Art, Literature, Music and Culture in Socialist China

Workers' Meeting

Workers’ Meeting

More on China …..

Art, Literature, Music and Culture in Socialist China

Culture and Education in New China, includes Report on Cultural and Educational Work by Kuo Mo-jo and six other reports, 110 pages. (Peking: FLP, n.d. [but either late 1950 or early 1951]).

To Trumpet Bourgeois Literature and Art is to Restore Capitalism — A Repudiation of Chou Yang’s Reactionary Fallacy Adulating the ‘Renaissance’, the ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Critical Realism’ of the Bourgeoisie, by the Shanghai Writing Group for Revolutionary Mass Criticism, (Peking: FLP, 1971), 53 pages.

A Glance at China’s Culture, by Chai Pien, 106 pages. (Peking: FLP, 1975).

Painting

Selection of Artistic Works by Shanghai Workers, Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 1974, 91 pages. A wonderful collection of paintings, with captions in Chinese.

Shanghai workers’ art selection, a collection of a couple hundred wonderful Chinese political paintings from the later stage of the Cultural Revolution. (Peking: 1975), 110 pages.

Peasant Paintings from Huhsien County, compiled by the Fine Arts Collection Section of the Cultural Group under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, as exhibited in Peking in 1973. (Peking: People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 1976), 85 pages.

An article about these paintings appeared in China Reconstructs magazine, Jan. 1974, pp. 17-20

Wood Cuts and Paper Cuts

The East is Red: Paper Cuts of the Chinese Revolution, with text by Lincoln Bergman and paper cuts by members of a People’s Commune in Fatshan, 56 pages. (San Francisco: People’s Press, 1972)

Papercuts – Tigers, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in color, 7 pages.

Papercuts – Karst Landscape, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in color, 4 pages.

Papercuts – A Cock Crows at Midnight, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in black, 8 pages.

Papercuts – Table Tennis, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in red, 8 pages.

Papercuts – Collective Farm, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in red, 8 pages.

Papercuts – Sword Training, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in red, 10 pages.

Bookmarks – with fish and bird images, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in colour, 9 pages.

Sculpture

Rent Collection Courtyard: Sculptures of Oppression and Revolt, probably the most famous set of works of art in China in the Maoist era. This is a great collection of photographs of these wonderful and emotionally powerful sculptures. (Peking: FLP, 1968), 88 pages.

Introduction to Rent Collection Courtyard, a small pamphlet that accompanied the ‘strip’ version of the sculptures. (Peking: FLP, 1968) 19 pages.

Wrath of the Serfs: A Group of Life-sized Clay Sculptures, powerful scenes of figures showing the pre-revolutionary Tibetan system of exploitation. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 88 pages. (Partial scanner distortion on sheet 17.)

A discussion of this exhibit appeared in Chinese Literature magazine, Feb. 1976, pp. 109-117.

Graphic Histories and Literature (Picture-Stories)

The Old Messenger, by Chun Ching, drawings by Ting Pin-tseng. (Peking: FLP, 1956), 72 pages.

Immortal Hero Yang Ken-sze, story by Wang Hao about a real-life hero in the Chinese People’s Volunteers in the Korean War. Drawings by Ho Yu-chih. (Peking: FLP, 1965), 3rd ed., 140 pages.

Red Women’s Detachment, picture-story by Liang Hsin about the slave girl Chiung-hua on Hainan Island in 1930 who escapes and joins the Red Army. Drawings by Li Tzu-shun. (Peking: FLP, 1966), 148 pages.

Tunnel Warfare, picture-story adapted by Che Mei and Pi Lei about the clever tactics of the masses and people’s militia in Hopei Province during China’s War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945). (Peking: FLP, 1972), 164 pages.

Norman Bethune in China, a wonderful, inspiring work featuring fine ink drawings on every page. The adaptation is by Chung Chih-cheng, and the illustrations are by Hsu Jung-chu, Hsu Yung, Ku Lien-tang and Wang Yi-sheng. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 124 pages.

Storms on the Chinkiang Docks, a story of a struggle on the docks during the revolutionary war. Illustrations by Hu Po-tsung and Wang Meng-chi. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 88 pages.

