propaganda sketches made by young soldiers in the period before 1927 of the joint Communist- Nationalist “United Front." [1] In the Nationalist-led Northern Expedition (1926-1927) against the Chinese warlords that followed, mobile propaganda teams would accompany the fighting troops to win over civilians. The Communist armies, who had to rely entirely on peasant support both to survive and to attract new recruits, made even greater efforts to appeal to the people. Pictures as well as slogans were painted upon walls. both inside and outside. The new woodcut movement of the 1930s, inspired by the writer Lu Xun, was enlisted in the service of the revolution by artists who moved to the Communist capital in Yan'an. They included Gu Yuan, Yan Han, Jiang Feng , Shi Lu. and others who became senior figures in the post-1949 art world. They adapted rural art forms common in New Year and other folk prints to serve the new political cause. Because access to printing presses was very limited, woodcuts usually offered the best way of making multiple copies. Political meetings were held and theatre troupes performed on open-air stages, in front of banners painted with grotesque images of Japanese imperialists and Chinese puppets, as well as with appropriate slogans. Such ephemeral works were photographed by a number of foreign visitors to the communist areas. [2] More sophisticated work began to be produced during the civil war (1946-1949); some of this work survives in Chinese collections and has been republished or placed on exhibition. [3]

All of the art produced for propaganda purposes in this period was described as "propaganda pictures" --xuanchuanhua. A retrospective collection, published in Beijing in 1979, contained sketches, cartoons, woodcuts in the 1930s and peasant styles, New Year prints with revolutionary themes, all dating from the anti-Japanese war and described as xuanchuanhua. [4] Cartoons (manhua), illustrated strips (lianhuanhua), woodcuts (banhua), New Year prints (nianhua) and paintings in the traditional style (guohua) were the recognized forms of visual art production; all of these except the guohua were routinely used for propaganda work. The term xuanchuanhua was appropriated to describe the new mass-produced propaganda posters only after 1949. Many were specially composed to suit the new medium, but posters continued to reproduce compositions originally designed in one of the other forms, particularly modern-style New Year prints and the popular illustrated strips that are also available in smaller book-form versions. Propaganda posters are also known as "placard pictures" (zhaotiehua), meaning a picture that seeks attention and is attached to some object -- an apt description for posters designed to be pinned or glued to walls.

An official history of Chinese art published in 1994 looks back on the 1950s as the golden age of propaganda posters; independent observers would be unlikely to agree. A huge quantity of very mediocre work was produced to support the war being waged by the Chinese People's Volunteers (the armed forces under a different name) in North Korea against the U.S.-led United Nations forces. Art workers rallied round, the story is told, to plaster the whole country with posters, many of which were sent to the front line to raise the troops' morale. Most fell into the category known as "we fervently love peace," showing wistful or smiling children, doves of peace, and other scenes of harmony. A poster with this title by Jue Wen showed two little children reproduced with photographic clarity and actually holding doves; it was regarded as a masterpiece. [5] In posters as with other art, the influence of Soviet socialist realism was only too clear: an influential exhibition of Soviet posters and cartoons was held in Beijing in 1951. Another obligatory theme of this period showed Mao Zedong meeting the people or displaying his wisdom in the manner of Joseph Stalin. The New Year pictures were at first less affected, showing rural reforms in the style developed by Gu Yuan and others with scenes such as Ballot by beans and Acquiring new title-deeds to the land. But the nianhua, too, was enlisted into the service of other themes that had little rural resonance; these included Villagers welcome Soviet friends and Peasants sign the Stockholm Peace Appeal. [6]

By the late 1950s, poster art was displaying more variety as the Soviet influence waned, though the most admired examples were still the most anodyne. The range included gouaches, oil paintings, woodcuts, and New Year paintings. Socialist realism was supplemented by a more imaginative style of revolutionary romanticism, combining elements of the traditional landscape with symbols of economic transformation. National-minority themes were encouraged and offered the opportunity for more diverse and colourful design. Foreign influences from Eastern Europe also were absorbed. A complex body of theory that linked political and social aims to artistic values and techniques of the propaganda poster was being built up. These were discussed at length at a 1960 conference, accompanied by an exhibition, summing up ten years of poster experience. A speech by Wang Chaowen, a Yan'an veteran and editor of the Fine Arts (Meishu) journal, set out the main objective:

The speciality of the propaganda poster is that it attracts attention the moment it is seen, and gives people a clear and deep impression at a glance. But it should also have the capacity to make people want to look at it for longer. It is not enough if one look suffices. It should yield more on closer study. [7]

By this time a number of younger artists were specializing full time in propaganda poster art. Unlike older artists who regarded it as a less serious art form, they professed to find complete satisfaction in it on both social and artistic grounds. Ha Jingwen was a Hui-minority artist who had joined the People's Liberation Army and became a full-time art propagandist. Looking back on this period, he would later recall that the art workers never asked for extra payment when they worked overtime to meet a sudden demand for propaganda; they regarded themselves as engaged "on the battle front," and a successful poster was a sufficient reward. [8]

