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Qian, Yitao (2023) 'Rebranding China through facsimiles: A study of mubanshuiyin reproductions in PRC’s art diplomacy and soft power building, 1952–79.' Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 10 (3). pp. 317-336.

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In September 2022, China Central Television released a five-episode documentary about Rongbaozhai, one of the oldest stationery companies and art galleries in China, to celebrate its 350th anniversary. This was part of the global propaganda aiming to reintroduce traditional Chinese cultural brands and their products under Xi’s art and culture policy of ‘telling China’s stories well’. One of the episodes is dedicated to the woodblock facsimiles of traditional Chinese paintings (mubanshuiyin) that Rongbaozhai produced in the 1950s and 1960s following Mao’s literature and art policy. However, the perspective of the storytelling is almost entirely focused on technical details. Little has been mentioned about these exquisitely crafted prints’ political function as specimens to demonstrate PRC’s cultural orthodoxy to traditional Chinese arts and crafts and its resolution of restoring Chinese cultural heritage. Drawing on archival materials, memoirs of former employees and a case study of the first mubanshuiyin reproduction – zanhua shinü tu (Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses) – this article traces the development of this unique art form during its golden age when it was marketed as both diplomatic gifts and souvenirs and a paradigm of collective craftsmanship by proletariat artisans. As a frequently used gift-giving practice for culture promotion, this article also unveils the contribution of mubanshuiyin reproductions to China’s soft power building and early art diplomacy from the 1950s to 1970s.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: art and culture policy; cultural orthodoxy; culture promotion; diplomatic souvenir; gift-giving practice; woodblock facsimile
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of the History of Art & Archaeology
ISSN: 20517041
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 24 Dec 2023 14:02

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