Flying Eagle Cliff, adapted by the Kwangtung People’s Publishing House, drawings by Kuang Ming-yin, Tso Yi, Liu Wei-hsiung and Chung Hsien-chang. It is not clear if there is a historical basis to this story, or if it is just literature. Either way, it is a fine and moving story which is especially good at bringing out that the Communists can’t do what the masses must do themselves; to arrest the class enemies before the masses are aroused would be useless. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 164 pages.

Literature

A Brief History of Chinese Fiction, by Lu Hsun. (Peking: FLP, 1964), 2nd edition, 524 pages.

Lu Hsun – Great Revolutionary, Thinker and Writer, a loose-leaf collection of color paintings, (FLP: 1975), 36 pages. English:

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 1, (Peking: FLP, 1956), 488 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 2, (Peking: FLP, 1957), 378 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 3, (Peking: FLP, 1964), 358 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 4, (Peking: FLP, 1960), 326 pages.

Selected Stories of Lu Hsun, by Lu Hsun. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 282 pages.

Old Tales Retold, by Lu Hsun. A collection of 8 tales from 1922-1935. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 150 pages.

The True Story of Ah Q, by Lu Hsun. Probably his most famous work. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 5th edition, 82 pages.

Dawn Blossoms Plucked At Dusk, by Lu Hsun, a collection of essays written in 1926 and first published in 1928. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 138 pages.

Wall of Bronze, by Liu Ching, a novel of the War of Liberation. (Peking: FLP, 1954), 300 pages.

The Builders, by Liu Ching, a novel about the struggles over mutual aid, co-operatives, and socialist collectivization in the Chinese countryside. (Peking: FLP, 1964), 588 pages.

The Man Who Sold a Ghost: Chinese Tales of the 3rd-6th Centuries. (Peking: FLP, 1958), 190 pages.

The Battle of Sangkumryung, by Lu Chu-kuo. Novel about a major battle won by Chinese People’s Volunteers in Korea. (Peking: FLP, 1961), 176 pages.

The Seeds and Other Stories, 14 stories by mostly young writers written during the Cultural Revolution. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 204 pages.

City Cousin and Other Stories, 8 stories, mostly by amateurs, about life in China at this time. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 204 pages. [3,685 KB]

Bright Clouds, by Hao Jan, 8 short stories. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 162 pages.

Yenan Seeds and Other Stories, 6 short stories by various writers. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 156 pages.

The Making of a Peasant Doctor, by Yang Hsiao, a novel. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 228 pages.

Poetry

Mao Tse-tung Poems, by Mao Tse-tung. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 1st edition, 72 pages.

Wild Grass, all 23 prose poems of Lu Xun which were written in 1924-26. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 82 pages.

Mountains Crimsoned with Flowers, by Li Ying, 16 poems. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 44 pages.

Battle of the Hsisha Archipelago (Reportage in Verse), by Chang Yung-mei (Peking: FLP, 1975), 50 pages.

Music

Songs and Dances of the Chinese Youth, (Peking: FLP, 1959), 62 pages.

Historical Revolutionary Songs, (Peking: FLP, 1971), 28 pages.

Theatre and Film

On Stanislavsky’s ‘System’, by the Shanghai Revolutionary Mass Criticism Writing Group, (Peking: FLP, 1969), small pamphlet format, 47 pages.

A Vicious Motive, Despicable Tricks – A Criticism of M. Antonioni’s Anti-China Film China, by Renmin Ribao Commentator, Jan. 30, 1974. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 23 pages.

Opera

On the Revolution of Peking Opera, by Chiang Ching [Jiang Qing] and others, (Peking: FLP, 1968), 76 pages. Chiang Ching’s speech only (7 pages).

Red Detachment of Women. This is the most famous of all the model revolutionary Peking Operas created during the Mao era in China. It depicts the liberation of a peasant girl in Hainan Island and her role in the Chinese Communist Party. It is adapted from the original novel based on the true stories of the all-female Special Company of the 2nd Independent Division of the Chinese Red Army, first formed in May 1931.

Video: (in Chinese) Part 1 [54:51 minutes]; Part 2 [45:29 minutes];

The Red Lantern, a model Peking Opera on a contemporary revolutionary theme.

The Red Lantern: May 1970 Script, Hsinhua News Service, Aug. 6, 1970, 18 double pages in teletype font.

