Negotiating Colonial Visuality: Gao Chengxian’s
Reminiscence of the Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions

Introduced and Translated by Yanlong Guo

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January 2020)

Figure 1. “Portrait of Gao Chengxian,” photograph, photographer and date unknown. Source: Gao Chengxian shuhua ji, n.p.

Commemorating the Manchukuo[1] Emperor Puyi’s 溥儀 (r. 1932-1945) Admonitory Rescript to the People on the Occasion of the Emperor’s Return (回鑾訓民詔書), issued in 1935, the newly established State of Manchuria under Japanese colonial rule launched the First Art Exhibition in Commemoration of [Emperor Kangde’s] Visit to Japan and Announcement of the Rescript (第一回訪日宣詔記念美術展覧会) on May 2, 1937 in its New Capital (新京; current day Changchun).[2] The Manchukuo government organized eight such annual “national exhibitions” (國展) until 1945, when the Japan imperial army was defeated.[3] Each year, a review committee was appointed by a responsible institute to select artworks for the exhibition.[4] Accolades and cash stipends were bestowed on artists whose works were deemed the most excellent. The participating artists consisted of Japanese expatriate artists, such as Shouhou Kusakari 首藤春草 (1907-1994) and Yokoyama Shigeyuki 横山繁行 (1894-1946); prominent Chinese artists, such as Yu Lianke 于蓮客 (1899-1980), Wang Guanglie 王光烈 (1880-1953), and Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (1866-1940); and underrecognized Manchuria-born Chinese artists. One of the local and emerging artists was Gao Chengxian 高澄鮮 (1913-1990) (fig. 1), whose art activities during the Manchukuo period are known to us thanks to two interviews of him by Lu Ye 盧燁.[5] One of the interviews, published in 1990 and entitled “My Recollections of Participating in the Illegitimate Manchukuo Exhibitions of Calligraphy and Painting” (我參加偽滿書畫展的回憶), is translated below.

Figure 2. Gao Chengxian, “Excerpted free hand copy of the ‘Wu Rong Stele’ in Clerical Script,” hanging scroll, ink on paper, 1943. Sourc: Gao Chengxian shuhua ji, 14.

Gao Chengxian was born in 1913 into a working-class family in Kaiyuan 開原, current day Liaoning province. His father was a carpenter, and his mother sometimes worked as a maid.[6] During his childhood, under his father’s influence, Gao dabbled in carpentry, papercutting, and calligraphy. Later in his life, he received more professional artistic guidance from Yu Lianke, Wang Guanglie, and, especially, his neighbor and art mentor Yi Genfan 依艮藩 (1893-1954), a renowned calligrapher, painter, and seal carver in the Northeast. Gao practiced all the major calligraphic scripts and was especially good at the archaic Seal Script. As Gao recalled, most of his works included in the Manchukuo art exhibitions are calligraphic freehand copies of early steles or bronze inscriptions, ranging from Shang oracle bone inscriptions to the ninth century BCE inscription of the San Family Plate (散氏盤), sixth century BCE “hunting inscriptions” (猎碣文字), and a second century CE stele commemorating Wu Rong 武榮 (fig. 2), all of which had been treasured and studied by Qing antiquarians.[7] Indeed, the “calligraphy” section of the Manchukuo official exhibitions showed a strong preference for the Epigraphic School of Chinese calligraphy, which advocated for modeling after archaic engravings from anonymous hands instead of works on paper or silk by known master calligraphers. The category of “calligraphy” (shufa 書法 or shodō 書道), which existed independently in the Manchurian art shows, was initially part of the Joseon Fine Arts Exhibitions in colonial Korea, but was abandoned in 1932 because calligraphy was thought to lack visual modernity.[8] Calligraphy was not included in the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibitions during the Japanese colonial period.[9]

