AAH 194: Visual Culture in Communist China

Union College, Spring 2022

Category: Artists’ Biographies (Page 2 of 2)

Propaganda Posters

Generally speaking, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific artist that created propaganda posters in China during this time because many artists were not given credit for their work. Art was seen as a public service, and propaganda posters were government messages that were mass produced and highly profitable, so it seemed as though these pieces of art (called xuanchuanhua) were just generally coming out of the government instead of an individual. Contests were held at a nationwide level to select certain propaganda prints for the year.The mass production of these removed the personal and individuality of the artist out of the final product.  So, instead of identifying a specific artist for these propaganda posters, it will be easier to decipher this unique form of art through a theme, such as the representation of women during this era through these posters. The purpose of these xuanchuanhua were to relate and speak to the largest portion of society: the peasants, the workers, and the middle class. Women made up a large portion of those classes, and were encouraged to help the nation in their efforts just as much as men. In this particular example, “Long Live Chairman Mao”, is showcasing a celebration of the 1959 May Day Parade. This artist (one of few that was famous for specifically creating propaganda posters), Ha Qiongwen, needed to create an optimistic print in the wake of the “disastrous” failures of the Great Leap Forward, and so chose bright colors and a woman carrying a joyful child on her shoulder. This is the first of many examples where we see propaganda posters using a woman’s to uplift the community and being a pillar of support for the country.


Long live Chairman Mao | Chinese Posters | Chineseposters.net

Ha Qiongwen (b. 1925), Long Live Chairman Mao, 1959, gouache on paper printed as poster, 110 × 80 cm, shanghai people’s fine Arts publishing house


Andrews, Julia Frances., and Kuiyi Shen, The Art of Modern China, California: University of California Press, 2012


Monument to the People’s Heroes

History, in part, is based on the understanding of why certain events, individuals, and symbols are chosen to be memorialized.  Hua Tianyou was one of the many individuals who was involved with the creation of the Monument to the People’s Heroes, which is showcased in Tiananmen Square.  Born in 1902, Tianyou taught art and music before beginning his studies in sculpting in 1930.  Three years later, as Japan began to act aggressively toward China, he moved to France where he continued his work at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts.

Image courtesy of https://www.viator.com/Beijing-attractions/Monument-to-the-Peoples-Heroes/d321-a18684.

Monuments are where a collective memory can be formed and without references to those who have died, it is argued that their actions will be forgotten.  Following decades of civil wars, outside aggression, and the rebirth of a nation, there was a need for the CCP to showcase the revolutionary actions that individuals went through to secure then-modern China.  Therefore, possibly taking inspiration from symbols that displayed collective memories in France while understanding the importance of architecture being “socialist in content, national in form,” the Monument to the People’s Heroes showed the correct way to remember the past while providing further authenticity to the CCP.



Michael Sullivan, Modern Chinese Artists, A Biographical Dictionary, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 57.

 Chang-tai Hung, Mao’s New World: Political Culture in the Early People’s Republic (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), 235, 243.

 Maria Tagangaeva, “Socialist in Content, National in Form: The Making of Soviet National Art and the Case of Buryatia,” Nationalities Papers, Vol.45 (2017), 393.

Li Keran

Li Keran was a pronounced Chinese artist of the 20th century and influential educator at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts. Most of his works entailed landscape paintings that contained a mixed of ancient and contemporary styles. Li attended the Shanghai Art College where he was inspired greatly by a professor who’s ideals involved blending Eastern and Western art styles to create a new style of art in Chinese paintings. Li then was admitted to the Hangzhou National Art College where he studied drawing and oil painting. A few years later he then became a member of the Yiba Art Society, a leftist art organization. Li was present when Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Li lived through the Sino-Japanese War, and during the period after began to create works by the use of an imaginative splashed ink technique. Li’s work became more recognized as he was proposed, and accepted, an invitation to join the faculty at the Beijing National Art College. Soon after he was acclaimed to be the most important painter in the post-Qianlonxg-Jiaqing period by his mentors, Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong. After 1954, Li spent a lot of his time drawing from nature, and had the idea that the initial step towards a reconstruction of Chinese painting would be from drawing. Through his ability to blend in Western elements, Li was said to be remembered more as a pioneer rather than a traditionalist or reformist, in 20th century Chinese art.

Mountain Village (1985), ink and color on paper and scroll


“Li Keran.” Li Keran Paintings | Chinese Art Gallery | China Online Museum, http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-li-keran.php.



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