Shachiapang, a model Peking Opera on a contemporary revolutionary theme.

The Story of the Modern Peking Opera Shachiapang, illustrated with drawings, 52 pages. (Peking: FLP, 1972).

Shachiapang – Model Peking Opera on Contemporary Revolutionary Theme, screen play with photographs. (Colombo, Ceylon: Afro-Asian Writers’ Bureau, 1967), 86 pages.

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. This is one of the 8 model works of revolutionary Peking Opera created during the Mao era. It is based on an actual event that took place in 1946 during the Chinese Civil War. A young communist reconnaissance team soldier, Yang Zirong, disguised himself as a bandit to infiltrate a local gang, eventually helping the main revolutionary force to destroy the band.

Video: (in Chinese) Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy [1 hour, 58 minutes]

Libretto [Script] in English, October 1969, issued by Hsinhua News Agency (June 20, 1970), 22 double pages.

Miscellaneous Arts

Suzhou Embroidery, a fine hard-cover volume in Chinese with some beautiful examples of art from the Cultural Revolution era. (Shanghai: 1976), 78 pages.

Bookmarks in the shape of leaves with frog designs, non-political but artistically appealing bookmarks from China, probably from the 1970s, 7 pages.

Acrobatics and Sports

Chinese Acrobatics, photo book with introduction and captions in English, French and Swahili, (Peking: FLP, 1974), 126 pages.

More on China …..

National Art Gallery ‘Sculpture Park’ – Tirana

Uncle Joe - Art Gallery 'Sculpture Park'

Uncle Joe – Art Gallery ‘Sculpture Park’

More on Albania ……

National Art Gallery ‘Sculpture Park’ – Tirana

Each time I’ve been to Tirana I’ve made it a point to visit the impromptu ‘sculpture park’ that has been created behind the National Art Gallery, just down from the main Skanderbreu Square in the centre of Tirana.

The Art Gallery itself has only a very few actual sculptures on display inside the building, the emphasis being on paintings, especially those from the period from 1945 to 1990, where the dominant style was that of Socialist Realism.

But the area behind the gallery was constructed not for the display of works of art but as a service access to the building. And as the gallery is a public building this area shows the lack of care and investment in maintenance that is the general fate of public spaces in the whole of Albania, not just the capital of Tirana.

The statues that are now there would have previously held pride of place in some public square in different parts of Tirana but there is no indication of their provenance. Some have been damaged, either by accident or design, the statue of the great Marxist and first Soviet leader, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (the work of Kristina Hoshi, the original of which was created in 1954 in cement) in bronze, missing his right arm from the elbow. This once stood proud close to its present position, in the park across the road.

Many of the statues of individuals from the socialist era take on the pose of some famous meeting and the stance that Lenin takes in this statue can be seen on a number of photos from his relatively short time as leader of the first socialist state (his life no doubt being cut short as a consequence of an assassin’s attempt in 1918 which failed in its aim but which meant that a fragment of the bullet could not be removed from Lenin’s brain).

VI Lenin in Tirana - 1970

VI Lenin in Tirana – 1970

When it comes to the great Marxist leaders they are always (at least here in Albania) depicted with their right arm making some sort of gesture or greeting whilst slightly behind their bodies, in their left hand, they hold a roll of paper as if they are about to make an important proclamation.

Although this damage is unfortunate at least it allows an insight to the form of construction of these statues. They are not made of solid bronze, as many would think, but of a hollow bronze that’s only about a couple of centimetres thick. This relatively cheap construction technique explains why so many statues were erected in virtually every town in the country (it also explains why it was so easy to topple these statues in the counter-revolution).

Although few in number this small group provides quite a deep insight into the thinking of the Party of Labour of Albania during the 45 years it was the dominant political force within the country and attempting to construct a socialist society.

Uncle Joe - in happier times in Tirana

Uncle Joe – in happier times in Tirana

Socialist Albania gave women a role in society and assigned them an importance that has never been surpassed, either in the Soviet Union which proceeded the victory of Socialism in Albania or any other country that has attempted to construct socialism since. This is not the role of women in the higher echelons of society, the breaking of the so-called ‘glass ceiling’, the breaking of which only benefits a minuscule percentage of women in any society yet which gets most coverage in the capitalist media.