Gao Chengxian was a colonial subject of and a collaborator with the Japanese Manchukuo government. After he graduated from Kaiyuan Normal School, a teacher-training college in his hometown in 1932, Gao taught at a local elementary school for a few years and then worked as a clerk at Manchukuo’s Kaiyuan county government. After the war, during the three years of Nationalist Party from 1946 to 1949, he joined its Three People’s Principles Youth Corps, quit his teaching job, and became a businessman.[10] When the Chinese Communist Party took over in 1949, its strong anti-Japanese position and strict control over art production, made it inevitable that the Northeast artists who participated in the Manchukuo art exhibitions would be denounced as collaborators and silenced. Gao was no exception.[11] Like numerous other intellectuals and artists, Gao was rehabilitated after the Cultural Revolution, by which time he was already sixty-six years old. In the subsequent years, he was elected a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and became honorary chairman of the Chinese Calligraphers’ Association in Tieling 鐵嶺. He also taught calligraphy in his spare time.[12] Despite his artistic achievement at a young age and lasting fame throughout his life in Northeast China, however, Gao remains a neglected artist in modern Chinese art history.

The autobiographic account translated below was published more than four decades after Gao’s colonial experience; it should be viewed not only as a first-hand oral history of the Manchukuo art scene, but also as plea of innocence about the narrator’s collaboration with the Manchukuo regime. In this reminiscence, Gao claims that he used his art to resist the Japanese colonial rule, even though such resistance was “vague and weak.” His pledge of allegiance to the Chinese Socialist regime is more explicitly and emphatically articulated in the other interview, which concludes: “by comparing the Old and New societies, I have realized Socialism is better.”[13] In reading the present translation, it is thus not surprising for the reader to encounter a range of clichéd phrases such as wei 偽 (illegitimate), kuilei zhengquan 傀儡政權 (puppet regime), riben qingluezhe 日本侵略者 (Japanese invaders), riwei fandong tongzhizhe 日偽反動統治者 (reactionary Japanese and illegitimate-[Manchukuo] rulers), and so on. This kind of political jargon appears ubiquitously in academic and non-academic publications of modern Chinese history in mainland China.

Equally noticeable is the source of the published reminiscience, Lianshan wenshi ziliao (The compilation of literary and historical materials of the Lianshan District), which was edited by the CPPCC of Lianshan, Huludao, Liaoning. In 1959, Zhou Enlai 周恩來 (1898-1976) called for senior members of the CPPCC over sixty years old to document their recollections of their experiences of modern Chinese history. Gao Chengxian’s recollection is one of the numerous fruits of the mega historiographic project, which mainly aims to “document histories, provide political counsel, unite the people, and educate future generations.”[14] As Annie Chang, has noted, “The Wenshi ziliao (literary and historical materials) have been recognized as important but difficult-to-access primary sources for scholars of twentieth-century China.”[15] In this regard, I hope the English translation will make Gao’s oral account more accessible and thus more valuable to students of modern Chinese history and art history. It is important for us to study Manchukuo’s cultural policies, art circles, and artistic creations from a local perspective. Further research on the personal experiences of local Kaiyuan artists in colonial Manchuria will generate dialogue with scholars of colonialism and art history on a global scale.

*  *  *

My Recollections of Participating in the Illegitimate Manchukuo Exhibitions of Calligraphy and Painting
By Gao Chengxian

For fourteen years, from the September 18 Incident in 1931 until the victory of the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in August 1945, Japanese imperialists ruled over Northeast China. During this period, the illegitimate puppet state of Manchukuo successively put together seven “national exhibitions” of painting and calligraphy. The illegitimate provincial governments at Fengtian 奉天 (current day Shenyang) and Siping 四平 also organized several “provincial exhibitions” (省展) of painting and calligraphy. I participated five times in the “national exhibitions,” once in the Trilateral Exhibition of Japanese, Manchurian, and Chinese Art (日滿華三國展), and several times in the “provincial exhibitions.” I now recall my memories as follows.

     My Encounters with Painting and Calligraphy

My name was written initially as Gao Chengxian 高承先, which was later changed to Chengxian 澄鮮. I styled myself Dieyan 蝶言 and took the penname Chunshan 春山. In fall 1922, I went to the Higher Primary School of Kaiyuan and became the first person ever in my family to receive formal education. After my graduation from the school in August 1926, I was supposed to enter the Prefectural Middle School of Kaiyuan, but dropped out because of the destitute condition of my family. At the time, the registration office of the county government was hiring several temporary employees to transcribe land registration books. I applied for the job and worked there for several months. In the fall of the following year, I was admitted to the Prefectural Normal School of Kaiyuan located in the old town. I saved my monthly salaries to pay for tuition. To financially support my education, my father worked tirelessly as a carpenter, and my mother often worked as a domestic servant. They toiled for years to help me complete my five-year program at the school. Soon after my graduation, I began to teach at an elementary school in Kaiyuan.

