AAH 194: Visual Culture in Communist China

Union College, Spring 2022

Author: Yueqin Chao

Personal cults in image: The image of Mao in Chinese Political Posters and Propagandas.

The Political Poster in 20th century China takes huge tasks in depicting Chinese Political Leaders, forming the cult of the leaders and helping conveying the political ideas.Political posters can show an image of powerful political leaders, and being the important tool and modern technologies to render a subconscious impact of personal cult. The Political Posters could also convey the political ideas through depicting character’s emotion, changing their size and the background color. In China, Mao’s images in the Political posters and propagandas are the example of using the posters not only to form a personal cult of Mao, but also to convey China’s relationship with the Soviet Union and other countries. Such as Li Binghong’s The Sino-Soviet Allliance for Friendship and Mutual Assistance Promotes Enduring World Peace. In this painting, it contains both Chinese and Soviet Union’s leaders ‘ images to show the inviolability of the Soviet-Chinese friendship. Stalin’s image was at the side of Mao, just as the teacher of Mao, which helped build the personal cult of Stalin in Chinese masses.

Li Binghong 黎冰鸿. Ca. 1950. The Sino-SovietAlliance for Friendship and
Mutual Assistance Promotes Enduring World Peace (Zhong Su youhao tongmeng huzhu cujin shijie chijiu heping 中苏友好同盟互助促进世界持久和平) [Source: Chinese Posters Foundation 2019]

Based on the poster I described, we can see that it is important to use different posters and propagandas that include Mao’s image to analyze what political ideas they try to convey and how the details of the poster could help audiences to understand those informations. Hence, In my exhibition, I will introduce five different political posters that include Mao’s images, analyzing these posters through color, character position, size of character and emotional aspects  to show how the Chinese government in the 20th century used propaganda to build personal cult of Mao and convey political ideas & international relationships.



1:Polina, Komarovskaya.The Political Poster and Its Role in the Personality cult of Mao Zedong, Accessed 5/5/2022, OE-57-7.pdf (oriens-extremus.org).

2:Benewick, Robert.”Icons of Power: Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution.” From Picturing Power in the People’s Republic of China:Posters of the Cultural Revolution. Harriet Evans and Stephanie Donald edited. Rowman & Littelefield Publishers, New York, Oxford. 1999.

3:Yuzhu Fu, and Cheng Yan. The Way of Visual Persuasion in Chinese Propaganda Poster. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 123. Atlantis Press, 2017.

4:Sprouse, Sarah. “The Aesthetics of Revolution:Chinese Propaganda and the Anthony E.Clark Chinese Poster Collection.”Chinese Art Posters Documents. Whitworth University. 2017. The Aesthetics of Revolution: Chinese Propaganda and the Anthony E. Clark Chinese Poster Collection (whitworth.edu)


The commune is like a gigantic dragon, production is noticeable awe-inspiring

The commune is like a gigantic dragon, production is noticeable awe-inspiring

The commune is like a gigantic dragon, production is noticeable awe-inspiring

公社如巨龙, 生产显威风

Gongshe ru julong, shengchan xian weifeng

This political poster was made in 1959, September by Wu Shaoyun. The poster is 53×77 cm’s large, painted by oil, and published by the Shanghai renming meishu chubanshe. It was created during the Great Leap Forward Period to publicizing the “success” of People’s commune. The Great Leap Forward was the period of time when Mao decided to use three years to catch up British and five years to catch up America in both agriculture and iron production aspects. And the people’s commune was an important part for accessing this goal. In the commune system, masses worked together, ate together and lived together to get credits. It was a period of public ownership society. In this Poster, there’s totally five people in the middle who carrying a large basket. They were all peasants, soldiers, workers, party cadres and students, which corresponding to Mao’s Yan’an Talk that the art works should serve the peasants, soldiers and workers. The Dragon was the symbol of the commune, which implied that the commune system would eventually success. Masses who stand on the Dragon raises a huge basket with plenty of foods, showing the prosperities and huge rise of agriculture production that commune system could attain. The plenty of foods also implied that the agriculture production was excess the goal, which could stimulate masses to engaging in the agriculture work. In the right side there’s a door named “跃进门”, the “Leap Forward Gate”, which corresponding to a Chinese saying that “鲤鱼跃龙门”. This was the symbol that People’s commune will successfully achieve Mao’s plan to catch up Western countries in just several years, and it was the Great Leap Forward movement that leading masses to the prosperity life.  The background of the painting was depicted exaggerated, with realistic style of depictions with human characters. This was the academic realism style which started in the 1950-60s. The author used bright colors to draw the happiness emotion to the audience, and people’s facing are full of smiles, both implies their positive attitude toward the Great Leap Forward Movements.



The commune is like a gigantic dragon, production is noticeable awe-inspiring | Chinese Posters | Chineseposters.net

Julia F.Andrews and Kuiyi Shen. The Art of Modern China, University of California Press, 142-144.

Political Propaganda Posters

The Political Propaganda Posters in China generally refers to the Posters that created after Mao’s Talks at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art. The target groups of the Propaganda Posters were the workers, the peasants, the soldiers, and the revolutionary cadres, who were the vast majority of the population in China. The goal was to use the Political Propaganda Posters as a “culture army”, for uniting China’s own ranks, defeating the enemy and helping the Chinese revolution. Hence, the topics of those Posters were related to the Historical events that happened at that period of time, and the Posters will either “reduced the domain of China’s feudal culture and of the comprador culture which serves imperialist aggression” or praising the revolution or Political Policies held by Mao at the corresponding period of time.  Because these Posters were serving for the variety of uneducated masses, the style of the Posters were mainly with bright colors and easy to understand. Sophisticated painting skills and Westernized skills were criticized by Mao, and the protagonists in the Posters will always be the masses and Mao. This is one of the Political Propaganda Posters during the Great Leap Forward, showing how People’s Commune policy led Chinese people into a happy life.

The commune is like a gigantic dragon, production is noticeable awe-inspiring

“The commune is like a gigantic dragon; production is noticeable awe-inspiring.”

made by Wu Shaoyun, Zhang Yuqing and Lu Zezhi. 1959, September. Shanghai renmin Meishu Chubanshe published


King Chao

My name is Yueqin Chao, you can call me King or King Chao instead of full name. I am an Asian Study Major History minor Junior student who interested in the 19th century China History. Because I think that period of time was a period of revolution and changes, and to understand the modern Chinese society we should first know about that period of history. I choose this class because I think this will be very helpful for me to researching the poster and propaganda during Mao Years, how to analyze it within and without the political ideas, which might be my senior research.

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