Website Review

Stefan Landsberger’s Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages

Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages offers a rich collection of Chinese propaganda posters assembled by historian Stefan Landsberger (Leiden University) from his own collection of over 2,000 images. The website presents images in multiple categories related to the broader themes of politics, society, and culture. The images span a period of time ranging from 1937 to the present day, though the majority originate in the 1970s and later decades. While brief at times, Landsberger offers written introductions to the specific thematic groupings of images at the site, providing a bare-bones but useful background that illuminates their historical context. Bibliographic references and external links are also provided for sources and related readings.

The images presented offer a wonderful set of primary sources for the study of youth, children, and childhood. The category of childhood here intersects with an imagery associated with revolution, national identity, economic development, as well as themes of gender and inter-generational relationships. Both the visual imagery and the Chinese texts printed upon the posters are readily accessible with translations of the Chinese available by holding the computer cursor over the image.

The presentation of thematic categories at this site focuses upon dominant themes within state propaganda and children can be seen as both an intended audience and a primary figure within the imagery itself. Among the collections, the posters associated with "Socialist Spiritual Civilization" offer a rich sample for discussion. Here, we find the imagery of a movement that was introduced amidst the Chinese market reform of the 1980s and 1990s as an effort to instill discipline, "good character," and loyalty among school children.

While Landsberger's own discussion of childhood and the lives of Chinese youth is limited, the images and slogans themselves offer a useful case study. This selection serves explorations of childhood themes of discipline, notions of community, and the link between the child and the modern state. These posters also encourage creative insight when juxtaposed with imagery appearing in comparative settings (e.g. Boy Scout and Girl Scouts of America, Guiding organizations of the United Kingdom.)

Related themes can be found in a collection entitled "The PLA [People's Liberation Army] and Children." These images feature children in overlapping martial and domestic frames from the 1960s-1980s, inviting analysis of representations of gender, masculinity, and nation. See, in particular, the warm image of a soldier cutting his young friend's hair and the celebratory presentation of cheering children and artillery.

The collection of "New Year Prints (and Chubby Babies)" meanwhile presents images of roly-poly infants posted in households and on doorways to celebrate the hopes of prosperity, auspicious fortune, and happiness at the new year holiday. This collection nicely serves an exploration of the ways in which the image of the child (here, the infant or toddler) is framed within popular culture and then appropriated by a Chinese Communist state that sought to utilize imagery of the child to promote revolutionary themes.

Landsberger provides a background discussion of the appropriation of that genre by the state in the 1940s, as well as the 1980s and 1990s resurgence of the genre during the reform period. Comparisons of these images across time offer an opening to discussions of the ways in which the image of the child is used to present definitions of the good life, of the united concerns of a household economy and national strength, as well as a new culture of middle-class consumption. Other relevant images at the site can be found by utilizing the search terms "children" and "education."

Using these images in conjunction with other resources in Chinese history allows for sophisticated explorations of the visual culture of childhood. Further examples of Chinese propaganda imagery can be found online in a childhood collection at the University of Westminster, and in clips from animated features ("Heroic Little Sisters on the Grassland," "The Ferry Port") available amidst the multimedia samples at the Morning Sun website. See also Stephanie Donald's "Children as Political Messengers: Art, Childhood, and Continuity," in Harriet Evans and Stephanie Donald, eds., Picturing Power in the People's Republic of China: Posters of the Cultural Revolution (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999): 79-100.

How to Cite This Source

"Stefan Landsberger’s Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages," in Children and Youth in History, Item #108, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/website-reviews/108 (accessed September 2, 2014).

Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages offers a rich collection of Chinese propaganda posters assembled by historian Stefan Landsberger (Leiden University) from his own collection of over 2,000 images.