Post D:Chen Danqing

Chen Danqing, a well-known Chinese artist, art critic, social critic and author. He is one of the most influential figure in contemporary Chinese culture.

Chen Danqing was born in 1953, in Shanghai. He started his painting career very young by painting faces of Mao, which was in high demand during the time. When he was 16, he was “exiled” to the countryside during the cultural revolution, after graduating middle school. From 1970 to 1978, Chen was placed into the countryside for agricultural labour, during the “Down to the Mountain Side Movement”, dictated by the policies. During which time, he became a well-known Intellectual Youth Painter, by this Communist propaganda artwork, such as the painting reflecting the sadness of Tibetans upon the news of Mao’s death, “Tears in the harvest field” and the illustrations “On the Border Defence Line”.


Image 1: Lianhuanhua Illustrations: “On the Border Defence Line” (Chen, 1970-1987)


Image 2: “Tears in the Harvest Field” (Chen Danqing,1976)

In 1978, he studies in China Central Acadamy of Fine Art. His 7 Tibet Paintings in 1980 became one of the most significant work of art in China at the time. These paintings were inspired by Jean-Francois Millet, the French Realist artist. They are seen to be milestones in China’s art history. In those paintings, he breaks away from the Socialist Realism painting style, no longer portraying the happy life of people over industrial and agricultural progress after their “liberation”. “The characters I his painting do not exhibit overt signs of joy and jubilation.” The characters are calm; the scene is uneventful. It looks like one day from real life. He used earthy tones to reflect the landscape conditions, the colour of clothing than the skin tones of Tibetan people, not the usual high contrast lights, shadows and colours of Socialist Realism Painting. There is no political narrative.

Chen Danqing moved to America in 1982 to pursue an authentic source of artistic environment. During his time living in New York, he had experienced a very profound cultural shock for many years followed by frustration. The transition from socialism mentality to a new cultural and political environment has made him re-evaluate his past experiences. In his interview, he expressed that for a time he couldn’t find a subject to paint because he could find an inspiration that belongs to him.

Chen started teaching as a professor at Tsinghua University Academy of Fine Arts and doctoral supervisor. But four year later, he resigned from the post because it was impossible for him to find any suitable candidate due to the University’s selection requirements.



Image 3: “Huangfeiji Essay Collection” (Chen, n.d.)


Since then, Chen Danqing has become a very public speaker and author, criticising the social and political influences of a communist in China. He talks about the problem with the current system. He gives lectures and interviews in many media platforms. He has also written many books on politics, literature, modern Chinese language, painting, and art education. His opinions attract the intellectuals and younger generations. He encourages the younger generation to jump out of the dysfunctional social and educational system to be true to their own human nature and be diligent in pursuing their own future.


He X, n.d., An Intellectual’s Independent Personality-A Conversation with Chen Danqing, Chinese Cross Current, Viewd 13 Nov 2016 <>
Chen D, 2014, Mother Tongue and Motherland,  Video Recording, YouTube, 13/ Nov 2016,<>
Cuddy D, n.d., Chen Danqing, Wide Walls, last viewed 13 Nov 2016,  <>
Fish I, 2011, Cultural Exchange: A shaken art scene in Beijing, Los Angeles Times, Last viewsed 13 Nove 2016, <;
Jie Chen, October 2008, Nation, Ethnicity, and Cultural Strategies: Three Waves of Ethnic Representation in Post-1949 China. 


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Posted in D: Chinese Contemporary Culture

Post D Chinese Contemporary Culture

I want to introduce a Chinese artist named Wei Shen whose works reflect the changes of Chinese society including social values, thinking of young people with the change of economy in China. Wei Shen’s innovative has demonstrated in his works that continued the traditional Chinese ink to the contemporary arts, and his works also reflected that Chinse contemporary arts are under strong influence of western culture. During 2007 to 2010, Weishen has held three arts awards in Netherlands to demonstrate the change of Chinese arts in recent years (Mao, 2006).

Chinese arts have experienced thousands of histories which is one of the arts with the longest history. In the early time of 20th century, in the period of New Cultural Movement in China, lots of western drawing skills were introduced to China. At the same time, Chinese traditional ink and painting were developed at a fast speed. Chinese contemporary arts are under the strong influence of economy. When Chinese rich people purchased car and house that represented the social status, they began to pay attention to the collection of antiques and arts, which leads to the fast expansion in the market of arts. In the 1990s, there were lots of arts solo in the Chinese capital Beijing.

