The Ideological Transformation of the Icon Chairman Mao during the Four Modernisations period : As illustrated by "Melody of Youth, Beautiful Soul"

University essay from Högskolan Dalarna/Kinesiska

Abstract: After Chairman Mao's death, in the late 1980's, Mao was removed from official government communications and his iconography transformed from having a specific meaning generation role linked to Maoist ideology, to becoming available for use as a commodity. In this research I use cultural theorist Jacques Derrida's theory of Hauntology and the deconstruction method to analyse a representative Chinese Propaganda poster, "Melody of Youth, Beautiful Soul", in order to ascertain the effect Mao's death had on the Iconography of Chairman Mao, and how Mao is ideologically transformed during this period. Analysing the painting I found specific symbols associated with the iconography of Mao that had been adopted and transformed for the purposes of the CCP. These symbols both suggested the presence of Chairman Mao, as well as negated that presence through being co-opted for other purposes. Using these symbols and writings about the period I deduced that during this period the CCP had to rely on existing symbols of power and authority in order to communicate and legitimise regime change whilst maintaining the semblance of continuity. At the same time they had to decouple these symbols from their original meanings in order to distance themselves from the past and redefine the ideology of China. In the process, Mao's iconography was decoupled from its Maoist ideological heritage and transformed into abstract symbols of power, doctrine and so on. This means that the transformation had made them available to use as an "open basket" into which new, related meanings could be placed – including serving as a commodity.

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