Art, Anthropology and Non-Han Bodies: Pang Xunqin’s Paintings of Miao People in Guizhou Province in the 1940s

Jing Zhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper considers the ways in which the painter Pang Xunqin “translated” the bodies of non-Han people, by examining his visual representation of the Miao people of Guizhou during the 1940s. His work needs to be understood within the context of the history of anthropology in Republican China. Since he worked closely with Chinese anthropologists his work was largely informed by an anthropological understanding of human diversity and of ethnographic collecting and museum practice, a matter hardly explored among current studies on Pang Xunqin. Pang’s representation of the Miao was influenced in equal measure by customary Chinese ethnographic illustration and Western anthropological photography. This paper highlights the many sources that can be found in Pang’s works and reveals how he depicted the peripheral frontier. The biopolitics of the body, employed as a system of ethnic classification by Chinese anthropologists, affected Pang’s visualization of Miao bodies. In order to build a politicized and unifying Zhonghua minzu, Chinese anthropologists, demonstrated bodily similarities between Han Chinese and ethnic minorities in the southwest of China under categories of “Mongoloid” or “Yellow” racial types. Pang thus depicted Miao bodies by emphasizing their bodily similarities with the majority Han Chinese and adopting the physical features of “Mongoloid/Yellow.” His work provides a fine example of the ways in which art can become politicized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-389
Number of pages32
JournalVisual Anthropology
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


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