Collecting the Revolution: British Engagements with Chinese Cultural Revolution Material Culture

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In the late 1960s, student protests broke out throughout much of the world, and while Britain’s anti-Vietnam protestors and China’s Red Guards were clearly radically different, these movements at times shared inspirations, aspirations and aesthetics. Within Western popular media, Mao Zedong’s China was portrayed as a danger to world peace, but at the same time, for some on the counter-cultural left, the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) contained ideas worthy of exploration. Information about ongoing events, however, was limited, and consequently the art and objects of the Cultural Revolution – propaganda posters, paintings, Chairman Mao badges, periodicals, ceramics etc – became a crucial avenue through which China was known at this time, and interest in them crossed the political divide.

Collecting the Revolution uses the objects that the Chinese government sent abroad and that visitors brought back with them to open up the stories of diplomats, journalists, activists, students and others, and how they imagined, engaged with and later remembered Mao’s China through its objects. It chronicles the story of how these objects have been incorporated into British private and public collections, where they now serve as archives both of an extraordinary period in Chinese history and of a particular moment in Sino-British relations.
Original languageChinese (Simplified)
Place of PublicationLanham
PublisherRowman & Littlefield
Number of pages187
ISBN (Electronic)9781538150689
ISBN (Print)978153850672
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Cultural Revolution
  • collecting
  • material culture
  • communism
  • memory

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