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Zeng Jingchu (1918-2001)
Portrait of Lu Xun
Woodblock print
21 x 29 cm

This print imagines Lu Xun in Yan’an, symbolised by the pagoda on the hill.  Yan’an was the communist base area and Party headquarters, after the Long March in 1935, through the Civil War in the late 1940s. Lu Xun never went to Yan’an, but sent Mao Zedong a congratulatory telegram and a canned ham when he learned of the Red Army’s safe arrival there. Many prints associate Lu Xun with revolutionary events, even if they occurred long after his lifetime. 


Muban Educational Trust registration number zenjc001


Li Hua (1907-94)
The Long March
Woodblock print
16 x 29 cm

Li Hua worked closely with Lu Xun, who thought him among the most promising of the young printmakers. Originally trained in painting, he turned to printmaking. In any medium, his work was always dedicated to nationalist and socialist themes.  His perceptive figural prints of the 1930s and 40s showed people’s struggles and anti-imperialist, revolutionary determination. This woodcut shows a long line of high-spirited Red Army soldiers during the Long March from Jiangxi to Yan'an. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number livhv028



Li Hua (1907-94)
Catching Fish
Woodblock print
22 x 33 cm

After the establishment of the PRC in 1949, all art was required to serve the revolution and the state.  Colourful, optimistic prints replaced the critical black and white graphics of the 1930s and 40s.  By the mid-1950s, the economy had stabilized, and new social structures were in place. Arts policies were relaxed for a time, as evident in this print.  There is no specific political content here at all. The respite from propaganda was short-lived, reversed in 1957 with the Anti-Rightist Movement.


Muban Educational Trust registration number livhv027


Li Hua (1907-94)
Building the Reservoir
Woodblock print
28 x 40 cm

This print shows the enthusiastic labour of masses constructing a reservoir.  Since it is dated 1959, it is likely a revolutionary romantic view of the Three Gorges Project.  An enormously complex undertaking, the dam was heavily promoted by Chairman Mao during the Great Leap Forward (1958-62), but engineering problems prevented its construction for forty years; it was finally completed in 2006. Compare the style of this propaganda imaginary with no. 36, a patriotic landscape also featuring the Three Gorges. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number livhv025



Li Hua (1907-94)
Early Morning in the Capital
Woodblock print
35 x 47 cm


Many artists moved away from propaganda work after the Cultural Revolution, when cultural policies relaxed, and individual creativity was again permitted.   Li still made patriotic works, both black and white and in colour.  They were more artistic and less explicitly political than during the revolutionary and Maoist periods, but always expressed pride in New China.  He made this print while a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where he served as teacher and mentor for more than 30 years.

Muban Educational Trust registration number livhv002


Li Hua (1907-94)
Gorge of the Treasured Sword of the Book of War
Woodblock print
40 x 52 cm

This print illustrates the Precious Sword and Military Book Gorge, part of the Xiling Gorge in Sichuan. More than just a landscape, Li’s gorge is a direct reference to Zhuge Liang (181-234), an ancient hero still invoked in today’s China. According to legend, Zhuge Liang hid his military book and treasured sword in the crevices of the rocks for brave men to find.  A feature of the gorge is said to resemble a book with a sword under it. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number livhv006



Huang Xinbo (1916-80)
He is Not Dead
Woodblock print
14 x 18 cm

Huang Xinbo made over 200 woodcuts during the Second Sino-Japanese war (1937-45).  His style and subjects evoked emotion and imagination, and he was known as ‘the poet of the cutting knife.’ This print was made to commemorate the fallen in the 1941 South Anhui Incident (or New Fourth Army Incident), which marked the end of the supposed cooperation between Nationalists and Communists against Japan. The incident resulted in many Communist losses. Huang was an active member of the Communist Party.