Shen Wei was born in such context and started to study Chinese traditional ink at a young age including Chinese traditional ink painting that was the combination of calligraphy and traditional watercolor painting. One of the uniqueness of Shen Wei’s arts is that his works reflected the development of Chinese arts in the last century. The art show in De Bakkerij demonstrated his traditional works and contemporary works.

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For example, the above works were painted in the way of Chinese traditional ink. The two people in the arts held a hamburger in their hands, showing that the western culture has deeply influenced the life of Chinese people. Though Shenwei has great talents in creating fantastic works in the field of traditional ink, he wishes to develop himself in various fields. For instance, he has greatly involved the style of Bohemia in his works with traditional Chinese works, which brought about great changes to his creating styles. It shows that Chinese young people would not be restricted in the creation of traditional works. Besides, Shenwei showed the ingenuity of combining the classical figures with the contemporary figures in one painting, aiming to express the striking contrast between the tradition and the modern world. The works may be dealt with the way of sarcasm. That is, by imitating the traditional works, the modern Chinese arts are created. For instance, in the following works, the historical figures and Chinese modern artists are in the same picture, bringing about the unique experiences to audiences.



Mao, Cristophe, 2006,  Movements: Paintings by Shen Wei. Chambers Fine Arts.

Posted in D: Chinese Contemporary Culture

Post C Primary Research- Sydney

Part A

I visited the Sydney suburb of Chinatown to carry out observation of the Chinese elder daily life. I took notes with the AEIOU template and I also documented by several photos. One of my observation was older Chinese citizens love Yam Cha in the morning. The image below is a male was reading the newspaper while waiting to Yam Cha. The old was gathering only with other elderly citizens or having breakfast alone in the restaurant. They sit there for a long time even though they had finished the foods. This reminds me that Chinese people may need to accompany their parent more. Another big observation is that lots of old citizens did shopping in the morning and they were walking very fast. Some was having rest on the bench.







Part B

I interviewed my friend’s grandma Xiuxian Zhang, who is a Chinese background elderly living in Hurstville, Sydney. She is 72 years old and she has moved to Sydney 20 years long. She said ‘I don’t speak any English but I made a lot of Chinese friends in Hurstville.’ There are a large Chinese population in Hurstville, especially old citizens, they gather around the train station. She knew a lot of people from everyday shopping and neighbors introduce and she now always visit others house to study Chinese medicine and methods to keep healthy. She told me the reason why she looks much younger than her peers is that she did a lot exercises and keeps optimistic attitude every day.



I asked Xiuxian does she have any concern for the future she said no. She believes she has good physique. However, she was afraid to be lonely because her husband passed away 10 years ago. Her husband got hemiplegia after the post-operation of cerebral hemorrhage. She has looked after her husband daily life for 10 years. Her husband’s death made her afraid of loneliness. Therefore, she began to make friends outside and now she has works to do everyday. She said that ‘I just socialized with people in my age group. We have similar life experiences and common topic. I feel comfortable to talk with them. They taught me how can Chinese massage and medicines help maintain healthy.’ This reinforced my understanding of the importance of elderly mentally health. The healthy life is not only kept by lifestyle but also maintained by positive life attitude. Moreover, the old needs more care and accompany by their families.

Posted in C: Primary Research - Sydney

Post B Aging Best Practice

As it is mentioned above, Chinese aging population is increasing. Since the economy is developing fast in China and Chinese young generation is busy in making life and they do not have sufficient time in accompanying their parents. Therefore, the elderly always feel lonely when they get retired. When some elderly do not have any interest, it is quite hard for killing the leisure time. Caring for the psychological well-being has become a critical issue. And lots of elderly in China start to search for reactions to make themselves less lonely. One of the hottest reactional activities named square dance has already attracted the attention of lots of elderly people, especially Chinese senior women. For example, in the picture below, a group of Chinese elderly getting together to dance and to get fun. Square dance not only allows Chinese women get exercise and at the same time, but it is also a good method for killing time.

