Chinese Propaganda Posters


This primary source packet features Chinese propaganda posters from the 1920s and 1930s. It is designed to be used by students who read Chinese and those who do not; the included guiding questions provide avenues for analysis even for those unfamiliar with the language. Potential pedagogical goals could include visual analysis, exploring the intersections of politics and art, and examining unfamiliar objects. Materials may be of interest to those working in visual studies, East Asian languages and cultures,  and art. 

Packet contents: 

List of Primary Sources

qian nian de “wu sa”! 前年的‘五卅’!, HC2016-574, 1927

Shanghai gong hui zu zhi tong yi wei yuan hui tu hua te kan, di si qi 上海工會組織統一委員會圖畫特刊, 第四期, HC2016-598, Ca. 1927

Shanghai gong hui zu zhi tong yi wei yuan hui tu hua te kan 上海工會組織統一委員會圖畫特刊, HC2016-575, Ca. 1927

da dao xin di guo zhu yi zou gou Gongchandang 打倒新帝國主義走狗共產黨, HC2016-573, Ca. 1930

da dao ya po zhen zheng nong gong de Gongchandang! 打倒壓迫真正農工的共產黨!, HC2016-599, Ca. 1927

Gongchandang shi xin di guo zhu yi de zou gou! 共產黨是新帝國主義的走狗!, HC2016-590, Ca. 1930

These posters and others (24 total) are from the posters of the William Warder Cadbury collection. The full William Warder Cadbury collection, which includes these posters and Cadbury’s papers, are held in Haverford Quaker & Special Collections.

Questions to Consider

The following material can help frame a meaningful discussion for students examining these items

Even without the ability to read Chinese, there is a great deal of information that we can infer from the imagery on this poster. Consider the following as you look at each poster:

Figures (people) in the poster:

  • How many figures are visible? 
  • What position are the figures in? Is this significant? How and why?
  • What size are each of the figures in relation to each other? Is this significant? How and why? 
  • What are the figures wearing? Describe their clothing (shoes as well) and what this indicates about each figure? 
  • What are the figures holding in their hands? What does this tell you about the activities of each of these figures? 

Setting of the poster:

  • What do you notice about the setting of the poster? Can you tell where this takes place? 
  • What “props” are used and for what purpose? 


  • Even if you cannot read Chinese, what do you notice about the words in this poster? What does this indicate to you in terms of meaning? Think about:
    • Location of words
    • Size of words
    • Color of words

Color and medium:

  • What colors are employed in this poster and for what purpose? Think about: 
    • Blood
    • Flags
  • Can you tell what medium this poster is on? (hint: look at the item record) What about the quality of the image–with a larger format digital image to examine, what might you be able to notice about the work of art? [example: poster means what, exactly?]


  • Where might a poster like this be found?
  • Who is the intended audience of such a poster?
  • What do you think is the message of this poster?