Learn from the good experience and develop the good mountain areas, Shan Xihe, poster, 1974 

Following Communist party and Chairman Mao forever, Hou Yimin, circa 1970s.

The Representations of Chinese Ethnic Minorities in Chinese Art since 1949
Venue: TBC  
(Research stage) 


The historical narrative of ethnic groups – that is, the coming to prominence of the Han people and the struggle for identity of other ethnic groups – in modern and contemporary China has been discussed in many literary works by authors such as Prasenjit Duara, Wang Hui and Dru C. Gladney. Following this theme, the exhibition attempts to examine the representation of Chinese ethnic minorities in Chinese art from three distinctive periods: 1) Socialist China and the Cultural Revolution,1949 - 1979; 2) First decade since economic reform, 1979 - 1989; and 3) The start of Chinese contemporary art, 1989 - now. It proposes to understand what ideologies are at work in such an operation concerning ethnic minorities, and how do these ideologies work in and articulate artistic practices.


Communications, exchanges, conflicts and merging among ethnic groups is understood to be of great significance, but a politically motivated ignorance of differences between ethnic groups marginalises issues of identity and forces a homogenization which is not only unrealistic but also very problematic.

In People's Republic of China, 'Shao Shu Min Zu'􏰁􏰂􏰃􏰄, literally ethnic minorities, is used when referring to people who cannot be called purely Han people (Han ethnic people􏰅􏰄), that is, the biggest ethnic group according to government survey done after the establishment of the PRC.

With Han as a "default" ethnic group, the term is not simply given or neutral. It is a product of the process of modernisation in China, chosen for a specific historical and ideological situation. Generally speaking, the history of pre-modern, feudalist China, (from the time of the first emperor of Qin Dynasty to Qing Dynasty, that is, from 221BC to 1912) was known as a history of Han people's domination over the 'middle land', or 'central kingdom'. Logically, such a history writing is in favour of the domination and the superiority of the Han people. However, before the establishment of the PRC, there was not a term as sweeping as 'ethnic minorities'; the dualism between the Han and the ethnic minorities was not clear-cut as such. Instead, people were referred to by their specific ethnic group, such as 􏰈􏰉'Hui Zu' (Muslim), 􏰊􏰋 'Man Zu' (Manchurian), et cetera.

Pray, Ting Shaokuang, painting, 1990

The next morning, Qin Qi, 2011

Tibetan dance, Wang Yin, oil on canvas, 2012