Around the same time, the Japanese imperialists provoked the September 18 Incident, invaded Northeast China, and pieced together the illegitimate state of Manchukuo. We were Chinese, but the reactionary Japanese rulers and their illegitimate Manchukuo government forbade us to call ourselves Chinese, forcing us to be “Manchurians.” The Japanese rulers and their illegitimate regime forcefully implemented an enslaving education system and exerted cultural dominance. The “new educational system” of the illegitimate regime even stated that Japanese was the “national language” and courses of National Language at school were designed to teach students Japanese. The illegitimate government labeled Japanese the “common language,” asking everyone not only to speak Japanese but also to write Japanese in all official documents. This policy was not merely about mastering another language but about “grasping the essence of the Japanese spirit.” To tell the truth, it aimed to transform Chinese citizens into Japanese “subjects.”

The Japanese invaders also tried to replace Chinese characters with Japanese alphabets, vainly attempting to eradicate the spoken and written language of Chinese. Their intention was so vicious! For example, beginning from 1935 (Year Two of Kangde 康德), the textbooks for middle and primary schools started to use katakana to spell names of foreign countries, people, and geographic locations. Newspapers, magazines, and books published in the illegitimate Manchukuo state often included this bizarre kind of alphabetic character, which made the Chinese writings unreadable and inappropriate. There also emerged the so-called “harmony language” (xiehe yu or kyowa-go 協和語) that pidginized Chinese and Japanese words, and severely damaged the purity of the Chinese language. Although the Japanese invaders vainly attempted to eliminate Chinese characters, they were merely daydreaming, because the Chinese people would never tolerate such efforts. Because the Japanese language itself had borrowed a large number of Chinese characters to create hiragana and katakana, the Japanese themselves had to write Chinese characters. It, therefore, seemed unlikely for them to prohibit us from writing Chinese.

Aside from teaching, I delved into studying classical Chinese language, scripts, literature, and art, diligently practicing the traditional techniques of Chinese painting and calligraphy, and writing Chinese characters with inkbrush to preserve its purity. Having been influenced by my father during my childhood, I learned woodcarving, folk papercuts, and writing characters, all of which laid some foundation for my painting and calligraphy. It had never crossed my mind that I would become irrevocably committed to painting and calligraphy. Thereafter, until the collapse of the illegitimate Manchukuo regime in August 1945, I worked as a staff member at the General Affairs Office of the Kaiyuan County Government. Although I was a conquered person without a country during the fourteen years [of Japanese colonial rule], Chinese characters were deeply engrained in my mind. I never stopped practicing calligraphy and always endeavored to carry it forward to the best of my abilities.

     My Participation in the Illegitimate Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions

I began learning calligraphy by imitating the Yan Zhenqing 顏真卿 style. Later, I also followed the Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 style and practiced Seal Script. I learned all the major calligraphic scripts, ranging from Regular Script to Cursive Script, Clerical Script, and Seal Script. I received instructions and influence from my art teachers as well as renowned calligraphers and painters in Kaiyuan. I was especially influenced by Yi Genfan (1893-1954), who was based in the old town of Kaiyuan and worked at the Department of Health for the illegitimate municipal government in Jinzhou 錦州. Yi was accomplished in painting, calligraphy, and epigraphy. He excelled in the four major calligraphic scripts, particularly Seal Script. He studied under the guidance of Wu Changshuo 吳昌碩 (1844-1927) and consequently built up an enviable reputation in Northeast China. Yi frequently corresponded with me. We also met in person several times, discussing painting, calligraphy, and the “study of metal and stone.” From then on, I began to take a particular liking to “metal and stone,” focusing on stone-drum inscriptions and the treasured scrolls of calligraphy by Wang Guanglie (1880-1953), Luo Zhenyu (1866-1940), and Ding Foyan 丁佛言 (1878-1930). Meanwhile, I studied techniques of Chinese national-style painting, copied and imitated old works, painting from life, and created my own style. I mainly specialized in the “sketching of ideas” (寫意), but also studied the “big brushes” (大筆). I produced study works representing flowers, birds, fish, insects, mountains, water, mist, trees, and male figures and female beauties.

