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

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