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Literery Devices Such as Religious Symbolism and Allegory in the Artwork of Liu Chunhua

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Chairman Mao en Route to Anyuan was made by Liu Chunhua in 1967 CE in China. The original was made using oil on canvas but was mass produced as a colored lithograph using a style known as socialist realism. This artwork was created as a piece of propaganda to encourage the people of mainland China, known as The People’s Republic of China, to support Chairman Mao and the communist party who were leading a cultural revolution to help support the common people of China through straying from how the rulers of the past had run things.

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In the artwork, Chairman Mao is depicted towering over the landscape and is the only vertical figure in the artwork. The landscape depicted is very horizontal in nature and is not showing an actual landscape that can be found in China. Mao is also depicted with a closed umbrella tucked under his arm and is striding forward with his other hand in a fist, showing determination. This artwork is made to depict Chairman Mao’s walk to Anyuan where he helped lead miners in a strike. The miners are supposed to represent the common people in China and are used as a symbol for the common people of China who Mao was fighting for. The artwork is the most manufactured piece of art since Chinese were required to have a copy in their home to show their support of Mao and the communist party.

Through Mao towering over the horizontal landscape, he stands out which acts as an indicator of him being the ruler and most important figure to China. This is also seen in how each home had to have a copy of this artwork to indicate he is the leader. Mao towering over the landscape is also meant to symbolize his ability to lead China through the revolution and into a new era. The closed umbrella tucked under his arm is symbolic of him straying away from what past rulers had done. Umbrellas were a common symbol of royalty in China and through having the umbrella closed and tucked under his arm, Mao is indicating that he will not associate himself with the rulers who came before and will create his own nation.

The usage of artwork being used as propaganda to support a cultural revolution can also be seen in the Allegory of Law and Grace which was a print made during the Protestant Reformation by Lucas Cranach the Elder under the direction of Martin Luther. On the Law side of the artwork, the common belief that simply following the law can get you into heaven is shown. However, Cranach depicted those who only followed the heaven being ushered into hell by demons, demonstrating how Luther believed you needed law and grace, not just law, to enter heaven. This is similar to Chairman Mao en Route to Anyuan because the artwork was used to show straying away from past ideology and were both used to support a new ideology. Despite Cranach’s work being religious while the Mao portrait is secular, both were mass produced and kept in homes to show support towards the revolutions held during or before the time of their creation.  

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