In April 1935, the illegitimate emperor Puyi (1906-1967) visited Japan for the first time. On May 2, Puyi traveled back home and issued his Admonitory Rescript to the People on the Occasion of the Emperor’s Return. Commemorating Puyi’s rescript, the Xinjing News Agency held the First Art Exhibition in Commemoration of [Emperor Kangde’s] Visit to Japan and Announcement of the Rescript on May 2, 1937 (Year Four of Kangde) in Xinjing. The “art officials” of the exhibition committee included the illegitimate Prime Minister Zhang Jinghui, who served as the honorary chairman, the illegitimate Chancellor of the Court of Auditors Luo Zhenyu, who served as the chairman, and several consultants, such as the Japanese master painters Matsubayashi Keigetsu 松林桂月 (1876-1963) and Fujishima Takeji 藤島武二 (1867-1943).[16] The exhibition consisted of four sections: Section I was East Asian painting (Jap. tōyōga/ Chn. dongyanghua 東洋畫), namely, Chinese and Japanese paintings; Section II was Western painting (Jap. seiyōga/ Chn. xiyanghua 西洋畫), namely, oil paintings; Section III was sculpting and carving (Jap. chōkoku / Chn. diaoke 彫刻), which included both sculptures and industrial arts; Section IV was calligraphy (書法), or shodō in Japanese, which included calligraphy and seal carving. Before the opening of the exhibition, artworks had been collected from everywhere in the illegitimate Manchukuo, screened, and selected by specialists or invited Japanese artists. Prominent celebrities in the Manchurian art scene, such as Luo Zhenyu, Yuan Jinkai 袁金鎧 (1870-1947), and Baoxi 寶熙 (1868-1942) contributed their works to the art show. The works of art selected from Kaiyuan county included one scroll of national-style painting and two scrolls of Seal Script by Yi Genfan, and two scrolls of calligraphy by Fu Chuntian 富春田 (?-?) from the district court of Kaiyuan.

In 1939, Year Six of Kangde, the Second Show of Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions was held in the illegitimate capital Xinjing. I created a calligraphic work fashioned in the style of the Fenglongshan 封龍山 Stele of the Han dynasty that was chosen by the exhibition committee. It was my first time to join the calligraphic exhibitions of the illegitimate Manchukuo.

According to the rules, the “national” art shows were to be held in the illegitimate capital Xinjing once every year. Beginning with the Second National Art Show of the illegitimate Manchukuo in 1939, my works were selected, exhibited, and awarded at every “national” show. Each year before the exhibition, the organizing committee would inform local painters and calligraphers to prepare works of art and submit them to the organizing committee in the illegitimate New Capital, awaiting strict screening by the art officials. A work of art was selected or awarded based on two criteria: first, a chosen artwork should not contain any hostile content against Manchukuo or Japan; second, a chosen artwork should reach a high artistic level and maintain a unique style. The submitted artworks were classified into several different categories: (1) guaranteed works (Jap. mukansa/ Chn. wujiancha 無鑑查; those created by art officials of the exhibition committee were certainly selected); (2) special selections (Jap. tokusen/ Chn. texuan 特選; this was equivalent to the first prize, the highest accolade awarded by the exhibition committee); (3) excellent works (Jap. kasaku/ Chn. jiazuo 佳作; this was equivalent to the second and third prizes); (4) selected works (Jap. nyūsen/ Chn. ruxuan 入選); and (5) eliminated works (Jap. rakusen/ Chn. luo xuan 落選). Except for those who were eliminated, all the artists were given honorary credentials, medals, or certificates. Those who won the “special selections” award were bestowed twenty Manchukuo yuan.