Posters and Popular Art in the Cultural Revolution

Posters and those who made them were transformed, as in every other branch of art and culture, by the Cultural Revolution. The art colleges closed down with the rest of the educational system. Students and young art workers lent their services to the Red luard and Red Rebel movements. But specialized production of posters continued; more senior artists who had been "struggled against" were sometimes brought back to give unacknowledged help. However, there was a much greater emphasis upon art-work that originated with non-professional groups, as had happened eight years before, when the country was swept by the Great Leap Forward. "Spare-time" (yeyu) art groups in factories and street communities and amateur peasant painters in the countryside flourished. Posters formed the most visible and explicit part of a continuum of art production whose themes and style were dictated by the new cultural authorities of the Cultural Revolution and which transformed equally "traditional” guohua, woodcuts, New Year pictures, cartoons, paper-cuts, and a whole range of art ephemera from alarm clocks and enamel mugs to children's toys. Posters produced in the early Red Guard phase (1966-1968) and in the later revival of political activism (1974-1976] disregarded previous inhibitions against images that might appear to threaten those regarded as "the people," often crossing the thin line between exhortation and coercion. It has been described as the style in which "the fist was larger than the face." In one example from Beijing, probably dated 1967, the huge figure of a worker squeezes in his fist an assortment of US imperialists and Soviet revisionists under the title The Chinese people are not easily humiliated (D6). This characteristic of "extremist" expression was much condemned after the Cultural Revolution. Disregard for other inhibitions sometimes had a more positive effect; posters illustrating scenes of popular activity were often packed with vivid detail and imagery -- particularly in the countryside, which previous poster art tended to treat more routinely. Style was bolder and brasher; the cheerful faces and bright colour contrasts of the New Year style were incorporated into many posters even if they were not labeled as nianhua. Poster art had received a similar but more short-lived stimulus during the Great Leap Forward.

Every village, factory, and street committee had its own propaganda artist (melshu xuanchuan yuan) or group (xuanchuan dui). These amateur art workers were responsible for all visual propaganda from simple slogans hung outdoors to permanent displays in the work-unit headquarters. They contributed ephemeral work to the propaganda blackboards to be found in village squares and factory workshops, which carried a mixture of the latest political news, advice on health and similar matters. local propaganda, and handy tips on production technique. In these the text was usually more substantial than the accompanying artwork, but sometimes the balance was reversed. Themes were also conveyed through cartoons, either singly or in strip form. Lingering behind the guided tour, the visitor could often take advantage of such material to identify interesting local issues to raise to steer the next "brief introduction" into more useful territory.

The art workers also painted larger works on billboards or walls in work units, on rural meeting grounds, and inside schools and public halls. The veteran Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens in one episode of his film sequence The Foolish Old Man Who Moves the Mountains (1976) shows such a work in progress in a fishing village being critically assessed by some passing villagers.[9] A similar scene appears in a 1974 poster from Shanghai, Art comes from a life of struggle: the working people are the masters, showing a peasant painter next to a mural [L17]. More polemically, a 1975 poster from Beijing entitled Women shock troops shows a group of women villagers putting up wall posters under the slogan "Women hold up half the sky." Although the material consists of written essays denouncing the philosophers Confucius and Mencius, the poster evokes the spirit of popular artwork. The smiling enthusiasm of the women is oddly at variance with the serious political nature of the exercise (Q5).

The amateur propagandists sought ideas and technique from cheap copybooks that offered different styles of characters, slogans, and model figures, which were often used as "masthead" decoration accompanied by text. Such books were in a familiar tradition dating back to classical art manuals such as the Mustard-Seed Garden, which gave instruction on how to paint birds, flowers, bamboos, and other stock subjects. These subjects give an accurate indication of changing political imperatives. A Shanghai copybook of 1970 contains militant images, mostly of workers, conducting "struggle" sessions against the main targets in the leadership, Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, whose names are clearly indicated. (Posters for public sale referred to them less directly.) [10] These do not feature in a 1972 copybook from Beijing that gives instruction to worker-peasant-soldier "beginners." It offers a wider range of themes showing mass activities that include militia training, barefoot doctors, and students in the countryside. It also offers "headline decoration" for wall posters and other propaganda dealing with the revival of the Communist Party, which had almost disappeared from sight during the earlier period of political struggle.[11] Another volume, from 1973, offers outline sketches of figures ranging from heroes in the revolutionary operas to workers, peasants, and soldiers. Indicating a return to more normal life, it also includes athletes, doctors (engaged in an operation by acupuncture anaesthesia), and public service employees such as mail carriers, hairdressers, cobblers, and shop assistants. [12]

Successful amateur compositions would appear in exhibitions and in newspapers or magazines, and a few would be converted into mass-produced posters. A 1975 album of "workers' art" from Shanghai celebrated the success of "spare-time artists" (yeyu yishu zuozhe) in overcoming "naturalism and formalism" to produce new revolutionary art based on their own everyday work. The frontispiece showing a worker leaping up a flight of stairs to fix his personal "pledge" (juexinshu) on the wall became a popular poster. This particular example -- At the pledge meeting (Shishi hui shang, 1975)-is one where the foot, rather than the fist, is larger than the face [E20] [13]. Most of this work was technically competent -- as would be expected of a collection produced in Shanghai -- even when it had little or no artistic merit. A collection of various kinds of wall posters from the coal-mining town of Yangquan in Shanxi Province, which gained national publicity in 1976, is rougher but of more interest. It shows wall pictures (bihua) and "artistic big character posters" (pictures plus text, meishu dazibao) in their exterior locations. It is quite explicit about the need to substitute "revolutionary" for "revisionist" art, as in a wall poster showing a worker-painter with palette at the ready and a worker-singer in full voice above the slogan "We must occupy the [cultural] superstructure.” [14]

Cartoon art had a brief vogue in the early and least disciplined months of the Cultural Revolution. It was particularly popular in the unofficial Red Guard magazines, which went much further and were more specific in their attacks on individual leaders, than the officially controlled press. The most famous example was A Crowd of Clowns by Weng Rulan, a fifth-year art student in Beijing, which showed the entire cast of alleged anti-Party leaders in a grotesque procession, with Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping in sedan chairs. This circulated widely in Beijing and was even mailed to foreign purchasers of Chinese books and periodicals. But the satirical content of cartoon art made it politically riskier, and its use became rarer as the Red Guards were brought under control. [15]

