Zhang Yaxin




Revolution • Romanticism • Ideology

—— Review exhibition of Zhang Yaxin 

策展人 / Curator:画 / Hua Er



样板戏的拍演集中了中国当时最好的条件、最好的导演、最好的演员、最好的编曲、最好的舞美、最好的指挥等等,谢晋、谢铁骊、翁偶虹、田汉、李承祥、汪曾祺、李少春、袁世海、李德伦…… 这些名字足以让我们震撼。



The year 2009 has witnessed both the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC and the 40th anniversary of the shaping of model operas, therefore, a large-scale retrospective exhibition of close to 100 works of classic model opera stills shot by the senior photographer, Zhang Yaxin, during the last century, will be launched and the unknown conditions and stories behind those shot operas in those years will be unveiled to the public. 

The eight model operas were the only officially permitted literary forms during the cultural revolution period, dominating the literary arts and lives of the entire Chinese people at that particular historical period, leading aesthetic standards and values of Chinese people, even the dramatic form of people’s live. For those Chinese people who have experienced that period personally, model opera has become a length of collective historical background and public memories.

The shooting and acting of the model operas made full use of the best facilities in China at that time, the best directors, the best players, the best music and best choreography, best conductors, etc. Those figures, such as Xie Jin, Xie Tieli, Weng Ouhong, Tian Han, Li Chengxiang, Wang Zengqi, Li Shaochun, Yuan Shihai, Li Delun, etc, were quite famous around the country. 

Zhang Yaxin, a photographer of Xinhua News Agency, was entrusted with a lofty and important task in those years: shooting the model operas, the political significance of which went far beyond its photography significance. Model operas took up more than ten years in Chinese people’s cultural life. Therefore, the stills of model operas were considered as the classic visual images, widely copied for numerous times, or adapted to become a wide variety of handicrafts, such as posters, stamps, posters on the match boxes, decorative ceramics, etc. Due to the wide spread of those images, model operas were engraved deeply in China’s history. The numerous copy of a physical image in such a wide range itself implied the strategy of promoting popular culture. However, at that time, such promotion had only one purpose, that was to appeal for the idealistic revolutionary ideology. 

As the originals of many copied cultural and artistic items during the cultural revolution period, this set of well-preserved original model opera still films can provide reference when studying the creation and consumption of culture and art during the cultural revolution period and serve as the invaluable first-hand visual data and graphical model of action arts of revolutionary romanticism.