Dazibao Poster

Fifty years ago, China entered one of the darkest phases of its modern history, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a period of terrible violence that scarred a generation of Chinese people. During the Cultural Revolution “big character posters” (dazibao大字报), were large, hand-written signs pasted on walls throughout China. Their content criticized local officials, colleagues, teachers, bosses, co-workers, former friends—virtually no one was exempt—for a wide-range of supposed political transgressions in what often became a cycle of high-stakes political attacks and counter-attacks.

Despite the important role dazibao played in the visual and political landscape of the Cultural Revolution – as well as the subsequent Democracy Wall movement – they were never intended to be permanent, and so the vast majority were destroyed or simply decayed. Many China scholars, even experts on the period, have never had the chance to view dazibao up close.   

The creation of huge numbers of dazibao at this particular moment in China’s history can also be understood as an aesthetic or artistic phenomenon. Though only a scintilla of these works survive, dazibao occupy an important position in Chinese art history. Their reflection of the previous artistic tradition and their continuing inspiration for contemporary artists makes them perhaps as valuable to the art historian as to the student of politics.   

The mission of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University is to advance scholarship in all fields of Chinese studies. We are ecumenical in our choice of subjects and approaches. Our faculty celebrate the impressive cultural accomplishments of China in past and present, explore the many challenges that China is facing today, and recognize China’s many successes. But we also do not shy away from less pleasant or more controversial topics. The 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution is an opportune moment to reflect on the history of the Cultural Revolution and think about the relationship between past, present and future. For a variety of reasons, however, the anniversary went almost completely unmentioned in China.

This exhibition presents the first-ever exhibition of big character posters and woodblock prints from the Cultural Revolution in the United States, and the first time that these dazibao have been exhibited anywhere in the world. To accompany the exhibition, we are holding a number of academic activities to encourage scholarly analysis on the remarkable objects displayed in the exhibition, and to promote new understanding and new interpretations about the period that produced them.

Whether one sees these big-character posters and woodblock prints primarily in aesthetic terms, or treats them as historic relics or as objects that provoke conversations about China’s complex relationship with the past, we think they are worthy subjects of research and analysis. The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies is proud to serve as the host of this exhibition.

Michael Szonyi

Director of the Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Join us for the opening of this exhibition on November 9, 2017 at 4pm in Tsai Auditorium, featuring a panel discussion and reception.

Read blog posts by our panelists on dazibao at the Fairbank Center Blog. 

For press inquiries, please contact James Evans at jamesevans@fas.harvard.edu.

 

哈佛费正清中国研究中心的大字报特展

半个世纪以前,中国进入了现代历史上最为黑暗的时期之一:无产阶级文化大革命。这段充斥着暴力的历史给一整代中国人留下了伤痕。大字报是以大字书写、张贴于墙上的海报,文革期间风行全中国。其主要内容在于批判官员上司、同事同僚和熟人旧友的各种所谓的政治错误,从中衍生出高风险的政治斗争与反斗争的循环,无人幸免。

尽管大字报在文革(以及日后的民主墙运动)的视觉表现和政治景观中扮演了重要的角色,但人们无意长久地保存它们。绝大多数大字报或遭销毁,或者随着时间流逝而变得破损不堪。许多学者,甚至是文革专家,都不曾有幸近距离观看大字报。

在中国历史的这个特定时刻,大字报的大量创作也可以被视为一个审美或艺术现象。虽然只有极少数的作品保存至今,大字报在中国艺术史上占据着毋庸置疑的重要地位,不仅反映了此前的艺术传统,而且持续为现代艺术家提供灵感的源泉,可以说对艺术史和政治学的研究有同样非凡的价值。

哈佛大学费正清中国研究中心致力于推进中国研究的各个领域,对于各种研究主题和方法,都持包容心态。中心成员积极弘扬古今中国文化成果、研究当下中国面对的各种挑战及其取得的各项成绩,同时也并不回避具有争议性的议题。文革五十周年为我们提供了一个恰当的时机,反思文革的历史意义,以及过去、现在与未来之间的关系。然而,出于种种原因,这一周年纪念在中国几乎未被提及。

本次展览可能是美国首次文革大字报与版画的展览。同时,我们也筹办了一系列配合展览的学术活动,鼓励学者参与分析这批特别的展品,从而推进对文革时期的新诠新解。

无论我们是从美学角度来欣赏这些大字报和版画,或将它们视为历史遗迹,又或是以它们为起点展开对话,反思中国与其过去的复杂关系,这批展品都值得我们的深入研究与分析。费正清中国研究中心为能够筹办此次特展而倍感荣幸。

宋怡明

哈佛大学费正清中国研究中心主任

开幕会: 2017年 11月 9日, 4pm, Tsai Auditorium, CGIS South Building

媒体查询,请联络费正清中心外联专员詹英俊(James Evans)先生。(电邮:jamesevans@fas.harvard.edu)

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies