VISITORS FROM FAR AWAY

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Associate Librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi, and concerns a recent visit to The Wolfsonian museum and library by a group of Chinese museum professionals. The library has a decent collection of rare books, periodicals, and ephemeral items documenting the Yihequan Movement (a nationalist uprising against foreigners and Christian proselytizing, popularly known in the West as the Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901 ). The uprising was put down by an international expeditionary force under the Eight-Nation Alliance, and although the German forces arrived too late to participate in the fighting, they took part in the subsequent occupation of cities in Northern China, and in punitive expeditions into the countryside in which atrocities committed by the invading troops. Thanks largely to gifts made by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, the library also holds materials documenting the first and second Sino-Japanese conflicts (1894-1895 and 1937-1945) and gifts by Steve Heller and former Wolfsonian fellow Eric Dluhosch provided the library with some graphic propaganda from the post-World War II rise to power of Chairman Mao Zedong. Here is Dr. Harsanyi’s report:

This week, the library received a visit by a group of Chinese museum administrators and curators representing the Private Museums Association of Jiang Su Province. We, the librarians, prepared a small display of library holdings relating to China which were very much appreciated by our enthusiastic visitors:

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Our guests had the privilege of being the first visitors to view a recently acquired memorial photograph album commissioned by a German marine gunner as a memento of his service years (1910-1913) in China. Its richly embroidered cover in silk thread features the symbols of both China and Germany, the dragon and the eagle, engaged in an uneasy stand-off that reflected the relationship between the two countries in the decade following the Boxer Rebellion:

Photo2

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The same symbolic motif of the dragon and the eagle appears prominently on a silk memorial banner complementing the photograph album. Also recently acquired, this remarkable artifact belonged to the same German soldier and will be transferred to the museum’s registrars for storage in the objects collection.

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Next to the banner and photograph album we displayed a rare book published in 1910 in Berlin that dealt with Germany’s military engagement in East Asia at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:

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The Wolfsonian-FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

In order to illustrate that China continued to be the target of imperialist endeavors until the end of the Second World War, we showed our visitors a war strategy board game dating from 1938. Published by the Tokyo Youth Club, it was meant to indoctrinate Japanese children about how to occupy Manchuria.  While the recto maintains the graphic design discernible in board games, the verso shows actual front lines superimposed on a physical map of the region:

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Political propaganda from the 1950’s and 1960’s in the People’s Republic of China is quite well represented in our library holdings, ranging from children’s books to various English language periodicals. They are chiefly centered around the figure of Mao Zedong, the totalitarian leader who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1949 to his death in 1976.  The illustrations in a series of children’s books meant for English-speaking audiences deliver their propagandistic message through impressive imagery:

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Gifts of Steve Heller

A clipboard style notebook cover features a young female member of the Red Guards enthusiastically waving Mao’s little red book.

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Gift of Steve Heller

Copies of this almost iconic propaganda tool, both in Chinese and in English, are held in our library:

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Gifts of Steve Heller

Our visitors were surprised that our library even had two sound recordings from the period of the Cultural Revolution:

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Gifts of Eric Dluhosch

The accompanying booklet of the latter record uses an original form of musical notation different from traditional Western styles of musical scores:

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Gift of Eric Dluhosch

~ by "The Chief" on April 30, 2016.

One Response to “VISITORS FROM FAR AWAY”

  1. That Japanese board game is becoming a bit popular lately!

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