By Kirk A. Denton
Through the Mao period, China's museums served an specific and uniform propaganda functionality, underlining authentic celebration background, eulogizing innovative heroes, and contributing to kingdom development and socialist development. With the implementation of the post-Mao modernization software within the overdue Seventies and Nineteen Eighties and the arrival of globalization and marketplace reforms within the Nineties, China underwent an intensive social and financial transformation that has resulted in a enormously extra heterogeneous tradition and polity. but China is ruled by means of a unmarried Leninist occasion that keeps to count seriously on its progressive background to generate political legitimacy.
With its messages of collectivism, self-sacrifice, and sophistication fight, that historical past is more and more at odds with chinese language society and with the state's personal neoliberal ideology of rapid-paced improvement, glorification of the industry, and entrepreneurship. during this ambiguous political surroundings, museums and their curators needs to negotiate among progressive ideology and new types of historic narratives that replicate and spotlight a neoliberal present.
In Exhibiting the Past, Kirk Denton analyzes different types of museums and exhibitionary areas, from progressive heritage museums, army museums, and memorials to martyrs, to museums devoted to literature, ethnic minorities, and native historical past. He discusses crimson tourism-a country subsidized application constructed in 2003 as a brand new kind of patriotic schooling designed to make innovative background come alive-and city making plans exhibition halls, which venture utopian visions of China's destiny which are rooted in new conceptions of the prior. The booklet considers the range of the way country museums are responding to the dramatic social, technological, and cultural adjustments China has skilled during the last 3 many years.
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Additional info for Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China
Just as we entered, a large glass case (I would later learn that this was called a diorama) attracted our attention. In the case, there were mountains, a river, and about ten “primitive men” each about the size of a fist. They weren’t wearing clothes and their bodies were covered with long hair. Some held long sticks, with which they were striking the fruit in trees, and some were carrying back dead deer. We thought it was all very fresh and new. (in Qi Jixiang 2001, 39) Within a year, the Xia, Shang, and Zhou sections of the exhibit were added.
Similarly, the exhibit ranges back and forth between extolling the folk tradition (advances in agriculture, handicrafts, and pottery) and the elite cultural tradition (literature, philosophy, science, and government). In 1969, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, the Museum of Chinese History merged with the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and was officially called the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and History (Zhongguo geming, lishi bowuguan). The merger and new name suggest a radically different conception of the relationship between ancient and modern histories, with the two now brought together into a single narrative line.
The heavily politicized Maoist critique of the imperial past has given way to a glorification of empire and imperial history that has important political ramifications in the era of China’s rise on the global stage. 14 The Museum of Chinese History traces its origins back to 1912, when the new Ministry of Education, headed by Cai Yuanpei, set up a preparatory committee. In his position with the ministry, the writer Lu Xun was involved in preparatory work (Sun Ying 1979, 43–45; Shi Shu qing 1956) and apparently chose the location of the new museum: Guozijian, the Imperial College and site of the Confucian Temple in the northern part of Beijing (Qi Jixiang 2001, 37).