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East is Red

MEAA at BRLSI Friday August 26th 2016 7pm
Mary Ginsberg former curator of Chinese Collection British Museum
Notes by William Gaskell

Red is auspicious colour of Chinese culture related to Imperial Chinese ceremony and secular Chinese festivals.

Red is colour for fire: ritual sacrifice supported Emperor and state – red colour.

Red was dynastic colour for Ming dynasty, surname Zhu meaning red.

Red was official colour of honour. Emperor would officially wear yellow robes for ceremonial official engagements but we can see red coloured objects used for officials at court and appearing in other garments as a signifier.

1959 everyone lost the land they were given by the revolution to collectivisation, people lost privacy to communal living. Red dragon in calendar made it seem great.

From 1960 Chairman Mao stepped down at head of state of China but remained Chairman of Politburo and the Communist Party. Red soldier painting was approved for posters.

Red appears on all packaging and goods at this time in China.

Mao shrine in red was worshipped religiously in each household where people would report to him their hopes and fears and what they’ve been up to like a prayer.

!976 Cultural revolution ended with a change of leader and new policy:
“It’s glorious to get rich!”
Chinese poster celebrating Paris commune is daubed in red in later period but original poster from 1920s France doesn’t appear with red on it.

Red tractor massive symbol in 1960 China. Socialist realism: Girl meets red tractor.

Shen Jiawei represented Chinese culture with poster of soldiers guarding nation with ruddy cheeks in 1976. He now was the first artist to make a portrait of Pope Francis.

Red boat is about the birth of the communist parts as at their first meeting in Shanghai someone told the police so they had to run away and reconvene on a boat.
Buddhism still has meetings in China but not through official channels. There were official Confucianism meetings. Now a counter-culture is emerging against let’s get rich mentality in China with meetings being held to this end.


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