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Essay

“Angel of Peace (heping tianshi )”:Icon of Occupation in Wartime China

Henry Fehr’s Allied War Memorial listed here as the ‘God of Piece’ [sic], at some stage in the 1920s (Courtesy of the Historical Photographs of China Collection, University of Bristol).In pre-WWII Shanghai, one of the most recognisable landmarks on the city’s Bund had been Henry Fehr’s art nouveau Allied War Memorial, first erected in 1924, and featuring at its top a statue of a winged Victory. According to Robert Bickers, the monument was so dominant a sight in Shanghai that it made its way into the city’s culture. It even made an appearance in the 1937 film Street Angel (Malu Tianshi), directed by Yuan Muzhi.[1] This may help explain why the statue came to be referred to colloquially in the city either as the “Angel of Peace” (heping tianshi) or the “Victory Angel” (shengli tianshi) during the 1930s. As Paul Bevan has shown, the figure was also utilised in social and political cartoons by the likes of Zhang Guangyu in this same period.[2] The angel is featured overlooking a bucolic scene of water buffaloes, ox herds and willows in an unattributed drawing entitled “Dong Ya heping zhi leyuan” (Paradise of East Asian peace). This image was featured in the pictorial Dong Ya lianmeng huabao (Toa Pictorial) 1.4 (June 1941).   Following the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, however, Fehr’s Victory was given a new significance for a variety of Japanese client states. Even prior to the establishment of the Reorganised National Government (RNG) in 1940, for example, the figure was worked into occupation propaganda in eastern China, with the notion of an “angel of peace” resonating with both Japanese client states set up in 1938 which promoted a negotiated peace with Japan, and with Wang Jingwei’s “Peace Movement” (Heping yundong) after 1939. Fehr’s figure was appropriated in the same year as into the cover design for one of the main vehicles for the Peace Movement in Shanghai, the periodical Gengsheng (Rebirth). Under the RNG, Fehr’s figure was transformed into an “goddess of peace” (heping nüshen), and was regularly featured in depictions of the Shanghai streetscape in RNG-sponsored graphic art. Indeed, the RNG “angel of peace” motif into the visual landscape of the RNG well beyond Shanghai, and wherever references to anthropomorphised peace were useful. In some instances, children dressed up as the “angel of peace” when publicly commemorating important dates on the RNG calendar. Elsewhere, Fehr’s monument was re-imagined in rural Chinese landscapes by RNG artists as a harbinger of RNG notions of peace. Unnamed boy dressed as the “angel of peace” (heping tianshi) during celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the founding of the Guangdong Provincial Government under Japanese occupation, May 1942. Ironically, with the “return” of the foreign concessions to RNG rule in 1943, the Japanese ordered that symbols of Western imperialism be removed from Shanghai’s streets. This, of course, included Fehr’s Allied War Monument (with Victory herself being removed, but her plinth left intact). The “angel of peace” thus provides us with an insight not simply into the eclectic origins of many of the symbols adopted by the RNG, and the creative ways in which this regime appropriated pre-war symbols of peace into a wartime cultures of occupation. It also illustrates the limits of RNG autonomy when it came to constructing visual cultures under foreign domination.     [1] Robert Bickers, “Moving Stories: Memorialisation and its Legacies in Treaty Port China”, in Max Jones, et al (eds), Decolonising Imperial Heroes: Cultural Legacies of the British and French Empires (London: Routledge, 2016). [2] Paul Bevan, A Modern Miscellany: Shanghai Cartoon Artists, Shao Xunmei’s Circle and the Travels of Jack Chen, 1926-1938 (Boston: Brill, 2016), 267.

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Kagayaku Tōa no michi (The road to a shining East Asia)

This postcard, featuring an illustration by the prolific Japanese artist Riichiro Kawashima, shows a Japanese soldier celebrating “kagayaku Tōa no michi” (the road to a shining East Asia), with Chinese civilians. Of interest here is the fact that the Republican Chinese flag appears to have been drawn onto the postcard (and made to look as if it is being held by the child dressed in white), while other figures in the image hold the “five-coloured flag (wuseqi). The “five-coloured flag” was used by the Reformed Government of the Republic of China (RGROC) up until March 1940, but was replaced by the Republican Chinese flag with the formation of Wang Jingwei’s government. This suggests that the postcard was made prior to March 1940, but used some time thereafter. Text reading “qing zhu xin zhongyang zhengfu chengli” (Celebrating the founding of the new central government) has also been added above the figures, while the phrase “Ri-Hua qinshan” (Japanese-Chinese friendship) has been added to the boy in white.