In 1940, I produced a handscroll in the style of Weibei 魏碑, which was presented in the Third Manchukuo Arts Exhibition. Organized by the Publicity Office of the Department of General Affairs of the illegitimate government, the Fourth National Exhibition was held at the Shikishima Women’s High School of the New Capital from August 1 to August 10, 1941. A short couplet I wrote in Oracle Bone Script was included in the show. Yi Genfan’s freehand copy of the stone-drum inscriptions was awarded the “special selection” prize. A calligraphic scroll of Wu Meicun’s 吳梅村 (1609-1672) poems by Fu Chuntian from Kaiyuan was selected. Shen Gongzhuo 沈公卓 (aka. Shen Yanyi 沈延毅; 1903-1992)’s hanging scroll in Running Script was also picked. Zhang Jinghui was still the chairman of this National Art Exhibition. The review committee, chaired by Baoxi, was comprised of four members in charge of the four sections, respectively: Section 1 by Kobayashi Kokei 小林古径 (1883-1957); Section 2 by Ishii Hakutei 石井柏亭 (1882-1958); Section 3 by Shen Ruilin 沈瑞麟 (1874-1945); and Section 4 by Ronghou 榮厚 (1874-?), President of the Central Bank of the Illegitimate Manchukuo.

During September 21 and September 30, 1942, the Illegitimate Government of Imperial Manchuria organized the Fifth National Art Exhibition,” to which I submitted two works via mail. One was an eight-character couplet written in Seal Script, and another was a vertical scroll written in Oracle Bone Script, Stone-Drum Inscription, Bronzeware Script, and Seal Script of the Qin. The committee accepted both. This show occurred inside the Exposition of the Construction of Great East Asia (大東亞建設博覽會) in Datong Park of the illegitimate New Capital. Yi Genfan’s imitation of the inscriptions on the Cauldron of Duke Mao (毛公鼎) received the “special selection” prize once again. Fu Chuntian’s copy of two “Odes of Zhou” and a study work were selected. Shen Gongzhuo contributed a central-hall scroll written in Running Script, which was also exhibited in the “Reviving Asia” Art Exhibition (興亞美展) and honored by the illegitimate Prime Minister. Likewise, Yi Genfan’s work was presented and honored by the illegitimate Minister of Industry. The exhibition committee established the awards of “Special Exhibits,” which were given to Baoxi, Shen Ruiling, Wang Jingwei 汪精卫 (1883-1944), Wang Yitang 王揖唐 (1878-1948), and Kawasaki Katsudō 川崎克堂 (?-1949). To commemorate Manchukuo’s Tenth Anniversary, the illegitimate Manchukuo government organized this exhibition together with the Fifth National Art Exhibition and invited the illegitimate Wang Jingwei government and the Japanese government to participate. The calligraphy section of the Fifth National Art Exhibition appointed three juries, including Zhou Shisheng 周士升 (?-?) from Jilin, Takahashi Hiyaku 高橋匪石 (?-?) from Dalian, and Shouhou Kusakari 首藤春草 (1907-1994) from Xinjing.[17] In the same year, the Japanese government, the illegitimate Manchukuo regime, and the illegitimate Wang Jingwei regime co-organized the Calligraphic Exhibition Celebrating the Friendship of Japan, Manchuria, and China (日滿華親善書道展), whose selected works traveled to the three capitals—Tokyō, Xinjing, and Nanjing. A scroll I wrote in Seal Script was selected and awarded a bronze medal (the third place) with a certificate.

Figure 3. Gao Chengxian, “Free hand copy of the ‘hunting inscriptions’ in Seal Script” hanging scroll, ink on paper, ca. 1943. Source: Gao Chengxian shuhua ji, 13.

From August 7 to 16 of 1942, the illegitimate provincial government of Fengtian held the Sixth Fengtian Provincial Exhibitions of Fine Arts at the auditorium of the Heian Huokumin School 平安國民學校 in the provincial capital Fengtian. Similar to the illegitimate national shows, this exhibition consisted of four sections. My work written in Bronzeware Script (鐘鼎文) was selected and listed in second place in the exhibition catalogue. The illegitimate governor, vice-governor, and the mayor of Fengtian, respectively, took up the posts of chairman and vice-chairmen. The chairmanship of the review committee was assumed by Shen Zhenxian 申振先 (1896-?), the illegitimate director-general of the Manchukuo Welfare Agency. Seven juries sat on the committee of the fourth section (calligraphy), including Wang Guanglie, Bai Chengjiu 白城九 (?-?), Yan Baohai 閻寶海 (1897-1990), and four Japanese. This Provincial Art Exhibition encompassed thirty-six works of art and established three levels of prizes—the Prize of Vice-Governor, the Prize of Director General of the Welfare Agency, and the Prize of the Fine Arts Association of Fengtian. The committee selected two pieces written in Clerical Script of the bafen 八分 style by Fu Chuntian from Kaiyuan, one of which was awarded the Prize of Director General of Welfare Agency.

