The Mao Era in Objects website was launched in January 2020, and includes an object biography on money.
The project was led by Dr Jennifer Altehenger (then at King’s College London, now at the University of Oxford), with project advisors Dr Denise Ho (Yale University) and Dr Tom Hurst (Highlands School Enfield), and Katrin Heilmann (King’s College London). It was funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council UK leadership fellowship (Grant code: AH/R000174/1).
The Mao Era in Objects – Money (by Helen Wang and Felix Boecking)
Summary: In the early twentieth century, when the Communists gained territory, they set up revolutionary base areas (also known as soviets), and issued new coins and notes, using whatever expertise, supplies and technology were available. Like coins and banknotes all over the world, these played an important role in economic and financial life, and were also instrumental in conveying images of the new political authority. Since 1949, all regular banknotes in the People’s Republic of China have been issued by the People’s Bank of China, and the designs of the notes reflect the concerns of the Communist Party of China.
Update: since we wrote this piece, Liang Jun 梁军 (1930-2020), famous for being the inspiration for the young woman on the tractor on the banknote, has died. For quick reference, there’s a Wikipedia page about her, and many articles. My colleague, Tom Hockenhull, has also written an article (currently at press) looking at this note, Liang Jun and the tractor.
Full list of object biographies – and authors
- Agricultural Tools (农具) – Marc Andre Matten
- Air Defence Shelter (防空洞) – Katrin Heilmann
- Beijing International Club (北京国际俱乐部) – Song Ke
- Big-character Poster (大字报) – Denise Y. Ho
- Borrowed Books (借书) – Nicolai Volland
- Bricks (砖) – Cole Roskam
- Chairs and Stools (椅子和凳子) – Jennifer Altehenger
- Children’s Magazines (儿童杂志) – Mary Ginsberg
- Chinese Typewriters (中文打字机） – Thomas S. Mullaney
- Dance Props (舞蹈道具) – Emily Wilcox
- Documentary Film (纪录片) – Ying Qian
- Flexi-Disc (薄膜唱片) – Laurence Coderre
- Great Hall Of The People (人民大会堂) – Toby Lincoln
- Handloom Cloth (土布) from Zhouzhi, Shaanxi Province (周至) – Jacob Eyferth
- Handwritten Entertainment Fiction (手抄本) – Lena Henningsen
- Little Red Book (红宝书) / Quotations from Chairman Mao (毛主席语录) – Daniel Leese
- Mao Badges (毛主席像章) – Emily Williams
- Mao Posters (毛泽东画像) – Stefan Landsberger
- Money (钱) – Helen Wang and Felix Boecking
- Murals (壁画) – Christine I. Ho
- Personal Diaries (日记) – Aaron William Moore
- Radio (收音机) – Covell Meyskens
- Washbasin (洗脸盆) – Alfreda Murck
- Wristwatches (手表) – Karl Gerth