Chinese Propaganda Poster: Little Guests in the Moon Palace
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Little Guests in the Moon Palace (Yuegong xiao keren)


Artwork Identification

Title: Little Guests in the Moon Palace
Artist: unknown
Country of Origin: China
Culture/ethnicity: Han Chinese
Date/period: 1970s


Introduction


Little Guests in the Moon Palace is a Chinese propaganda poster made in the late 1970's at the end of the Cultural Revolution, which formally ended in September of 1976 (Hays). It is made in the style of New Year’s posters to encourage support of the Chinese Communist Party’s goal to modernize science and technology under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping who led China from 1978 to 1997 (Hays).

Descriptive Analysis


The main figures in this poster are a toddler (most likely a boy) and a white rabbit. The boy is dressed in a two-piece orange summer outfit. The outfit has cartoon animals and a helicopter on it. He is wearing bobby socks and fuchsia colored open-toed sandals. He wears an open-faced transparent glass space helmet with antennae and a star and torch insignia on the forehead, and a 35mm analog film camera around his neck. He smiles broadly as he accepts a bright floral bouquet from a white rabbit in a red smock. A colorful combination of cloudiness and bright stars serves as their stage with only subtle shadows of their feet to suggest any real contact with the ethereal surface. Behind the boy is his disproportionately small spaceship bearing the same insignia as his helmet and stripes of red, yellow, and orange. Waiting inside the spaceship is a stuffed panda who seems to be vacantly waving. In the upper right corner, the background is deep, dark blue space littered with golden stars and glowing planets. Another child flies his ship here, with his cat and dog aboard. The upper left part of the composition is dominated by a golden orb which glows like the sun and highlights the rabbit, child, and his spaceship with touches of the yellow warmth. Inside the orb is a cloudy landscape of five palatial buildings in traditional Chinese architecture that fade into the background as cranes fly around them. The composition is very busy. The focal point is clearly the child who interacts with the rabbit, but the activity in the upper corners could be seen as separate scenes of their own.


Formal and Contextual Analysis


Little Guests in the Moon Palace is a propaganda art poster from near the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. A shift in the political culture toward the goal of “four modernizations," which included science and technology, is the subject of this poster. The boy in this poster has a camera and has traveled into outer space, fulfilling the Chinese Communist Party’s latest goal of space exploration and possible moon colonization. China has more recently begun to make progress: In 2007, they launched a probe to the moon with future plans to send a man in 2024.

The cranes that fly near the palaces in Little Guests in the [[#|Moon Palace]] are symbolic of longevity of the existing government, suggesting that China's government at the time was worthy and would be lasting (Chinese Crane). The rabbit represents a traditional idea of a "Moon Rabbit" who lives on the moon and creates an elixir of immortality (Moon). The moon and the rabbit are sometimes referred to interchangeably, suggesting in this poster that the child is befriending the moon itself by exchanging a [[#|gift of flowers]] with the rabbit. Additionally, the moon is often depicted as having a smoky haze that represents the rabbit's attempt to sacrifice himself into the fire to feed an old man; the strange starry mist that the child and rabbit meet upon may be drawing upon that tradition. The toy panda may be a symbol of China itself, inferring that all of China has flown to the moon when even one child makes the trip.

This poster is in the style of New Year posters or nian hua (Landsberger). New Year posters are developed from symbolic “paper gods” and are essential to the public and private décor of the festival. These posters were made to celebrate the optimism of each new year and, in proper Communist fashion, in a manner that peasants and workers would identify with and appreciate. They represent youth, wealth, and good fortune, an idea strong in political art. Little Guests in the Moon Palace was made to persuade the Chinese people that developing science and technology was a good thing and that which was once only [[#|science fiction]] could soon be a wonderful reality.

Posters rendered in the New Year fashion are highly colored and strongly composed. They feature primary aged children with rosy cheeks and chunky babies’ bodies. The children are happy, healthy and positive in action like depictions of their adult counterparts. Children symbolize the continuation of the family, which is the basic unit of social organization. If the family has a strong base, the State will as well. Very often children are shown without supervision of parents or other adults; this is to foster a direct relationship between children and the State. The freedom and innocence we associate with childhood becomes the ability to be revolutionaries and support the Communist Party’s agenda (Landsberger). Most likely, this poster was made to entice and encourage children to pursue studies in space travel and to encourage parents to support their child’s studies in science and technology.



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Traditonal New Year Print with Chubby Baby




While this traditional New Year print exhibit's a chubby child and an array of bright colors, much like modern posters, this child is in traditional clothing and represents a celebration of local life instead of modern communist propaganda. The influence of the style of pre-modern works is quite evident, but the purpose and symbolism changed significantly (Jeff).

