“Make the Past Serve the Present”: Reading Cultural Relics Excavated During the Cultural Revolution of 1972

  • Juliane NothEmail author
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


While countless monuments and artworks were destroyed all over China at the outset of the Cultural Revolution, archaeological excavation continued to be undertaken and important finds made between the years 1966 and 1970. Archaeology re-entered the public stage in July 1971 when the Palace Museum in Beijing re-opened with an exhibition of Cultural Relics Excavated during the Cultural Revolution. The show was followed in 1972 by two publications with the same title: a high-price folio with reproductions of excavated objects in superior print quality, and a booklet introducing important excavations to a more general public. The same year also saw a re-launch of the country’s most important archaeological journals. The first issues were devoted mainly to the same finds as those featured in the Cultural Relics exhibition and publications. The texts have strong similarities that indicate tight political control. This article examines how the treasures excavated in the Western Han dynasty tombs at Mancheng, Hebei Province, are treated in the publications and analyses how this group of texts was orchestrated to lend ideological legitimacy to the exhibition and publications, thereby securing the recovery of archaeological work. They also laid the ideological foundations for an international travelling exhibition that successfully served as part of China’s foreign policy strategy.


Cultural Revolution Cultural Relic Archaeological Publication Ideological Critique Excavation Report 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Art HistoryFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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