In Albania it was the women from the working class and peasantry whose lives were changed beyond recognition. In a patriarchal society where women were oppressed by virtual feudal social and economic conditions, as well as by the stultifying traditions of the church (of various trends) by the taking up of the gun during the war for national liberation against the Italian and German Fascist invaders they stated unequivocally that they would no longer ‘live in the old way’.

In many of the extent monuments to the struggles of the past a woman takes a central position and virtually always with a weapon in hand. Albanian women weren’t prepared to have ‘freedom’ given to them, they would fight for it themselves, freedom that would have real meaning. The clearest example of this idea can be seen in the huge mosaic on the façade of the National Historical Museum in Skanderbreu Square in the centre of Tirana.

The young woman depicted in the dirty shambles of the rear of the Art Gallery (in bronze) is of Liri Gero and exudes confidence in her own ability, looks the viewer straight in the eye (not looking down as ‘traditional’ society would have her do), has a gun strapped to her back and clutches a small bunch of flowers in her left hand. Communists fight for bread but for roses too!

Female Liberation Fighter clutching flowers

Female Liberation Fighter clutching flowers

The smallest of the collection depicts a male fighter (also in bronze) from one of the ethnic groups from the mountains of Albania demonstrating that the fight for freedom is not restricted to the ‘sophisticated’ city dwellers or a self-selected intellectual elite but should involve everyone from all sectors and strata of society.

Liberation Fighter

Liberation Fighter

Another of the statues is a physical representation of one of the fundamentals of Albanian Socialist society, the Pickaxe and Rifle (Hector Dule, 1966, Bronze). Here we have a male holding a rifle, the butt resting on the ground, in his left hand whilst in his right he holds high a pickaxe. These two items are the equivalent of the Soviet Hammer and Sickle. Whereas in the Soviet Union the symbol represented the unity of the industrial worker and the peasant the Albanian Pickaxe and Rifle declares that the successful construction of a Socialist society depends upon physical labour protected by the determination of the population to defend any gains by force of arms.

Pick Axe and Rifle

Pick Axe and Rifle

The fact that far too many Albanians forgot this necessity during the counter-revolution of the early 1990s (and then seemed to lose all common sense in the chaotic years that followed, basically throwing out the baby with the bath water) doesn’t detract from the validity of this revolutionary concept.

JV Stalin - Skenderberg Square, Tirana

JV Stalin – Skenderberg Square, Tirana

Finally we have the statues of JV Stalin and VI Lenin, the great Marxist Russian leaders so admired by the Albanian leader Enver Hoxha. I’ve already mentioned the damaged statue of Lenin. This statue, along with one of Uncle Joe, was covered by a tarpaulin just prior to the 100th anniversary of Albanian ‘independence’ in November 2012 – true independence for Albania (if only for 46 years) was achieved on November 29th, 1944. They have now been released from their dark penance but they have been joined by another new comrade who is, presently, covered with a white tarpaulin. I have been told this is a damaged bust of Enver Hoxha.

The hidden stranger

The hidden stranger

I was pleasantly surprised on my visit in October 2014 to find that there had been a new arrival to the small, select group. This was another, but somewhat larger, statue of Stalin. The ‘new’ arrival is in a less formal stance, without cap and is depicted as if greeting the viewer with his right arm stretched out. This is made out of bronze and as far as I can tell it used to stand in the square in front of the Bashkia (Town Hall) in the town of Kombinat – to the south-west of Tirana, on the old road to Durres.It’s at this point you would get off the bus if you wished to visit the grave of Enver Hoxha in its present location in the main city cemetery after being ousted from the National Martyrs’ Cemetery.

On one side of this square was the main entrance to the huge textile factory that gave the town its name (Kombinat means factory in Albanian). This has been derelict for many years and the ruins have slowly disappeared as the land has been cleared for other uses. The only noticeable remains of the factory is the main gate itself – with interesting decoration over the arches. You can get an ideas of how things used to look from a small painting called Voluntary work at the ‘Stalin’ textile factory by Abdurrahmin Buza and painted in 1948 which is on permanent exhibition in the Art Gallery itself.