From September 1 to September 9, 1943, the illegitimate Ministry of Culture and Education held the Sixth National Art Exhition at the art gallery of Datong Park located in Xinjing. My works imitating the “hunting inscriptions” (fig. 3) the Wu Rong Stele of the Han dynasty, and a collection of seal inscriptions were selected for the exhibition. My “Wu Rong Stele” hanging scroll received the honor of “Royal Inspection,” which meant that the work was presented and inspected by Puyi, the illegitimate emperor of Manchukuo. I also received a “Certificate of Royal Inspection” (御覽證). “Royal Inspection,” especially the “Certificate of Royal Inspection,” was regarded as the highest form of honor in the art scene of the illegitimate Manchukuo.

Three more people, Wang Guanglie from Fengtian, Noritake Shinobu 則武信夫 (?-?) from Andong (current day Dandong), and Takiguchi Tatsumi 瀧口龍水 from Xinjing, were added to serve on the selection committee for Section Four of this National Art Exhibition. Yi Genfan at the time had already been transferred from Jinzhou to the illegitimate New Capital. His inscriptional imitation of the Larger Cauldron of Yu (大盂鼎) was selected and listed as third place in the exhibition catalogue. Fu Chuntian contributed one piece of calligraphy and one piece of seal carving inscribed with “wei jing xuan yin hen” 味靜軒印痕. His hanging scroll in Seal Script was awarded the “special selection” prize of this show.

Figure 4. Gao Chengxian, “Calligraphy in the style of the San Family Plate,” couplet, ink on paper, ca. 1941. Source: Gao Chengxian shuhua ji, 99.

In 1941, Kaiyuan was put under the administration of the illegitimate provincial government of Siping, which organized a Provincial Art Exhibition in Siping city. My couplet based on the inscription of the San Family Plate (fig. 4) was selected and awarded the “Prize of Vice-Governor.”

In 1944 (Year Eleven of Kangde), my writing in the style of the Seal Script of the Qin was awarded the “special selection” prize—namely, the first prize in the Seventh National Art Exhibition. This show was still organized by the illegitimate Ministry of Culture and Education of Manchukuo. From September 10 to 24 of the same year, the exhibition was presented at two venues in the illegitimate New Capital: one at the art gallery of Datong Park, and another at Kimu Takashi Foreign Firm of Yoshinocho. This “national exhibition,” although also divided into four sections, was slightly different from the previous exhibitions. The first section, “Painting,” embraced Chinese paintings, Japanese paintings as well as oil paintings; these works were displayed in four gallery rooms. The second section was “Sculpture.” Section 3 was “Arts and Crafts.” Section 4 was “Calligraphy,” which presented seventy-three artworks. The members on the selection committee were Wang Guanglie, Zhou Jiren 周吉人 (?-?), Shouhou Kusakari, and Takiguchi Tatsumi. Li Zhengzhong 李正中 (b. 1921) from Xinjing and I were the only Chinese awarded the honor of “special selection.” Yi Genfan’s hanging scroll imitating the Zhang Qian 張騫 Stele was selected. One scroll of Large Seal Script by Fu Chuntian and one scroll of Oracle Bone Script by Yan Baohai were also picked.

The Seventh National Art Exhibition was the last exhibition organized by the puppet regime. During the following year—namely, 1945—while the news of the victory of the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and of the World’s Anti-Fascist War kept pouring in, the reactionary Japanese rulers and their illegitimate Manchukuo government were in a constant state of anxiety. The regime was soon overthrown and no longer able to organize any other exhibitions.