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Lots of elderly will get together after dinner or in the morning to conduct the square exercise. The popularity of the square dance shows that the modern Chinese elderly feel quite lonely and urgently looking for a way to express themselves. In modern Chinese society, the relationship between people is quite cold and lots of people shut themselves and do not want to communicate with others as the trust between people is sharply decreasing. However, the square dance has been changing the situation gradually. Lots of people gather together no matter they know each other or not with the purpose of enjoying the dance. Some elderly could also communicate with each other during the process of dancing. Many elderly claim that after dancing, they become happier and less lonely. At the same time, their health has also increased because of doing exercise. Therefore, it could be seen that square dance has greatly increased the physical and psychological health for the elderly, addressing the issue that Chinese elderly feel lonely and at the same time reduce the rate of committing suicide by the Chinese elderly. Hence, Chinese government encouraged the practice and promoted the practice of square dance to the elderly. In the article, it is strongly recommended that more and more Chinese elderly should find some reactional activities such as the square dance to make their life fulfilled. It is believed that the square dance will greatly address the issue of loneliness among nester elderly in China.


Sanders S., 2015, Do-Si-Don’t: China To Regulate Outdoor Square-Dancing, viewed at 16 November, <;.



Posted in B: Aging Best Practices

Post A Secondary Research

With the rapid development of economy and society, the number of aging population is increasingly becoming larger and larger in China. It seems that currently China has entered the aging society and it is predicted that by 2050, the speed of aging population will be much faster than that of the economy by 2050 (Huang, 2009). The aging population has brought about lots of problems to Chinese society. To begin with, as China has been implementing of family planning for a long time, lots of families only have one child. When children grow up and leave for other places to work and to live, the phenomenon of nester elderly become more and more common, and lots of people felt quite lonely. Their children came to visit them maybe one time in a year. Therefore, lots of elderly felt quite lonely, and they are eager to look for someone to talk to. Besides, the phenomenon of nester elderly in China also facilitates the rate of committing suicide for elderly in China. As a result, there are more and more people advocating to pay attention to the psychological wellbeing in China. In addition, the fast development of aging population makes the issue of medical security system more severe. When a person reached the age of 60, the health declines sharply and the immunology function of the person is also getting weaker and weaker. When there are not enough resources, it is a big problem for the elderly getting treated in China. What’s more, lots of elderly have a negative feeling about their life, for they have nothing to do when they get retired.

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Based on the above problem, there is three fields of interest could be developed by the elderly including painting, dancing and playing chess, in which Chinese elderly are always interested. For example, Chinese elderly women always like to go to the square dance. Hence we could design some interesting styles of square dance for the elderly. Similarly, in Australia, the elderly always feel lonely and have the psychological problems. Therefore, the design of interest for Chinese elderly could also be applied to Australian elderly.



Huang C. & Irma Elo T., 2009, ‘Mortality of the Oldest Old Chinese: The Role of Early-Life Nutritional Status, SocioEconomic Conditions, and Sibling Sex-Composition,’ Population Studies 63, no. 1 pp.7-20.

Posted in A: Secondary Research

Ai Wei Wei. Ideologically Inconvenient Artist.

Ai Wei Wei. Considered “a harsh critic of the government” (Page 2011).


Famous portrait of Ai Wei Wei. Author Unknown. Accessed here.

It has not been uncommon to happen to China’s most well-known cultural figures and creatives. Supposedly evoking the memory of “the Cultural Revolution…the Maoist regime [removed] ideologically inconvenient artists, writers and intellectuals from the scene at will without even any pretense to legal procedures” (Jingsheng 2011) artists like Ai Wei Wei (perhaps most famously) have been incarcerated for so much as propagating ‘unfavorable’ (or anti-politic) ideas within their art forms (Jingsheng 2011).

But within the particularly complex clime of modern China—which brings together a long history of tradition, but also fast technological progression (Jingsheng 2011)—these ‘cultural figures’ are key to the future way of thinking of the more impressionable younger generations. ‘Impressionable’ so much as having the capability to view, have access to, interpret and understand art, and then generate new ideas amongst the ideological and social complexness that is their live’s realities within modern China.

