Promotion for Propaganda

Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center
Located in the basement of Building #4, 868 Hua Shan Rd. (华山路).
10 min walk from Metro Line 1 Jiangsu Rd or Jing’an Temple Stations.
Entrance Fee: ¥20   |  Open Daily 10am-5pm  | Info in English and French

This museum, which started as one room in the basement on the apartment complex, has now spread to fill three rooms and claims to boast a collection of over 6,000 Chinese propaganda posters from 1940 to 1990, with an additional collection of hundreds of Shanghai Lady Calendar posters from 1910 to 1940. I doubt that all 6,000 posters are currently up for viewing, but they certainly filled every space—from floor to ceiling, wall to wall—of the three rooms with their display of propaganda posters.

The museum is organized well. Putting the posters in chronological order with sign-boards in English and French introducing each new time-period and highlighting some of the key historical and political happenings during that time. The English sign-boards were some of the better and more clearly written that I’ve seen in China, and appear to have at least some influence from a native speaker, though some interesting “chinese-y” phrases do pop in now and again (but really, what would a museum sign-board be without the clearly Chinese influenced descriptions?).

For some reason, I have a special love for Propaganda posters, or any sort of poster in this style—maybe it’s the graphic design side of me—so I really enjoyed walking through this exhibit. It was also interesting to try to imagine these historical events through the lens of the Chinese people and to see the posters and the depiction of “friendly” nations and “unfriendly” nations morph as history moved forward.

As one sign-board said:

“It is a heroic saga of countless victories over momentous struggle. Still behind the happy faces beaming out of these posters, one can also guess at the true-life anxieties and hardships of the people these posters purported to represent. Indeed, each poster is both a work of art and an insight into the events of those times.”

In this older version of marketing, you could see the juxtapositions of the extreme: Mao as the hero, the working man as the epitome of happiness and fulfillment, and the US as the devilish enemy (literally, Americans are portrayed as Gollum-like creatures with accentuated arm hair whose primary method of movement is a low crawling slither along the ground!). I also enjoyed seeing parts of Shanghai playing a major backdrop: the bund and Nanjing Rd alight with Communist pride and filled by parade-goers celebrating hope for a bright future. An unexpected find what how the Propaganda posters sometimes reflected internal struggles from other countries—such as support for the end of Segregation in the US.

This museum is enjoyable no matter what your understanding of the events from the 1930s-1979, but it’s definitely worth getting a historical briefing under your belt—or grabbing your nearest history buff friend—as a basic knowledge of major events that took place in China and the surrounding countries during this time period make the various posters more meaningful.

Don’t care for the museum but looking for some posters, postcards or books staring Chinese Propaganda? Head to the gift shop. You’ll find decent prices for replications small to large of many of the posters on exhibit.

The entrance is a bit tricky, look for this apartment complex, and use the business card directions below. 🙂

Propaganda museum entrance

Propaganda Museum location

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