Mao’s Yan’an Talks
Mao Zedong gave his famous Talks on Art and Literature in Yan’an, May 1942, in the midst of China’s war against Japan, seven years before the communist party took power over China. The purpose of the Talks was to further impress upon the subjects of China the importance of uniting China under one cultural army and using art and literature as a means of expressing this unity. The concepts and ideas discussed in the Talks later turned into policies, artistic standard and style that affected China for many years.
The main goal of Mao’s Yan’an Talks was to highlight the importance of "serving the " with art and literature as the main targets. In the Talks, aside from stating that art is subordinated to politics, Mao also instructed artists that their artwork should be intended for "the masses of the people, and in the first place for the workers, peasants and soldiers". As for the content of the artwork, he inculcated the principle that art should portray the struggles in socialist movements and reflect the "new world", "real heroes", and in short, the "bright side" of the society. In order to produce such works of art, in which the style combines "socialist realism and revolutionary romanticism", artists must go among the "grassroots" and be part of the proletarian class. The importance of the Talks and their profound influence on Chinese artists’ works were evident in the artworks produced during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, as artists consistently placed the workers, peasants, and soldiers at the center stage.
It is taken for granted, after all, that artworks often have a political content, especially in highly politicized settings. For a long time, Chinese artists regularly made references to the Talks. The constant allusions were reminders to writers or artists themselves that the purpose of art and literature was to serve the people and the cause of socialism. Most post-liberation artworks did not stray from the principles of the Talks. Not only did they use artistic magic to reflect current politics, but they also consistently portrayed the themes advocated in the Talks. However, since 1978, it starts to indicate a lessening degree of conformity to the earlier guidelines – that art should always depict the "bright side".