More accessible and appealing-particularly to foreign visitors-was the school of  peasant painting (nongmin hua), which was almost entirely identified during the Cultural Revolution with Huxian County in Shaanxi Province. Huxian was one of a number of areas that had joined in the rural art movement during the Great Leap Forward. Unlike most others, its interest in popular art had persisted, and it was selected by Madame Mao (Jiang Qing) in 1972 as her model art commune. Huxian paintings were displayed in an exhibition in Beijing in 1973 that was seen by over two million people; a travelling exhibition went abroad in 1976. The catalogue produced by the Arts Council for its show in London spoke of "images which combine self-assurance with spontaneity, sweeping panoramas with a mass of precise detail ... a new landscape being built up; well integrated in the use of its resources, its new roads and fields sheltered by newly-planted trees, its villages holding meetings and dances and studying at night under electric light." Enthusiasm has dimmed since then; the art historian Michael Sullivan concludes that the Huxian paintings of the 1970s, although technically more accomplished than those of the Great Leap period, were "often dull and lack the spontaneity of the crude early efforts." Yet Huxian still offered many works displaying genuine optimism and commitment to what remained of the ideals of the Cultural Revolution. [16]

Many Huxian paintings were reproduced as posters in cities far away. These include the famous Commune fishpond by Dong Zhengyi [A9], with its swirl of fish caught in huge numbers that would have broken any real net. It was explained by the artist in these terms: "In our village the fishpond is not exactly like this: there's a wall around it. But in order to reflect the bright future I took out the wall.... The little fish are the new generation growing up." [17] In New style shop, barrows selling goods, sent to the villages by the central commune store, are framed attractively between two persimmon trees [C6]. A series of historical posters produced by Niudong Commune in Huxian was less idyllically rural. It showed the forced recruitment of peasant soldiers and the humiliation of landlords during land reform, before the village was able to celebrate with the famous Great Leap slogan, "The people's communes are good!" (E31, n.d.).

No discussion of the popular art of this period is complete without mentioning at least briefly the huge quantity of ephemera conveying similar images. Children's puzzle blocks carried scenes that depicted the downing of a US. imperialist aggressor's airplane over Vietnam and the humiliation of its pilots. Squeaky rubber dolls assumed the shape of young Red Guards. Handkerchiefs were imprinted with heroic figures. Enamel mugs, used by anyone working in an office, shop, or factory, were also decorated, usually with Mao's image and quotations. Paper-cuts in many sizes and styles form a large sub-category for this period. The largest ones depicted elaborate subjects such as Red Guard rallies, the sending down of students to the countryside, the construction of the Nanjing bridge across the Yangzi, and so on. In the standard sizes, scenes of revolutionary shrines (geming shengdi) and of workers, peasants, and soldiers were commonly found. There were also miniature cutouts of Mao and (less frequently) his wife, Jiang Qing, and "chosen successor," Lin Biao. These ephemera provide a rich source in themselves; so far only the ubiquitous "Mao badges" have received serious study. [18]

Poster Themes in the Cultural Revolution

Chinese posters and similar art forms during the Cultural Revolution and afterwards were closely related to current political and social themes, which often had a very short life span. This means that the products can often be dated with precision. (Most posters for commercial sale carry the date, month and year of production, as well as details of publisher, print run, and so on. But a number of items in the University of Westminster collection are one of a kind or were produced outside the regular marketing system and are undated.) Thus a poster bearing the slogan "Chairman Mao is the reddest red sun in our hearts" will belong to the earliest period (1966-1967). This iconic production shows a medallion of Mao radiating like the sun over a crowd of young girls with white tunics, red armbands, and black trousers (N1). So will militant references to the first struggles of Red Guards and Rebels to "seize power" from bureaucrats and managers. In a typical example -- The proletarian revolutionaries hold power (E2) -- from Hebei, a worker holding Mao's Selected Works strikes a brick marked "Political, economic, and cultural power," which in turn crushes two factory managers labelled "economism" (jingjizhuyi) and "one hundred yuan." This too must have been produced early in 1967 when senior leaders were accused of "economism" for offering material incentives to bribe the workers away from Mao's path (E2). Posters with themes of foreign struggle, referring to the Hong Kong riots (D11, Our victory is certain, so is defeat of the Hong Kong English [Women bi sheng, Gang Ying bi bai], 1967?) or to Soviet revisionism (D7, Down with Soviet revisionism [Dadao Su xiu], 1967) also date from this year. Designs consisting mainly of text were also confined to these first years, as in Our literature and art is all for the masses, in which figures from the model operas are appended merely as decoration to this quotation from Mao's 1942 Yan'an Talks [L5, 1967).

Mao dominates poster production in the Red Guard period of 1966-1968, and the most popular examples remained in print -- unlike most other posters -- through the ten years. (His image alone appears in semi-permanent art form in statues and murals that, once erected or painted, cannot be removed.) He begins in the posters as an emblematic figure elevated above the rest of humanity or else as an affable companion of adoring Red Guards. He appears in military uniform with Lin Biao -- before Lin's disgrace and death during flight towards the Soviet Union. Later, Mao is more often shown in historical settings, leading the revolution before 1949 or having heart-to-heart chats with the peasants after the Liberation. Two historical pictures of Mao achieved a special reputation at home and abroad. Chairman Mao goes to Anyuan[N35], painted for a 1967 exhibition, became the defining icon of the Cultural Revolution with its quasi-religious depiction of the young Mao, umbrella in hand, walking thoughtfully but with determination along a high mountain path. Much later, the artist responsible, Liu Chunhua, claimed to have been influenced in this composition by a Raphael Madonna. A very different type of historical painting, He Kongde's Gutian Conference, hung in 1972 in the first official art exhibition of the Cultural Revolution, was done in oils still showing the influence of the artist's Soviet training (F3, n.d.). Images of Jiang Qing are rare throughout; to display one would indicate adherence to the most radical strand of Cultural Revolutionary politics. In Let new socialist culture occupy every stage, she is shown in army uniform with cultural activities in the background -- rather oddly including a man playing a cello (N28).

