Beijing’s grip over artistic legacy riles descendants

A famous example of traditional folk art has once again been coopted by the Chinese Communist Party in its propaganda efforts, but the family involved want nothing to do with the campaign, having paid a heavy price in the past

Taipei Times
Date: Dec 10, 2015
By: Ian Johnson  /  NY Times News Service, TIANJIN, China

For nearly three years, a propaganda campaign closely associated

Illustration: Mountain People
Illustration: Mountain People

with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has blanketed roadways, construction sites, bus stops and rail stations across China. Its most popular image is of a clay figurine of a chubby peasant girl in a red smock, her chin resting on her folded hands, her eyes cast upward.

with the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Mao sought to destroy traditional practices, including folk art, as obstacles to socialist progress. Zhang Ming’s descendants say he was beaten by his students, forced to drink buckets of soy sauce and vinegar, and subjected to mock trials for carrying on the family tradition. Other family members were attacked as well, the descendants say, and one committed suicide by throwing himself into a river.

“My Dream,” says the text on the posters and billboards. “The China Dream.”

The campaign is part of a broad effort to imbue Xi’s signature slogan — a call for national rejuvenation led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — with traditional Chinese values such as family and social harmony. The figurine is crucial to the strategy; it is sculpted and painted in a style recognized across China as traditional folk art and it is the product of a renowned family studio.     [FULL  STORY]