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Happy New Year
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Uphold Science, Eradicate Superstition
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Bringing His Playmates to the Stars

References:


Online Sources:

"Chinese Crane Paintings." Mystic East Arts.
http://www.chinesepaintings.com/chinese-crane-paintings.html
(information on crane symbolism with examples)

Ebrey, Patricia. "Four Modernizations Era." University of Washington.
http://depts.washington.edu/chinaciv/graph/9confour.htm
(webpage created by university faculty, timeline of China using visual representations)

Jeff. "A Cultural Symbol-China's New Year Picture." China Culture, Ministry of Culture, 2009.
http://www1.chinaculture.org/library/2008-01/14/content_79392.htm
(information on traditional Chinese New Year art)

Hays, Jeffrey. "Cultural Revolution-The End." Facts and Details, 2008.
http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=66&catid=2&subcatid=6
(webpage detailing the events and effects of the Cultural Revolution)

Landsberger, Stefan R. "Stefan R. Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages." International Institute of Social History.
Chinese Space Program http://www.iisg.nl/landsberger/csp.html
(posters and information on the Chinese space program)
New Year Prints (and Chubby Babies) http://www.iisg.nl/landsberger/nh.html
(information and examples of New Year posters)

"Moon Rabbit." Absolute Astronomy, 2009.
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Moon_rabbit
(information on the Moon Rabbit)

Printed Sources:

Evans, Harriet; Donald, Stephanie editors. Picturing Power in the People’s Republic of China: Posters of the Cultural Revolution. Lanham, MD.: Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999.
(information on New Year's posters and the use of children in CCP propaganda posters)

Landsberger, Stefan. Chinese Propaganda Posters: From Revolution to Modernization. The Pepin Press, 1995.
(information on the Four Modernizations)

Min, Anchee. Chinese Propaganda Poster: From the Collection of Michael Wolf. Cologne, Los Angeles: Taschen, 2003.
(an image source, it has little textual information)


Lesson Title: Advertising a Better World

Grade Level: 4th grade

Time: 10 class periods (approximately 50 minutes each class period)

Standards:

This lesson meets the following National Standards for Arts Education (Visual Arts):
VA.K-4.1. Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes (3, 4)
VA.K-4.2. Use knowledge of structures and functions (3)
VA.K-4.3. Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas (1,2)
VA.K-4.4. Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures (1,3)
VA.K-4.5. Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others (1)
VA.K-4.6. Making Connections between visual arts and other disciplines (2)

This lesson meets the following National Educational Technology Standards for Students:
1. Creativity and Innovation -demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology (b)
2. Communication and Collaboration -use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others (b,d)
3. Research and Information Fluency -apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information (d)
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making -use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources (c)
6. Technology Operations and Concepts -demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations (a,b)

Central Concepts:

Propaganda:
A way of communicating ideas and information to influence public opinion.
This poster is an example of Chinese propaganda from the 1970s advertising the expansion of science and technology. Students today are inundated with all kinds of propaganda in the media (e.g. radio, TV, billboards, magazines, internet, etc.) and need to be aware of the messages they are being sent.

Hybrid Culture:
A hybrid culture is created by blending traditional and modern cultures. Ideas, symbols, and customs from both are combined to create a post-modern society.
This piece speaks to multiple generations in order to connect and unify the country’s population. By using traditional and modern symbols to create a hybrid culture, the message is clearly communicated to all parties.

Lesson Activities:

Activity 1:​ Identifying Messages in Commercials (2 class periods)


Students will analyze different YouTube commercials from the given list. This list of commercials and their corresponding YouTube link will be made available on the classroom blog.
**If YouTube is blocked, videos can be downloaded using free software first to your computer and then uploaded onto a blog. Check out this article from Digital Trends for more information on downloading YouTube videos: How to Download YouTube Videos

Sample list of YouTube Commercials (2 different commercials are given for each product)
AT&T fast 4G LTE network
1. “werewolf” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l61LjTwME7w
2. “Grandma” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3R-rtWPyJY
Swiffer cleaning products
3. “I’m going to read one of these” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvxEtBE314A
4. "Dump your old broom” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNdw7Ifr3vs
M&M chocolate candies
5. “They do exist” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE8CJwXSPRs
6. "Cupboard” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pRdzQ4B52s
Progressive insurance
7. “Pants on fire” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VuIrsTPnmM
8. "Meant to be together” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY2DGc5rGUI
Campbell’s Chunky soup
9. "Mama’s boy” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHB5lP97bY4
10. "Farmer guy” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVWNOWZ6goI
Subaru car company
11. “Teenager” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyNxVXnYDs0
12. "Kid wash” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx35O_SPOxo
Purina pet food
13. “Cat chow” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAN4jE6SI9w
14. "Dog chow” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_-wrzOptUE
Pepsi
15. “One Direction” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHezv9Jd8T4
16. “Sofia Vergara” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hrd98Ppn8GE
Garnier Fructis shampoo
17. “Pure clean” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QjcyAWO5Jo
18. “Triple nutrition” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqwVwkiFmKM
Allstate insurance
19. “Mayhem: teenage girl” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtP-S9OS0o0
20. "Connected” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9EBcNEKkcY
Ocean Spray cranberry juice
21. “Foodie” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE_cVKc_pn4
22. "Laptop” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjMR0Uwlr1c
Pizza Hut
23. “Dad can’t cook” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRBjhztQgnM
24. "$10 any pizza deal” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH3CshbUHZY
Bing search engine
25. “You talkin’ to me” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifU5FrugJ_k
26. "Bing vs. Google” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_G05kz8IXk