The late Premier Zhou Enlai, whose death in January 1976 led to a mass demonstration in April 1976 in Tian'anmen Square against the ultra-left leadership, was not regarded as a suitable poster subject until after the arrest of the Gang of Four. In Premier Zhou shares our hardship he is shown at a spinning wheel with a peasant and communist soldiers, invoking the wartime theme of self-reliance that also epitomizes Zhou’s reputation for lack of ostentation (N27, 1978). The 1973-1974 campaign against Zhou by Jiang Qing had been disguised as a mass movement to criticize Confucius and repudiate the (by now disgraced) minister of defence, Lin Biao. It featured posters depicting ordinary people who were allegedly enraged by the persistence of Confucian ideology in unlikely places. A scene entitled Angry waves in fishing waters .[from a film of the same name) shows small boats full of fishing people with lanterns approaching a large junk for a night-time "Criticize Confucius -- criticize Lin Biao" session [A40]. The campaign also encouraged a new witch-hunt against alleged subversives in all walks of life. The themes are linked in a rural poster, perhaps based on a Huxian peasant painting, that shows a peasant training the village militia under the title Furiously criticize (Confucius's doctrine of] "restrain the self and return to the rites" and grasp your gun firmly! (J22).

Mao reappears as a contemporary figure after his death in a bizarre genre of posters that sought to strengthen the claim of the sycophantic Hua Guofeng to the succession. The most famous of these, With you in charge, l feel at ease, shows Mao and Hua talking in Mao's study (1977) [N19]. It refers to a conversation in April 1976 when Mao is alleged to have used those words to express confidence in Hua's succession. (The quotation may have been made up or embellished by Hua to convince the Party Politburo of his legitimacy.) A huge painted version of this episode hung for more than two years at the top of the escalator in the main hall of Beijing Railway Station, only to be removed when Deng Xiaoping returned to power in 1979. Most posters seeking to portray Hua Guofeng as a worthy successor were as inept in execution as in concept. Hua notoriously grew his hair long to appear more like Mao; in one painting I saw in 1977 he was shown looking poetic in a gown.

Jiang Qing and other members of the Gang of Four were by this time awaiting trial; however, they featured as targets of poster attack only for a short while after their arrest. There was a brief recurrence of slogan posters such as one demanding that the spectator "Thoroughly expose the monstrous crimes committed while attempting to take over Party power by the anti-Party clique Wang Hongwen, Zhang Chunqiao, Jiang Qing and Yao Wenyuan" (E43, 1976). Cartoons, otherwise confined to the first Red Guard struggles, also reappear in the anti-Gang propaganda campaign where the Gang members are lampooned in a style similar to that employed ten years against Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. [19] Mao's first wife, Yang Kaihui, unmentionable while Jiang Qing controlled the cultural world, now made a brief poster appearance in Comrades-in-arms (Zhanyou), a gentle composition that shows the young couple together by the banks of the Yangzi (N42, 1977).

Two mass-production campaigns featured prominently in poster art, "in agriculture learn from [the model brigade of] Dazhai" and "in industry learn from Daqing [oil field]." Though championed by the ultra-left, the Dazhai campaign managed to project a more general appeal to the millions of Chinese peasants who sought to improve their life by hard work on the land. Popular views of Dazhai showed the village foreshortened from an aerial perspective to include all its famous features: the new blocks of housing, the large hotel for visitors, carefully terraced fields, an electric hoist up into the hills, aqueduct, and reservoir. One undated colour print shows groups of pilgrims proceeding counter-clockwise around the standard viewing circuit, each group behind a leader with a red flag [A7]. Dazhai is also frequently cited in titles to pictures that otherwise have no reference point, such as Hold high the red banner of Dazhai and reap a rich harvest (A36, 1976), which depicts a woman working in a grain silo with the harvest heaped in the background.

Rural themes raised few problems of political orthodoxy. In The brigade's ducks (Al l, 1974) an everyday scene -- two girls tending some ducks in a pond -- is devoid of any message except that implied in the caption, that collective ownership at the brigade level is desirable. It may be compared with the post-Cultural Revolution The people rejoice as the fish jump (A34, 1978), in which two girls in a boat at sea are catching huge fish. The theme of the industrialization of the countryside was also politically less explicit. Pictures in the Harry N. Abrams style combined rural landscape with symbols of progress, such as dams and power stations, continuing a style already developed from the Great Leap onwards. It might be called the "pylon school" -- electric pylons are raised, often in implausible locations, to indicate the speed of progress (A4, We can certainly triumph over nature (Ren ding sheng tian]), n. d; A41, The new song of the Huai River [Huai he xin ge], n.d.).