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Ertong xin leyuan, Zhong-Ri chang qinshan (New paradise for children; China and Japan will forever be close)

This poster, almost certainly produced with the aim of encouraging civilians in occupied Beijing to embrace Japanese rule, includes many of the standard tropes of early occupied north China propaganda: a “new woman” with a male child; city walls; Japanese soldiers fraternising with Chinese infants; the “five-coloured flag” (wuseqi); and a sky filled with Japanese airplanes.

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Xin Zhonghua huabao (New China Pictorial) cover, April 1944

This cover from the Xin Zhonghua huabao (New China Pictorial) 6.4 (April 1944) shows an image of an unnamed Javanese woman harvesting rice. Harvesting had been a common theme of propaganda in areas conquered by the Japanese (including Manchukuo and China) since at least the early 1930s. The New China Pictorial was a bilingual (Chinese-English) magazine published from 1939 through 1944 in Shanghai by the occupation journalist Wu Linzhi for distribution in China and throughout Southeast Asia. This magazine employed cover images of women from areas of Southeast Asia that had been occupied by Japan with increasing regularity over the course of 1943 and 1944, having previously focused on Chinese film celebrities.

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RNG troops by a riverbank

A group of RNG soldiers walks along an unidentified river bank. Possibly part of the Rural Pacification (qingxiang) campaigns.

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Chihuo biji: Gongfei jishi xiaoshuo(A record of the Red Peril: A novel recording the deeds of the Communist bandits)

This book, almost certainly produced by the Japanese military, tells the story of communist violence against Chinese peasants in wartime Shanxi, and the escape of an anti-communist Chinese peasant girl to occupied Beijing. It was clearly written to discourage civilian support for the communist resistance in north China, and to foster peasant support for the newly-established PGROC early in the occupation. The weeping peasant woman is juxtaposed to the sinister “devil” that is international communism.

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Chu Minyi with film camera

The RNG foreign minister Chu Minyi tries his hand at filmmaking in this undated photograph. Next to him is (possibly) Chen Guoqi (a photographer for the RNG’s Central News Agency). The RNG Minister of Publicity, Mr Lin Baisheng, is on the far left of the image. This image was taken as Chu Minyi filmed a Cabinet meeting convened by Wang Jingwei in the summer of 1940. Newsreel footage of the event can be found here.

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Celebratory ceremony marking the second anniversary of Guangdong’s ‘rebirth’

This series of photographs is taken from Huanan huabao (South China graphic) 2.6 (1940), and shows celebrations to mark the second anniversary of what the Japanese referred to as the “rebirth” of Guangzhou (i.e., the fall of Guangzhou) in October 1938. Note the prominence given to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, as well as the use of “folk” forms of cultural expression.

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Noodle cooking

From a collection of staged photographs produced under the title “Life at a Girls School in Peking”, and produced at the Peking Jiyu Gakuen in Japanese-occupied Beijing. The original caption reads: “A girl is pulling noodles according to a Chinese style instead of cutting smaller [sic]”.

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Shang gong (Off to work)

This woodcut, by an artist called Gu Yihua, was reproduced in Zhonghua huabao (Chinese Pictorial) 1.4 (November 1943). The importance of the muke (woodcut) form to artistic practice in occupied China has been almost entirely overlooked in the literature. The muke form has hitherto been almost exclusively associated with the art of resistance in China, despite being an important part of “occupation” visual cultures throughout the war.

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Xin Zhonghua huabao (New China Pictorial) cover, July 1943

This cover image from the Xin Zhonghua huabao (New China Pictorial) 5.7 (July 1943) shows a colourised photograph of an unnamed woman, probably from Malaya. The New China Pictorial was a bilingual (Chinese-English) magazine published from 1939 through 1944 in Shanghai by the occupation journalist Wu Linzhi for distribution in China and throughout Southeast Asia. This magazine employed cover images of women from areas of Southeast Asia that had been conquered by Japan with increasing regularity over the course of 1943 and 1944, having previously focused on Chinese film celebrities.

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