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The Making and Remaking of China's "Red Classics"Politics, Aesthetics, and Mass Culture$
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Rosemary Roberts and Li Li

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390892

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390892.001.0001

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The Politics and Aesthetics of Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua of the Reform Era

The Politics and Aesthetics of Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua of the Reform Era

(p.115) 7 The Politics and Aesthetics of Rediscovering Heroes of the “Red Classics” in Lianhuanhua of the Reform Era
The Making and Remaking of China's "Red Classics"

Rosemary Roberts

Hong Kong University Press

Lianhuanhua (picture story books) became popular in China in the 1920s and 30s and had their golden age between the 1950s and 1970s when many of the “red classic” tales of communist heroes appeared in lianhuanhua form. With the advent of the Reform Era lianhuanhua lost their appeal as television took over popular entertainment and people turned away from the propaganda-style stories of class conflict. In the new millennium, however, economic and social uncertainty brought nostalgia for the past. The old stories reappeared, often as reprints, but also frequently in remakes and adaptations. It is argued that while the reprints catered to nostalgic longings, the remakes and adaptations addressed themselves to current concerns. In a case study of 2 new lianhuanhua versions of Red Classics, Red Sister-in-law and Who is the most lovable person? this chapter considers how socio-economic change and changing political needs of the Communist Party reshaped each of the lianhuanhua with respect to 1) the content of its textual component through the extension of the original story and 2) the graphic component through a changed aesthetics and politics of portraiture, marking a fundamental shift in the role of the working class as hero, subject and reader.

Keywords:   Lianhuanhua, Chinese Picture story books, Chinese comics, Li Chen (artist), Red Sister in Law (Hong Sao), Wei Wei, soft power in Chinese culture

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