Educational Trust registration number huaxb007


Huang Xinbo (1916-80)
After Selling Blood
Woodblock print
34 x 22 cm

“Woodcut artists shall unite with determination and passion, dip their cutting knives in vivid blood, and cut a way out for the oppressed nation, so that the starving, the downtrodden, and those contorted faces, which we are so used to seeing on our woodblocks, can become happy and healthy again.” So wrote Huang in 1936.  This print shows a youth who had to sell his blood to eat. A huge figure dominating the scene is a trademark of Huang’s style. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number huaxb008



Huang Xinbo (1916-80)
Forever Spring
Woodblock print
55 x 37 cm

After the Second Sino-Japanese War, Huang Xinbo spent the Civil War years (1946-49) in Hong Kong, but returned to Guangzhou to serve the newly established PRC. The Cultural Revolution years were hard on him, but in 1979, he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the China Artists’ Association. To the end of his life, Huang Xinbo’s prints glorified revolutionary China. Here he celebrates the perennial enthusiasm and determined advance of youth. Large red and white roses are motifs in several later prints. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number huaxb002


Gu Yuan (1919-96)
Burning the Title Deeds
Woodblock print
28 x 18 cm

This is one of the best-known prints of the Civil War period (1946-49).  It is a dramatic and highly-detailed scene of angry citizens burning the property deeds of a landlord.  In Communist-controlled areas, land reform policies were enacted before the formal establishment of the People’s Republic.   Gu Yuan had studied at the Lu Xun Academy of Arts, where the prescribed style was based on flat, colourful folk prints known as nianhua, and more of his surviving works are in that style.

Muban Educational Trust registration number guvyv013



Gu Yuan (1919-96)
On the Peaceful Land—The First Spring After the Korean War
Woodblock print
33 x 55 cm

China sent one million “Volunteers” to support the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. This scene shows People’s Liberation Army soldiers helping North Korean farmers during the first peacetime planting season. The US and United Nations supported South Korea, and captured American equipment is visible here. The War was never officially concluded, but an armistice was signed and is still operative. During the 1950’s, woodcuts printed in colour were more common than the earlier black-and-white style. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number guvyv004


Gu Yuan (1919-96)
Sufficient Fertilizer for a Bumper Harvest of Grain and Cotton
Woodblock print
28 x 21 cm

Gu Yuan made this print during the Great Leap Forward (1958-62), China’s misguided agricultural and industrial development plan. Following the cultural policy known as “revolutionary romanticism,” many propaganda prints from that time show fantastical imagery, with boat-sized cabbages or flying peaches.  By 1959, it was clear the extreme strategy had failed, and cultural policies relaxed slightly. This is a genre scene of peaceful agricultural life, the only specifically political element being more fertilizer than would actually have been available.  

Muban Educational Trust registration number guvyv007



Gu Yuan (1919-96)
Recalling Yan’an
Woodblock print
32 x 40 cm

After the Revolution, Gu Yuan held numerous publishing, teaching and administrative posts, while continuing his artistic practice.  His prints illustrated China’s progress in social and economic development, especially with communal village scenes. This print shows farmers bringing in the harvest, but its theme is Yan’an, the revolutionary-period Communist base area and Party headquarters, symbolised by the ancient pagoda on the hill. Even today, Yan’an is invoked in glorification of the Communist establishment of New China. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number guvyv002


Gu Yuan (1919-96)
Bring Sweetness to the People
Woodblock print
29 x 23 cm

Gu Yuan made this print in the last year of his life.  There is no explicit political content in the image, though the message is a communal one: bring sweetness to the people. The dominant feature is a blossom-covered tree, with the bee-keeping work in the background. Like many artists, after the Cultural Revolution Gu Yuan made more landscapes and nature scenes—subjects of personal choice, rather than the propaganda art required from 1949 to the end of the 1970s.

Muban Educational Trust registration number guvyv009



Li Qun (1912-2012)
Children Picking up Rubbish
Woodblock print
14 x 19 cm

Strongly influenced by Lu Xun (see no. 4), Li Qun was one of the earliest revolutionary printmakers, and a founder of the Woodcut Research Association in 1933.  His prints showed the dark social and economic conditions of Republican China (1912-49).  Diagonal lines and cross-hatching give shape and depth to his images. A copy of this print was included in a 1937 exhibition in London, organized to raise funds and awareness of China against Japan’s imperialist aggression. 

Muban Educational Trust registration number livqv028

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