Robert White collection of Chinese Cultural Revolution materials, 1920s-2000s and undated

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White, Robert (collector)
Robert White is an Appalachian State University professor who studied and taught in China during the 1980s and 1990s. The collection contains pins, posters, objects, textiles, and printed material, largely produced for a Chinese audience, promoting the ideals and persona of Mao Zedong, the establishment of the People's Republic of China, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
15 Linear Feet (2 flat boxes; 10 trays; 2 document cases; 1 tube; 2 custom boxes)
Materials in Chinese, English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection consists of posters, pins, buttons, flags, printed materials and publications (including Little Red Books), objects and ephemera, most featuring representations of Mao, acquired by White in the 1980s while he participated in academic exchanges with China during his research at Appalachian State University and Duke University. Most of the materials were created and printed in China and intended for the Chinese public. A small number of printed items were intended for an American or global audience, printed in English by the government's Foreign Languages Press. The majority of items were produced during the Cultural Revolution period, and celebrate or promote the ideals and persona of Mao Zedong. Other themes or events idealized in this collection include the creation of political collectives around the country; the establishment of the Red Guard; army service; atomic power; traditional farming; the Down to the Countryside Movement; the Foolish Old Man fable; and other political events and personas within the Chinese Communist Party during the mid-twentieth century. Other noteable references include the Three Red Banners; the Sixteen Points program; the Red Guards' eight mass rallies in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during 1966; Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (also known as the Little Red Book); and community performances, particularly the 8 Model Plays. Mao is prominently featured on the majority of the posters; another notable figure is Lin Biao. Other figures represented include Mao's wife Jiang Qing, exiled Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk, as well as pre-Cultural Revolution leaders Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, and Hua Guofeng.

Biographical / historical:

The political history represented and referred to in this collection includes the Chinese Civil War (1927-1949), the establishment of the People's Republic of China (1949), the chairmanship of Mao Zedong (1949-1976), and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

In 2016, Robert White wrote the following reflection about his research interests and time in China:

"I first had the chance to travel to China as part of the Appalachian State University - Dong Bei Gong Xue Yuan, now Northeast University in Shenyang academic exchanger program. This relationship was established in 1980 and is among the first US / China University exchanges established in 1980. The Chinese Ministry of Education referred to it regularly through the 1980s as the "first" of those new relationships with U.S. institutions after normalization of relations between our two countries.

My wife and I lived, taught, and conducted research in Shenyang in 1983-84 as the third members of a program of year long faculty exchange between our institutions. It was during this journey that my academic interest in China, its Revolution, and the Symbols of that revolution was first established.

After returning to the U.Ss I completed a long delayed Undergraduate Degree in International studies in 1985. In 1987 I was accepted into the Duke History graduate program to focus on Chinese History. Funded by a Jacob Javits Fellowship I completed course work and language exams in 1989 and finished my Masters thesis examination of the symbolic import of the philatelic output of the so-called Liberated Areas. I returned to China in 1990 for my PhD research.

Although I did not complete the PhD, I began teaching Chinese and Asian History part time at Appalachian State in 1992, and in 1995 I assumed a position as Executive Director of ASU's International Education Office. I combined those duties and kept my hand in teaching and research by leading student trips to China and maintained that set of responsibilities until I retired in 2011.

My interest lies in, and consideration of the range of Propaganda output of the Chinese Communist efforts from its founding, through the World War and Civil war periods, the establishment of New China in 1949, and the first decades following. I worked particularly the Third Revolutionary Civil War period in the Northeast, in the years between 1945 and 1949.

When I first began to consider China, Mao had been dear for only five years, but the psychological cloak of Maoism was yet very firmly in place upon the shoulders of the Chinese People. The great luck of my career was stepping into that dynamic and having a modicum of understanding its portent, both for China and for the world. The nearly 4 decades since those first steps to teasing out a personal perspective of this astonishing place and its people, aided in no small measure by my marriage to my Anthropologist wife, has continued to fascinate and fuel my engagement."

Acquisition information:
The Robert White Collection of Chinese Posters were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2014 and 2016.
Processing information:

Processed by Meghan Lyon and Qianwen Zhang, Nov. 2015 Updated by Meghan Lyon and Luo Zhou, April 2017

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2015-0142, 2017-0036


Materials are arranged and boxed by format and size. Posters are loosely sorted by content.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

Propaganda, Communist -- China
Buttons (information artifacts)
Political posters
Mao, Zedong, 1893-1976
Lin, Baio, 1908-1971
Jiang, Qing, 1914-1991
Zhou, Enlai, 1898-1976
Liu, Shaoqi, 1898-1969
China -- Politics and government -- 1949-
China -- History -- Cultural Revolution -- 1966-1976


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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Robert White Collection of Chinese Posters, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.