Industrial topics are less common in poster form except when linked to the Learn from Daqing campaign, perhaps because of the risk of being interpreted as attempts to preach economism. The Iron Man of Daqing, Wang Jingxi, famous for plunging into a pool of cement to prevent it from hardening, was offered for emulation (E23, The Iron Man spirit will be handed down from generation to generation (Tie ren jingshen daidai xiangchuan], 1974). But Shanghai steelworkers were more likely to be shown studying Mao's philosophy at the workbench than to be seen actually at work (E19, Study and use Chairman Mao's glorious philosophical thought on a large scale [Da xue da yong Mao zhuxi guanghui zhexue sixiang], 1971) -- although the message was that Mao's Thought was the key to increasing production. Factory workers would be shown at the blackboard, copying out slogans to denounce the pernicious doctrine of putting production in first place (E24, Spread revolutionary criticism in a deep-going way (Shenru kaizhan geming da pipan], 1971). They were prominent too in condemning Confucius and Lin Biao (E35, Continue to carry out the campaign to criticize Lin Biao and Confucius in a penetrating, widespread, and enduring way [Ba pi Lin pi Kong yundong shenru luoji, chijiude jinxingxiaqu], 1974). A 1971 poster from Beijing with the title Develop the economy and guarantee supplies, showing two women in a textile factory holding bolts of cloth, was a rare exception for the time (C10, 1971).

From Arts College to the Countryside

In the field of pictorial art as in every other department, the Cultural Revolution turned the traditional establishment upside down. Established artists suffered harsh treatment in the early period of greatest violence or were sent to the countryside. Some of those who were brought back in the early 1970s worked on state commissions in an initiative that stemmed from Premier Zhou Enlai to produce paintings, mostly in the national style (guohua) for hotels, railway stations, embassies, and similar government buildings and for sale to foreigners. The painter Li Keran was even commissioned to decorate official buildings used for the path-breaking visit of Richard Nixon in February 1972. Zhou sought to distinguish between "outer" art intended for foreigners and "inner" art, which should display political content for the Chinese. This led to further trouble in 1974 when, as part of the ultra-left (Gang of Four) counterattack upon Zhou, a series of exhibitions of "black paintings" was held in which such works were condemned for portraying counter-revolutionary or revisionist sentiments, for formalism, or for catering to foreign buyers. It was during this period that the popular painter and cartoonist Huang Yongyu {nephew of the banned writer Shen Congwen} was denounced for painting a winking owl: the subject was alleged to slyly imply disrespect for socialism. This denunciation would become a symbolic memory in post-Cultural Revolution years for this period of vengeful artistic politics. [20]

Yet the Cultural Revolution also created new opportunities for a generation of younger artists who largely superseded the veterans. Many were fired with enthusiasm by the new policy of seeking inspiration from everyday life -- or at least those positive aspects that were approved -- of taking art to the masses, and of encouraging popular artistic creation. These principles also provided opportunities for career advancement. By the mid-1970s, many of the youngest artists in art schools or studios were genuinely from the "worker-peasant-soldier" background that was favoured in college recruitment. Others were the offspring of intellectuals, who used their artistic talent to escape from the countryside where they had been "sent down." Some established artists were "restored" (huifu) to teach the new professional artworkers and to tutor amateur groups in city evening classes or on missions to the rural areas. The students themselves spent long periods in factories or villages, in line with the general policy for education that it should be "combined with labour and serve proletarian politics."

This mass-based artistic activity in the early and mid-1970s was regarded as one of the "new achievements of the Cultural Revolution" (xinsheng shiwu). To some extent it did represent a new outlook that was still being formed when Mao died and the Cultural Revolution was reversed. It naturally reflected the social composition and experience of the young artists involved: the themes of "going down" (xiafang) and making a "new home" (xin jia) in the rural areas dominated a large percentage of the output. The same themes were characteristic of much poster art of this time. At its best it displayed a sense of vitality and innovation reflecting some of the original enthusiasm of the student movement. This was in marked contrast to pictures with a more formal political content -- such as portraits of Chairman Mao or scenes from the history of the revolution -- by which young artists could make their reputation, although they also risked criticism if the result was later criticized.

A visit to the fine arts department of the Nanjing Art College in April 1976 found a well-developed curriculum designed to instill "socialist culture" and to produce art that would be appreciated by the masses. The images on display within the college were almost entirely within the range of what could be seen outside on the walls in everyday life; the continuum between academic art and the propaganda poster was unbroken. Two principles of the "revolution in education" (jiaoyu geming) governed work in the department. First, the students were "selected from society" -- that is, they came from at least nominally gong nong bing (worker/peasant/soldier) backgrounds. The college divided its quota of student places for its three departments (fine arts, music, and drama) for the coming year among the districts in the city and adjacent rural areas. These vacancies were then subdivided to lower units and filled (at least in theory) by "recommendation from below." I met students studying "national painting" (guohua) from a printing factory, others from a fertilizer factory. One boy studying woodcuts was a crane-driver; a young peasant artist sat with a copy of a sketch by the revolutionary German expressionist Kathe Kollwitz pinned to his worktable. Other students had come straight from school where they had completed three years of "lower secondary" education.

The second principle was that of "open-door schooling" (kai men ban xue), which meant that academic work should be integrated with real-life work. Both teachers and students "returned to society" periodically, and it was intended that upon graduation the students should go back to the countryside or industry for good. During their three-year course, it was explained, the students "went down to be tempered by reality" (bei xianshi duanlian). They were not merely artists attached to a particular rural production team or urban factory. They spent half their time actually working in the fields or on the shop floor. The system required a placement of three months in the first year, four months in the second, and as much as six months in the final year. Teachers were supposed to spend one year out of three "out in society." Subject matter for art composition was chosen after much discussion and was based upon the practical labour that the students performed at their place of work. One student was observed preparing a factory scene, a complex composition showing two workers sitting on a girder with a construction site behind them. He would take an early cut back to the shop floor "for discussion by the masses," then return to the studio to incorporate the workers' suggestions, then go back again-perhaps to a total of three or four visits.