Some conscientious Chinese painters and calligraphers who participated in the illegitimate Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions conscientiously expressed their love and longing for the culture and landscape of their mother country. Through their artworks, they voiced their resentment, discontentment, and resistance toward the Japanese and illegitimate rulers. Although most of the resistance was vague and weak, they demonstrated that the middle- and lower-ranking intellectuals did not welcome the Japanese invaders and the illegitimate Manchurian regime at all. For example, I never inscribed any reign title of Kangde on any of the paintings and calligraphy I created during the illegitimate Manchukuo reign, but instead used the Heavenly stems and Earthly Branches of the lunar calendar. Sometimes I even skipped dating my artworks. Some other painters and calligraphers did similar things. Because the Japanese colonizers rejected Chinese National Painting, some excellent national-style paintings were often excluded, resulting in the gradual decline of Chinese painting [in the Manchukuo art exhibitions]. I once submitted two Chinese paintings, which were rejected by the Japanese committee. Japanese-style paintings were trendy at the time. It was next to impossible for a Chinese [artist] to be selected, if he were unwilling to paint in the Japanese style. I was not interested in Japanese painting and was disgusted with their peremptory practice. As a result, I decided to quit the so-called Exhibitions of East Asian Painting.


[1] Manchukuo 滿洲國 was established in 1932, one year after the Japanese invasion of Northeast China. For a good introduction to Manchukuo’s cultural history in English, refer to Louise Young, Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). For a general introduction of the history of Manchukuo, refer to Duara Prasenjit, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), esp. 47-86; Yamamuro Shinʼichi, Manchuria under Japanese Domination, trans. Joshua A. Fogel (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); in Japanese, see Shinʾichi Yamamuro 山室信一, Kimera: Manshūkoku No Shōzō キメラ : 満洲国の肖像 (Tōkyō: Chūō Kōronsha, 1993); in Chinese, see Xie, Xueshi 解學詩, Wei Manzhouguo shi xinbian: xiu ding ben 偽滿洲國史新編: 修訂本 (Beijing: Renmin, 2015).

[2] The exhibition catalogue was published in the same year by the News Agency of Manchukuo in Xinjing:  Senuma Saburō 瀨沼三郎 ed., Daiikkai Hōnichi Senshō Kinen Bijutsu Tenrankai zuroku 第一回訪日宣詔記念美術展覽會圖錄 (Hsinking: Manshūkoku Tsūshinsha, 1937).

[3] Egawa​ Kashū 江川佳秀, “Manshūkoku bijutsu tenrankai o megutte” 満洲国美術展覧会をめぐって, in Shōwaki bijutsu tenrankai no kenkyū: senzen-hen 昭和期美術展覧会の研究.戦前篇, ed. Tōkyō Bunkazai Kenkyūjo Kikaku Jōhōbu hen (Tōkyō: Chūō Kōron Bijutsu Shuppan, 2009), 183-216.

[4] The organizing institute responsible for the annual national Manchukuo exhibits changed hands several times, from Manchukuo-Japan Cultural Association (滿日文化協會; 1937) to the Ministry of Social Welfare (民生部; 1938-40), the Department of Propaganda (弘報處; 1941-1942), and the Ministry of Culture and Education (文教部; 1943-1945). See Choi Jaehyuk 崔在爀, “‘Manshū’ bijutsu’ kenkyū: kōsasuru Manshū imeiji no  kenshō” 「満洲美術」研究:交差する満洲イメージの検証 (PhD diss., Tokyo University of the Arts, 2013), 62.

[5] Lu Ye was from Liaoning Provincial Institute of Social Sciences. Narrated by Gao Chengxian 高澄鮮 and reported by Lu Ye 盧驊, “Wo suo zhidao de Liaoning jindai shuhua tan renwu” 我所知道的遼寧近代書畫壇人物, in Tieling wenshi ziliao huibian: di san ji 鐵嶺文史資料匯編‧第三輯, ed. Zhengxie Tieling xian xuexi wenshi weiyuanhui 政協鐵嶺縣學習文史委員會 (Tieling: Zhengxie Tieling xian xuexi wenshi weiyuanhui, 1987), 125-137. Narrated by Gao Chengxian 高澄鮮 and reported by Lu Ye 盧驊, “Wo canjia weiman shuhuazhan de huiyi” 我參加偽滿書畫展的回憶, in Lianshan wenshi ziliao: di yi ji 連山文史資料‧第一輯,  ed. Zhengxie Liaoning sheng Huludao shi Lianshanqu weiyuanhui wenshi ziliao weiyuanhui 政協遼寧省葫蘆島市連山區委員會文史資料委員會 (Huludao: Zhengxie Liaoning sheng Huludao shi Lianshanqu weiyuanhui wenshi ziliao weiyuanhui, 1990), 174-180.

