Dreams of Shanshui: China’s environmental modernization and landscape aesthetics

  • Andrea Michaela Riemenschnitter


In the spring of 2015, a series of shanshui landscapes by cartoon artist Feng Zikai decorated official China Dream posters in Shanghai, and could since then be encountered in the streets and subway stations of all major cities. While the dissemination of national values and active citizen participation in the government’s environmental modernization program is clearly the major trajectory, this rapprochement towards a formerly prosecuted artist concomitantly illustrates the current reorientation towards local traditions and cultural continuity in China’s state ideology and propaganda work. At the same time, the 2014/15 Shanghai arts scene contributed a number of avant-garde landscape art works that pronounced their creators’ concern about the environmental crisis. It will be argued that there is a subliminal dialogue between Xi Jinping’s project of landscaping the China Dream and the artists’ selective reclamation of shanshui aesthetics in their ecocritical approaches. Whereas the national propaganda machine strives to appease opposition against rampant industrial pollution and heritage demolition, the cultural sphere responds by taking the government’s tampering with traditional ethico-aesthetic principles at its word.


Shanshui Landscape aesthetics Environmental modernization Feng Zikai 10th Shanghai Biennale 



My month-long visit to Fudan University, Shanghai, in January 2015 was enabled by a China Scholarship Council research grant. I thank Professor Wang Caiyong and both institutions for their generous support. Moreover, I would like to thank my colleagues and friends who commented on earlier versions of the paper, or went out of their way to trace and supply me with research materials that I could not find otherwise. The anonymous reviewers offered valuable comments and suggestions for the sharpening of my argument, for all of which I am very grateful.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universitaet ZuerichZuerichSwitzerland

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