Helping mother learn to read and write
Artist: Yu Yunjie
Publisher: Shanghai People's Fine Art Publishing House
Size (mm): 524x768
Condition: Excellent, very light creasing to margins, some small tears to margins
Between 1950 and 1956 there were several campaigns mounted in an effort to combat illiteracy. In 1950 the government had set standards of defining literacy as the ability to recognise 1000 characters, as well as beginning the development of pinyin. Pinyin is a system of romanising the Chinese language and was developed by many linguists with consideration to other foreign languages and earlier romanisation systems - at one stage it was considered that pinyin could eventually replace Chinese characters completely.
One of the most important developments of this period for the advancements in literacy was the introduction of jiantizi, or simplified characters. These were created by simplifying the forms and reducing the number of strokes required to write a large proportion of Chinese characters, for example by replacing all instances of a certain character component with a simplified version. Many of the posters appearing in the 1950s had yet to adopt the new simplified characters, including this particular poster. The examples here show the character for 'mother', as used in the poster slogan, with the traditional version left and simplified on the right. The component on the right-hand side has been simplified, requiring only three strokes rather than the nine of the traditional character.
Yu Yunjie (1917-1992), from Changzhou in Jiangsu province, graduated from National Central University in 1941 and was a student of the soviet Socialist Realist painter Konstantin M. Maksimov (1913-1993), the best known artist of the Soviet Ministry of Culture to come to China who taught painting in Beijing between 1955 and 1957. Yu was branded a youpai (rightist) in 1957 during the Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957-1958, which targeted mainly intellectuals and artists who had spoken out during the Hundred Flowers Campaign, but resumed his work several years later.