Pride of place in the college's exhibition room went to a painting with the title Welcome Spring Teahouse. This was executed in the New Year style and intended for reproduction as a poster. The lively scene was set in a village hall where peasants and sent-down students drank tea to celebrate the Spring Festival, entertained by two musical performers from a propaganda team on the stage. A village party official and the local teacher (wearing glasses) were easily identifiable. Lanterns, banners, character slogans, and pictures hung from the walls or ceiling, framing the scene, which was presented to the viewer as if the actual hall were onstage. Symbols of rural activity-wooden buckets and a carrying pole, baskets, a pair of loudspeakers, and a small generator-lined the foreground. [21]

This may be compared to a poster in the University of Westminster collection with the title New Year's Eve in a collective household [Z29], 1977). Also in the nianhua style, it shows a group of cheerful sent-down students preparing for a party in the hut where they live together. A villager -- probably the production-team leader -- has come to see their preparations. The ceiling is densely hung with paper rosettes and tasselled balls and is traversed by an elaborate, continuous paper-cut decoration. The team leader is ushered in smilingly; the students' welcome to him symbolizes their commitment to rural society. This is reinforced by an antithetical couplet (duilian) being pasted on the wall: "Train your red hearts in the vast world of life. Make revolution by sinking your roots in the countryside." The couplet frames a large propaganda poster showing students heading out to work on a rubber plantation -- no doubt on Hainan Island -- above a similar slogan about making a new life in the vast world. (It is fascinating to discover that this "poster within a poster" was a genuine work that was reproduced elsewhere.) [22] In less revolutionary times, similar red strips of paper, bearing auspicious mottoes, would have framed a portrait of the kitchen god on New Year's Eve in a rural home, with food set before it. In this composition, bowls of fruit, a kettle, and steaming food placed on the floor indicate that the committed students are intending to have a good time too. Through the entrance, where a female, barefoot doctor has drawn back the curtain, the night sky is depicted in a decorative style, studded with innumerable stars.

Another picture in the Nanjing exhibition bore the familiar title New family (Xin jia), indicating the close relationship that was, ideally at any rate, formed by students when billeted in a peasant household. It is self-referential, showing a student who has brought art to her new family. A mural has been painted, apparently by a local young woman under the student's guidance, on the wall of an oven. The picture, of a girl driving a tractor, has been copied from a manual that is just visible on a bench. The result is being surveyed smilingly by a group including two more young women (one of them a student resting after carrying in water), the peasant mother of the household, and two young children. A map of the world, pinned nearby, suggests another way in which the students have brought knowledge to their "new family.” [23]

Several posters in the University of Westminster collection offer a similarly rosy view of student life in the countryside and of the contribution that students can make. We are determined to settle down in the countryside {A25], 1974) depicts an army officer in a peasant family's yard, sitting before a table laden with ripe corn and with a huge pumpkin at his feet. Equally impressive melons hang from a vine above. He is congratulating the family on its achievements that, it is implied, owe a great deal to a student who lives with them and has presumably contributed some valuable innovation to help improve the harvest. She sits next to the officer, holding a copy of Mao's Quotations to which she points with one finger, indicating that these were the real source of her inspiration. The picture is redeemed from banality by three local youths peeping at the scene through the courtyard gate. The symbol of authority is military because students were first sent down under the supervision of the People's Liberation Army, when the period of Red Guard violence (1966-1968) was brought to an end.

Posters on the theme of the new family may have been particularly encouraged in Shanghai, where many students had been sent to the remote northwest of China to work in harsh conditions, causing considerable unhappiness to their (old) families. The exiles began to return, some illegally, to the cities in the late 1970s to air their complaints. A sketch of rural hardship displayed on a Beijing wall in 1979 by a returnee from Yunnan would show a very different image, one in which the exiled students squatted miserably on a barren hill to eat their meagre food [24]

The End of the Cultural Revolution

Posters offer a reliable guide to the shifting policies after Mao's death that led to the repudiation of the Cultural Revolution. The New Year poster, which had suffered a near total decline, gives a particularly sharp indication. During the Great Leap Forward, traditional themes and techniques (door gods and paper-cuts) had been successfully modernized to celebrate the People's Communes. Some traditional themes portraying the popular "fat baby" (pang wawa) continued to be acceptable. A child carried a basket of peaches to signify longevity; an accompanying cockerel crowed to frighten away evil spirits (Z32, early 1960s?). The problem once the Cultural Revolution began was not just with subject matter but with the occasion of New Year, a festival whose very celebration might be regarded as evidence of feudal thinking. Sometimes it could only be treated indirectly, as in The spring wind brings warmth, showing a New Year delivery of extracts from Marx, Engels, and Lenin (Z28, 1975/76). A 1973 volume of ,reproductions could only be identified as nianhua by its title. It did include a girl holding up a paper-cut that spelled out "Long live Chairman Mao.” [25]

A more explicit example updated the traditional door gods (men shen) to be pasted on both outer wooden doors of a peasant dwelling. It was titled A new flowering of village culture: the use of scientific farming methods will result in great fruits (plate 12 :Z27]). Good luck was conveyed through the contemporary images of -- on the left-hand side -- a rural propaganda team with two actresses preparing to perform the Red Lantern opera, and -- on the right-hand side -- a peasant agricultural research team. This continued a long line of adaptations of the men shen theme from the 1940s onwards. [26]

As the Cultural Revolution began to fade, traditional elements reappeared, though modestly at first. Lanterns, firecrackers, and lion dancers mingled among workers, peasants, and soldiers in This year there will be much rejoicing (Z30) for the 1978 Spring Festival. A year later, the full range of fat babies, peony and lotus flowers, carp, and goldfish were again available (Z25, Welcoming the spring [Ying chun], 1979; plate 3 [Z26], Goldfish baby (Jinyu wawa, 1979). Studios at the Gugong Museum in Beijing, the Yangliuqing workshop in Tianjin, Weifang in Shandong, and Fengxiang in Shaanxi resurrected original blocks to produce wholly traditional Eight Immortals, red-faced warriors, white- and black-faced door gods, ghost catchers, imperial officials, and the philosopher Laozi himself (Z17-18).

