China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Archaism in Book Culture in the Mao Era

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Wilson A, Mezzanine Level

Through the study of woodblock publications during the first three decades of the People’s Republic of China, this paper will attempt to explore how the long established tradition of archaism continued to exist within book culture during the Mao era. By applying Wu Hong’s definition of archaism, I will postulate that historical perfection was represented and reproduced in woodblock titles published from the 1950s to the 1970s. Archaism and communism had been publicised as binary concepts by the CCP authority. However, principles in woodblock publishing activities were somehow homogeneous to the CCP ideology in cultural authoritarianism. This was achieved by creating a hierarchical social structure, and positioning intellectuals as subordinates to the political authority.

I will argue that the latent homogeneities between the two seemly heterogeneous ideological systems explain why the woodblock trade survived and developed during the Mao era. This, despite archaistic tradition being the target of countless political campaigns. By publishing finely carved and designed archaistic books, archaists in the woodblock trade worshiped both the ancient cultural authority and the CCP political power. This created a hierarchy of price and printing quality in books that catered for an elite class in society that was politically not supposed to exist. Endorsed by the CCP political power, archaism became part of this privileged class, and created a new distinction in book culture that favoured the CCP political and cultural elites.

Send Email for Yuyu (Lara) Yang


3 - Archaism in Book Culture in the Mao Era

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