It’s exactly the same as a statue that was placed in the oil and industrial town of Qender Stalin (now renamed Korcova, not that far from Berat) but there the statue was made from concrete and unlikely to have survived the chaos of the 1990s.

The original design was by Odhise Paskali whose other works number the statue of Skanderbreu on the horse in the square to which he gives his name in the centre of Tirana, as well as another of the national hero in the National Museum, this time not being a burden to a poor animal but standing on his own two feet. Paskali was also the artist for, among others; the group Shokët (Comrades) in Përmet Martyrs’ Cemetery; the standing Partisan on the monument to the Congress of Përmet in the town itself; a double bust of the Two Heroines of Gjirokaster; and a bust of Vojo Kushi, now in a small square on Rruga Dibres to the north of the city centre.

Perhaps one down side of a new Joe arriving is that the statue of the female Partisan, Liri Gero, has been moved to make way for the Man of Steel and is now facing the other statues, with her back to the Art Gallery. Is this yet another example of the return of a patriarchal society or is it, the reverse, that the female fighter is going to give a lesson to the men?

If I will ever be able to find out more details of these statues, i.e., who was the sculptor, where they originally stood, how they survived the counter-revolution and why they ended up in the shadows of the National Art Gallery remains to be seen.

One slight difficulty that has arisen since my last visit a couple of years ago is the presence of a ‘security’ guard who has to be circumvented in order to get a close view of the statues. Why he is so conscientious in this I don’t understand. If the authorities don’t want anyone to see them why place them out in the open? However, he can only be in one place at a time and when he is watching the world go by at the southern end of the gallery grounds, just creep towards the north.

More on Albania ….

Exposure by Antony Gormley

Exposure - Antony Gormley, Lelystad, Holland

Exposure – Antony Gormley, Lelystad, Holland

Even if they haven’t seen it most people know of The Angel of the North sculpture by the road outside Gateshead. Exposure, close to the Dutch city of Lelystad is even bigger.

But it took a long time to come to fruition.

It was in 2001 that the municipality of Lelystad decided to have a competition for a major work of art to be placed between the city and the sea. Antony Gormley won and in 2005 he was awarded the commission.

Having to deal with the technical issues involved with such a huge piece of art meant that the cost started to rise and it wasn’t until 2007 that this financial problem was resolved when a major sponsor came in to foot the bill.

The company Had Fab, based in Scotland and more used to putting up electricity pylons, had been involved with the project from the start and they then took 3 years to produce all the bits of this huge mecanno-like structure. It was first put together at their works in East Lothian and then it took about a month to erect it on the prepared site, on a dam beside the Markermeer, a couple of kilometres from the centre of Lelystad.

Map showing location of Exposure in Lelystad, The Netherlands

Gormley is known for basing his sculptures upon the human body, normally his own, and Exposure is no different. One of his other well-known works in the UK is the collection of a hundred life-sized cast iron figures called Another Place which is spaced out along a 3.5 kilometre stretch of Crosby beach, at the mouth of the River Mersey, close to Liverpool.

Another Place, Antony Gormley, Crosby beach, Liverpool

Another Place, Crosby beach, Liverpool

Exposure is a human figure, 25 metres high (5 metres taller than The Angel of the North) and weighing 60 tonnes, crouching and looking out to sea. There are more than 5,000 individual pieces, each of different length and size, and it’s all kept together with 14,000 or so bolts. It was officially inaugurated on the 17th September 2010.

One of the things that makes this sculpture interesting is its location. It is situated on a narrow strip of land and has water the side it is looking as well as at its back. The land is part of the system of dams and dykes which prevent The Netherlands from being under water so there is no other structure close by. In that way it’s easy to imagine someone just quietly looking out to sea, thinking. The only difference is that this figure is more than 80 feet high.

Not as easy to get to as some of the sites in Holland but not impossible and well worth the effort.

Practicalities

Public Transport

A train from Amsterdam Centraal takes under 40 minutes and there are 3 or 4 an hour during the day. On leaving Lelystad railway station head towards the bus station, the other side of the tracks, about a minute away. There catch the Stadbus No. 3, to Batavia Stad, a shopping complex. From there walk towards the coast and it crouches on the dam lying parallel to the shoreline. You can’t miss it, it’s big enough.