The rapid shift in political culture at the end of the Cultural Revolution (1976-1979) produced interesting posters in other subject areas. Leftist slogans mingled uneasily for a short while with new exhortations to increase production. Uighur peasants were urged in 1977 (A5, 1977) to "go full steam ahead and speed up the building of Dazhai-type counties." Henan peasants were told to "Criticize and work hard" with the same aim in mind (A2, 1977). The proclamation by Hua Guofeng of the goal of "Four Modernisations" (in agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defence) a year later clarified the situation. No poster was now complete without trains, planes, ships, power stations, space rockets, or satellites -- and sometimes all of them -- somewhere in the sky or foreground. The new heroic figures were holding walkie-talkies and oil cans, operating computers or complex machinery. "Good news travels ten thousand miles and warms ten thousand families," proclaimed a poster showing two women operating the control room in a TV station [B9]. The interest of the consumer appeared for the first time in poster form. "Promote high-quality goods, wholeheartedly serve the people," exhorted a picture of a woman selling kitchen equipment in a department store (1978) [C9])

Science and education could now be presented as primary targets for achievement. A picture of Marx gesturing toward a large space rocket as it was launched was titled Science is a productive force (B5, 1979). A portrait of a girl student, pen in hand, was done in the style of the woodcut artist Huang Xinbo, who himself had been much influenced by the fine line drawings of the American 1930s painter Rockwell Kent. Entitled The future summons us, it showed the student in a night scene of brightly lit buildings with aerials, radar dishes, chemical flask designs, and the statue of a girl reaching out a common symbol for educational endeavour [B10, 1980] [27].. The Four Modernizations were summed up memorably for me on a large roadside billboard photographed outside the Shengli (Victory) Oilfield in Shandong in 1978. This showed a soldier, a worker, and a student looking determinedly ahead against the figure 2000 (for the year by which China would be built, according to Hua Guofeng, into a Powerful Socialist Country among the Most Advanced in the World). Space rockets passed through the figures, over an array of modern factories and a large satellite dish. [28]

Conclusion: The Posters' Decline

My visit to Huxian County in 1980 showed that a significant change in popular art-making was already under way. Huxian was no longer a model for art, just as Dazhai had lost its model status for agriculture, and Chinese visitors had stopped coming in numbers. However, Huxian had one advantage: its reputation abroad. The large exhibition hall was filled with nongminhua of all descriptions from the mid-1960s to present day. Art groups continued to produce work, but increasingly with a view to sale. All the pictures on show were available for purchase, priced more according size than to artistic value. Teams of art-sales representatives were also sent to Beijing to seek customers among foreign residents in the apartment blocks and the Friendship Hotel. In the village streets faded wall paintings of the 1970s with images ,of commitment and selfless labour were still visible. Much of the new peasant art celebrated the new images of economic reform. Their subject matter included new-style hairdressers, a furniture shop, the construction of new housing -- and even a winter scene with children building a Father Christmas snowman (perhaps taken from a foreign magazine picture)

Huxian and other centres of peasant painting were able to adapt to -- and profit from -- the new entrepreneurial world emerging in China. The new art that this generated could be very attractive, although some of it was poorly executed for quick financial gain. Poster art did not have the same commercial stimulus to reform, and it was used much less for propaganda; it had begun to appear politically old-fashioned, and there was a general revulsion against political "movements" (yundong), which had inspired so much poster work in the past. The theme of commitment to science and education did inspire some striking work in the early 1980s; national festivals still required posters celebrating unity and harmony across the land. However, most posters were produced for less emphatic purposes. Apart from those intended for use in schools (mostly portraits of famous historical figures) and for hospitals (health education and medical charts), these were mainly intended as decoration in the home. The standard themes included portraits of children and animals, pictures of Laozi and other mythological figures, colourful national minorities, and traditional Chinese New Year images. Many people preferred the large-scale calendars now on sale with photographs or pictures of landscapes, traditional opera characters, fairies and other mythological figures, and fairly modest female pinups.

After 1984, poster art began to receive less attention in the main national art journal, Meishu. Posters were no longer so widely on sale in general outlets. They were used for more specialized purposes with localized distribution, to commemorate sporting events, promote health campaigns against smoking and similar targets, encourage savings, and advertise exhibitions. A survey on poster art published in 1996 singles out cinema posters as one of the main achievements of recent years, devoting more space to them than to posters of the Cultural Revolution. [29] By the late 1980s, the poster sites that once carried huge billboards displaying quotations from Mao or images of revolutionary struggle were used to exhort the passer-by to drink Coca-Cola or smoke Marlboro cigarettes. More recently, with not unexpected irony, original posters and paintings from the Cultural Revolution have begun to fetch high sums in an art world: they appeal to the patriotic sentiment of Hong Kong businessmen -- and to collectors of quality kitsch. In 1995 the China Guardian auction room in Beijing sold Chairman Mao goes to Anyuan (N35] for nearly US$700,000. There is some market resistance to paintings with overly forceful political slogans from the 1966-1968 period: Red Guards sent an uneasy message. But revolutionary landscapes and Huxian peasant paintings command high prices; paper-cuts and stamps are also saleable items. The China Guardian 1998 stamp sale included mint blocks of Chairman Mao goes to Anyuan in its 8 fen denomination.