Day 1: Commercial Analysis
*Need access to computers/ computer lab
Students will work in pairs to analyze two different commercials from the given list. Each group will need to answer the following six questions about each commercial analyzed, and then post their answers on the class blog:
Group member names:
Commercial #:
1. What is this commercial advertising? What does it want you to buy? For example, is it an object like food or clothing, or is it a service you use such as an insurance or cell phone provider?
2. How is the product or service being advertised?
3. Who is the target audience?
4. Are there any symbols used in this commercial? What are they?
5. Is this commercial successful? Would you buy this product or service? Why or why not?
6. What suggestions do you have to make this commercial better?
Day 2: Discussion
Each group will present one of their commercials to the class. As a class, discuss the answers to the questions, which commercials were the most and least successful, why that might be, and some of tactics used in advertising.

Activity 2: Examining Propaganda and Symbols in Art (1 class period)

  • Students will spend the first half of the class period (approximately 20-30 minutes) discussing Little Guests in the Moon Palace and have students identify what symbols are present in the work. The teacher will ask questions based on the iconographic -iconological analysis in combination with VTS methods. Some sample questions include:
    • What is happening in this poster?
    • What do you see that makes you say that?
    • What objects or symbols can you identify in the poster?
    • How are the different objects or symbols similar? How are they different?
    • What does each symbol mean or represent?
    • What else can you find in this poster?

  • After the discussion have whole group instruction about the context of the poster. Use a Power Point presentation to display additional information about traditional Chinese culture and modern Chinese cultures. Categorize the different symbols found as being traditional or modern.
  • This poster was done in the style of the Chinese New Year print to celebrate the coming of another year along with the new ideas of the Cultural Revolution such as adopting Communism to eliminate class and wealth distinctions. Show examples of traditional Chinese New Year prints (see above entry)
  • Discuss the four modernizations the Communist leaders believed Chinese society needs to improve upon: agriculture, industry, technology, and defense.
  • Introduce the concept of propaganda. Can also show other examples of Chinese propaganda posters (see above entry for more). Reference modern day propaganda through the previous YouTube activity.

Activity 3: Pinning Cultural Symbols (30 minutes)

*Need access to computers/ computer lab
Based on the previous discussion of symbols, students will brainstorm both traditional and modern symbols of the United States. Have students use Pinterest to "pin" images and other visuals that represent these symbols on either the Traditional US Symbols pin board or Modern US Symbols pin board. Discuss some of these symbols briefly as a class. Use the remaining class time to introduce Activity 4.

Activity 4:​ Design United States Propaganda Posters (3-4 class periods)

Students will be divided into groups of four to design and create a propaganda poster for the United States using both traditional and modern US symbols. Each group will be assigned to represent one of the four modernizations (agriculture, industry, technology, and defense) and posters should be done in a similar style to Chinese New Year Prints. Each poster needs to contain at least 5 different symbols. Posters will be colored in crayon, colored pencil, or marker. Elements such as pictures and/or text from magazines and newspapers can also be incorporated. The finished posters will be hung up around the school.

Activity 5: Video Art Investigations (2 class periods)

*Need access to video recorders
In the same groups that created the propaganda posters, students will create a video that reports on and investigates another group's poster. Each student will have a specific role.
Member #1: Camera Operator films the video, responsible for equipment used
Member #2: Art Historian identifies and defines at least 3 of the symbols used, interprets main message or meaning of poster
Member #3: Art Reporter interviews the artist from another group, ask questions about artist intent and process
Member #4: Artist answers another group's art reporter's questions, can talk about symbol meaning, idea/intent, and artistic process
Students will have two class periods to film their own video and be the subject of another group's video.

Activity 6: Video Premiere (1 class period)

As the closing activity for this lesson, each group will present their video to the class along with the finished poster. Students will then have the opportunity to critique and comment on each group's poster and video.

Assessment:

The first three activities are credit/no credit and are based on participation. The rubrics for Activity 4 and Activities 5 and 6 are as follows:

Rubric: United States Propaganda Poster (16 points possible)

Criteria
Excellent
4pts
Good
3 pts
Fair
2 pts
Poor
1 pt
Did not
complete
Composition represents the United States
and reflects the assigned modernization





Contains at least 5 symbols including both
traditional and modern symbols





Overall quality of poster
(neatness, class time used)





Contribution and ability to work with a group






Rubric: Video Art Investigation and Premiere (16 points possible)
Criteria
Excellent
4pts
Good
3pts
Fair
2pts
Poor
1 pt
Did not
complete
Contains all required content
(symbol identification and art interviews)





Overall quality of video





Fulfill individual role requirements





Respectfully present video and
comment on other videos






References:

National Standards for Art Education from
http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/standards.aspx

National Educational Technology Standards for students from
http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students/nets-student-standards-2007

All commercials from www.youtube.com

Widder, Brandon. "How to Download YouTube Videos." December 28, 2012.
http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/how-to-download-youtube-videos/

www.pinterest.com