[6] Sun Sixian 孫思賢, “Degao wangzhong de shufajia: Gao Chengxian” 德高望重的書法家—高澄鮮, in Kaiyuan shihua 開原史話, eds., Sun Sixian, Tang Shi’an 湯士安, and Xu Tianxin 徐天欣 (Beijing: Dongfang, 1998), 116-118.

[7] The so-called lie jie inscriptions are more commonly referred to as “stone drum inscriptions” (石鼓文). For a critical introduction on the development of connoisseurship of ancient artifacts and inscriptions in early modern China, refer to Shana Julia Brown, Pastimes: From Art and Antiquarianism to Modern Chinese Historiography (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011).

[8] Cui Meihua 崔美華, “Chaoxian meishu zhanlanhui texuanzhi ji bentuhua wenti yanjiu” 朝鮮美術展覽會特選制及本土化問題研究 (Chinese National Academy of Arts, 2007), 56; Kim Kwibun 金貴粉, “Chōsen bijutsu tenrankai ni okeru shobumon haishi to sho ninshiki no henyō” 朝鮮美術展覧会における書部門廃止と書認識の変容, Shogakushodoshi 26 (2016): 45-58.

[9] The Joseon Fine Arts Exhibition (Chōsen bijutsu tenrankai 朝鮮美術展覽會) was held 23 times from 1922 through 1944 by the Japanese colonial government in Korea: 李仲煕, “‘Chōsen bijutsu tenrankai’ no sōsetsu nitsuite” 「朝鮮美術展覧会」の創設について, Kindai gasetsu 6 (1997): 21-39. The Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition (Taiwn bijutsu tenrankai 台湾美術展覧会) was held 10 times from 1927 to 1936, and the Taiwan Government-General Exhibition of Fine Arts (Taiwan Stokufu bijutsu tenrankai 台湾総督府美術展覧会) was held 6 times from 1938 to 1943: see Yang Mengzhe 楊孟哲, Ridi zhimin xia Taiwan jindai meishu zhi fazhan 日帝殖民下台灣近代美術之發展 (Taibei: Wunan tushu, 2013).

[10] Lu Ye, “Gao Chengxian nianbiao jianbian” 高澄鮮年表簡編, in Gao Chengxian shuhua ji 高澄鮮書畫集, eds. Zhonggong Kaiyuan shiwei 中共開原市委 and Kaiyuan shi renmin zhengfu 開原市人民政府 (Shenyang: Liaoning meishu, 2014), 141-145.

[11] He was persecuted and sent down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76); see Zhang Kejiang 張克江 ed., Tieling shi zhi: renwu zhi 鐵嶺市志:人物志 (Tieling: Tieling shi renmin zhengfu difangzhi bangongshi, 1999), 276-277.

[12] For his students’ reminiscences of their teacher Gao Chengxian, refer to Yang Yimo 楊一墨, Wang Yan 王岩, and Liu Shiye 劉世業, “Dizi yanzhong de Gao Chengxian xiansheng” 弟子眼中的高澄鮮先生, in Gao Chengxian shuhua ji, 155-159.

[13] Gao and Lu, “Wo suo zhidao de Liaoning jindai shuhua tan renwu,” 137.

[14] “Cunshi, zizheng, tuanjie, yuren: renmin zhengxie wenshi ziliao zhan” 存史 資政 團結 育人—人民政協文史資料展, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, accessed January 8, 2020,

[15] Annie K. Chang, “The Wenshi Ziliao Collection of the Center for Chinese Studies Library, University of California, Berkeley,” Twentieth-Century China 26, no. 1 (2000): 103-108.

[16] Translator’s note: the original text is mistaken Matsubayashi keigetsu 松林桂月 for Matsui Katsuramakoto 松井桂丹.

[17] Zhou Shisheng and Zhou Jiren mentioned below should be the same person. For a detailed list of the referees of all the Manchukuo national exhibitions, see Egawa​ Kashū, “Manshūkoku bijutsu tenrankai o megutte,” 207-210.