What I am reading: Party propaganda, slogans and posters

Long-time readers may recognize the above Ruihua Lane (瑞华坊) which I have written about, particularly the mosaic-tiled public service posters that grace the walls. I had anticipated that the entire lane was to be demolished when I started noticing a few bricked up houses tucked in the corners. But it looks like Ruihua Lane will live to see another day, what with the rather slapdash coat of pink paint running the length of the area. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean very much as the lanes on the left and right of Ruihua Lane have completed emptied out and shikumen entrances bricked up. A passing resident informed me that because Ruihua Lane had been considered one of the newer batch of public housing in the area in 1930s (with toilets!), they would be in the later phase of moving out.

Since the Chinese Communist Party has kicked new Party banners around town (printed on plastic, where is the creativity?), here’s a few enjoyable links on China’s propaganda slogans and posters.

Ma Hongjie

– Chinese photographer Ma Hongjie cobbled together years of painted Party slogans and public service announcements from the 1980s all over China. I initially saw this photo essay in Chinese and was wondering how I’d share this with English-speaking only readers. Am glad it’s since been translated, though not perfect but you get the message: “If people in impoverish mountainous areas wants to become rich, they should bear fewer kids and plant more trees.”

China Poster net

– Foreigners love Soviet and Chinese Communist Party propaganda posters for various reasons: a warped nostalgia of a promised utopia that never was, a visual narrative of history and of course, the kitsch. In college, I became fascinated with Russian literature and art and wrote a research paper comparing Imperial Russia and USSR propaganda lithographs. I collected a few copies when I spent the summer in Moscow in 2001 but prices have since rocketed.

But if you have not had a full education on the history and how they have shaped the development of China’s Community Party campaigns and post-1949 society, I recommend ChinesePosters.Net which is amassed from the collections of Stefan Landsberger and the International Institute of Social History based in Amsterdam as well as anonymous collections, currently numbering well over 4,500 pieces.  In fact, this is the best catalogue of their work.

And if you’re in Shanghai and have not popped over to the Shanghai Propaganda Art Museum, make it a weekend to-do. You can also read NPR Frank Langfitt’s fun piece about his visit.

Eric LeLeu
Photographed by Eric Leleu

– Shanghai-based French photographer Eric LeLeu has created a series called “Subtitles” which he photographed since 2008 in several cities, Chinese-styled banners that pronounce everything from Party slogans, announced policies and advertisement. All appropriately subtitled in three parts: Chapter 1 (Authority), Chapter 2 (Vox Populi) and Chapter 3 (Silent Protest).

I previously featured Eric’s work “Instants décisifs”, made up of reality-like digitally-composed images taken during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as part of the 8th Shanghai Photographer Night at Dada Bar a few years back. Here’s a more in-depth interview on this work.



  • Reply September 9, 2013


    It’s fun to see again this street with the tile posters. It was one of my first visit to your web-page. It’s like seing an old friend with a new girlfriend

    • Reply September 10, 2013

      Sue Anne

      That’s a great analogy, Chris!

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