I had the privilege of seeing for myself, the wonderfully captivating work of Ai Wei Wei at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) earlier this year, and learning—from viewing—for myself, the capacity that art and design have to trigger social change, or reflect ideological shifts. Personally, noting Ai Wei Wei’s skill and power to incite a reflection of even my own context, in light of his arts. His work always begins seemingly only for visual and/or tactile pleasure, yet upon further inspection, the work goes much deeper to challenge not only traditional, but also modern aspects of China (and its place in the world), how these intertwine and how they move forward.


The individual painting of Porcelain Seeds. Author Unknown. Available here.

A particular favourite of mine, of Ai Wei Wei’s works is the Sunflower Seed sculpture; “made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique” (TATE 2010) . Each individual sunflower seed is a hand crafted piece of porcelain, “far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands” (TATE 2010). Ai Wei Wei combines This depth to his work reflects how the younger generation of China must combine the traditional elements of their country’s past—evoked by the porcelain and hand made—in contrast the modern—the ‘en masse’ nature of the seeds, the reflection of the modern prevalence of the ‘Made in China’ status.

Ultimately, all of Ai Wei Wei’s works seek to not only provoke the thought process of the younger generation, but also to reflect it. “The work continues to pose challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?” (TATE 2010) Each of these questions can conflict the reality of modern China and the reality of existence in modern China for the younger generations. Not only does China’s political regime generally come under scrutiny through Ai Wei Wei’s work/s, but one’s position towards these.


Jingsheng, W. A Return to Cultural revolution in China? New Perspectives Quarterly, Summer 2011, vol. 28(3), pp.65.

Page, J. 2011. China Admits Artist under investigation. The Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition, pp. 11

TATE Modern. 2010. The Unilever Series: Ai Wei Wei Sunflower Seeds. Accessed November 7. Available at <>

Posted in D: Chinese Contemporary Culture, Uncategorized

Post D: Honouring and challenging Chinese culture

Zhang Huan (born 1965) is a Chinese artist based in Shanghai, whose provocative performance art and sculpture seeks to both honour and reject elements of his national history. He created “angst-ridden performance pieces that brimmed with pain and a meditative masochism,” (Sebag-Montefiore, 2015) defying cultural norms of the conservative Chinese context which often led to a reprimanding by officials for the perceived inappropriateness of his actions.



Zhang’s first major performance titled Angel (1993), responded to China’s one child policy, ‘questioning the strength of a citizen’s ‘free’ agency’ (Gould, 2016). This work involved Zhang lying naked covered in red liquid and dismembered children’s dolls. His piece was so shocking that the gallery closed early, however this highlighted the deep limitations and anxieties within the traditionalist Chinese outlook.

In one of his most iconic performances, Zhang covered himself with fish oil and honey and sat still in a public toilet in one of the poorest areas of Beijing. He remained unmoving for several hours while his body was enveloped by insects. This work relates to his poor and underprivileged youth living on the streets. Consequently, he exclaimed that if he were to become a mayor of a Chinese town, he would “first change the public toilets” (Zhang Huan in Sebag-Montefiore, 2015).  However, this performance had darker undertones, the physical extremity reflecting on the mind’s ability to conquer discomfort, tying into the practise of Chinese women voluntarily aborting their female children.



A personal favourite work is Zhang’s ‘Ash Heads’, which are large sculptural pieces constructed from incense and ash collected in Shanghai temples. This laborious process involved weekly visits to gather and sort ash, determining different pigments and textures to create depth in the artwork. This poignant medium is symbolic of the devout traditions it oversaw, paying tribute to death, rebirth and spirituality. The artwork is intensified by the ever-present scent of worship which pervades the gallery space. Contrasting to his previous works about suffering, ‘Ash Heads’ is an appreciation and reminder of the purity within Chinese religion, suggesting that it is still appreciated by the younger generation today.



Therefore, through Zhang’s provocative artwork we can perceive values and perspectives of the of positives and negatives within embedded cultural values and traditions.




Gallery, S. 2016, Zhang Huan – Artist’s Profile – The Saatchi Gallery, viewed 11 November 2016, <;.

Gould, R. 2016, Chinese Artist Zhang Huan’s Contemporary Reality Is Steeped In Tradition, The Culture Trip. viewed 11 November 2016, <;.

Sebag-Montefiore, C. 2016, Sydney Buddha artist Zhang Huan on Chinese dreams and toilets, the Guardian. viewed 11 November 2016, <;.

Posted in D: Chinese Contemporary Culture