In real life the type of popular didactic art discussed in this chapter survives visibly today only on propaganda blackboards controlled by an organization or work unit. (Almost all public display sites are now occupied by commercial advertisements.) Blackboard newspapers (heiban bao) are found quite widely outside urban neighbourhood committee offices and in factories, schools, and other institutions and are used to publicize socially desirable issues such as planned parenthood, safety in the home, and measures against crime. Copybooks with model compositions continue to be published to help depict such themes. [30] However, the full-scale poster for individual purchase has almost disappeared. In May 1998, I searched for posters in the state bookshops of several large cities and one small county town. Only a few were to be found -- the odd Marx or Engels, a fading photograph of Mao, one or two traditional New Year themes such as Laozi, and some crude traffic-education posters for children. Poster art is hopelessly dated now both in its political values and in its social implications. The originals have some commercial value as a form of revolutionary kitsch with patriotic overtones. Otherwise, it has nothing to offer a very different age, which wants to see some less old-fashioned-and more expensive-decoration on its walls.


1. "Soldiers' art," China Reconstructs, August 1976, 42.

2. Edgar Snow, Red Star over China (London: Gollancz, 1937), plates 9-11; Harrison Forman, Report from Red China (London: Pilot Press, 1945), unnumbered plate.

3. Beijing Art Gallery, 1982 New Year pictures exhibition, reproduced in Meishu (Fine arts), no. 1, 1984.

4. China Revolutionary Museum, Kangri zhanzheng shiqi xuanchuanhua (Propaganda pictures of the anti-Japanese War period) (Beijing: Cultural Press, 1979)


5. Deng Liqun et al., eds., Dangdai Zhongguo meishu (Fine arts of contemporary China) (Beijing: Contemporary China Press, 1996), plate 217.

6. Tsai Jo-hung, "New Year Pictures: A People's Art," People's China 4, nos. l, 2 (February 1950): 12-18; "New Year Pictures," in Folk Arts of New China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1954), 23-29 and pictures.

7. Deng et al., Dangdai Zhongguo meishu, 226.

8. Deng et al., Dangdai Zhongguo meishu, 230.

9. "A fishing village," in the twelve-part documentary filmed from 1972 to 1975: see Joris Ivens and China (Beijing: New World Press, 1983).

10. Mao Zedong sixiang xuanchuan fan: baotou ziliao (Mao Zedong thought propaganda column: masthead selection) (Shanghai: People's Press, 1970).

11. Meishu cankao ziliao 2: baotou xuanji (Art reference material 2: masthead selection) ~ Beijing: People's Arts Press, 1972).

12. Renwu hua cankao ziliao (Figure painting reference material) (Shanghai: People's Press, 1973).

13. Shanghai gongren meishu zuopin xuan (Selection of workers' art from Shanghai) Shanghai: People's Press, 1975).

14. Yangquan gongren meishu dazibao bihua xuan [Selection of art: big-character posters and wall paintings by Yangquan workers) (Beijing: Peoples' Arts Press, 1976), 14.

15. Julia F. Andrews, Painters and Politics in the People's Republic of China, 1949-79 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994), 335-37; see also cartoons of Liu Shaoqi in John Gittings, A Chinese View of China (New York: Pantheon, 1973), 154-55.

16. Press notice accompanying Peasant Paintings from Hu County (London: Arts Council, 1976); Michael Sullivan, Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China (Berkeley and Los Ange~es: University of California Press, 1996), 148. For a fuller discussion of the Huxian paintings, see Ellen Johnston Laing, "Chinese Peasant Painting, 1958-1976: Amateur and Professional," in Art International 27, no. 1 (January-March 1984): 2-12.

17. Dong Zhengyi, quoted in Peasant Paintings from Hu County, 12.

18. Robert Benewick and Stephanie Donald, "Badgering the People: Mao Badges, a Retrospective, 1949-1995," in Belief in China: Art and Politics, Deities and Mortality, ed. Robert Benewick and Stephanie Donald (Brighton, England: Royal Pavilion/Green Foundation, 1996). For discussion about papercuts, see Andrew Bolton, "Chinese Papercuts from the Cultural Revolution at the Victoria and Albert Museum," Arts of Asia, November-December 1997, 79-86.

19. Manhua xuanji: quanguo meishu zuopin zhanlan (Collection of cartoons: national fine arts exhibition) (Beijing: People's Arts Press, 1977); Ralph Croizier, "The Thorny Flowers of 1979: Political Cartoons and Liberalization in China," in China from Mao to Deng: The Politics and Economics of Socialist Development, ed. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe; London: Zed Press, 1983), 29-38.

20. For this period, see Ellen Johnston Laing, The Winking Owl: Art in the People's Republic of China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988); Sullivan, Art of Twentieth Century China, 152-53; Andrews, Painters and Politics, 368-76.

21. Transparency from the Nanjing Arts College in the author's possession.

22. New shoots are thriving in the wide world, poster by Guangzhou Municipal Propaganda Department Arts Group, in Zai guangkuo tiandi li: meishu zuopin xuan (In the wide world: selection of art works) (Beijing: People's Arts Press, 7974), 12.

23. Photograph in the author's possession.

24. Photograph in the author's possession.

25. Xinnianhua xuan (Selection of New Year paintings) (Beijing: People's Arts Press, 1974).

26. Pre-1949 examples in Kangri zhanzheng shiqi xuanchuanhua, 34, 102.

27. Huang Xinbo banhua xuan (Selection of woodcuts by Huang Xinbo) (Beijing: People's Arts Press, 1961).

28. Reproduced in John Gittings, China Changes Face (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), plate 17.

29. Deng, Dangdai Zhongguo meishu, 216-40.

30. Tu an ji: banbao ehangyong baotou (Design collection: commonly used mastheads in blackboard newspapers) (Beijing: China Illustrated Press, 1995).