Landscape Paintings and Territorial Sovereignty in Socialist China

This talk discusses how traditional ink brush landscape paintings were repackaged in 1950s China as a new national artform to embody the glory of the new sovereign power. These paintings, many of them now crowned as ‘Red Classics’, reveal the mutual appropriation between the socialist nation-building and traditional Confucian and Daoist aesthetics. With the new regime defining the political and aesthetic agenda, these works were invested with heavy political, aesthetic and economic values. Painters were subjected to intense political scrutiny, but some also took the opportunity to keep painting. This talk also analyzes the assumption behind territorial sovereignty, and how traditional Chinese paintings were tasked to aestheticize the natural scenery as an abstract possession of the new sovereign power.

PANG Laikwan is Choh-Ming Li Professor of Cultural and Religious Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is the author of a few books, including One and All: The Logic of Chinese Sovereignty (Stanford UP, 2024), The Appearing Demos: Hong Kong During and After the Umbrella Movement (U of Michigan P, 2020), The Art of Cloning: Creative Production During China’s Cultural Revolution (Verso, 2017) and Creativity and Its Discontents: China’s Creative Industries and Intellectual Property Rights Offenses (Duke UP, 2012).