Morning Sun

Stages of History

Photo of a statue from the Rent Collection Courtyard showing a peasant carrying a heavy sack.
Background and History

In June 1965, a group of sculptors from the Sichuan Institute of Fine Arts was assigned by the provincial leadership to create a panaroma of 114 life-size clay figures depicting peasants bringing their rent into a notorious landlord’s residence, his “brutal exploitation” of the peasants, and their “simmering anger.” The theme, expounding class struggle, coming from the people, and set in pre-Liberation days, is highly political and educational and parallels those of the model operas.

The Rent Collection Courtyard was produced and installed in the open verandas of a landlord's old mansion, which had been converted into a museum.

To increase its potential impact as a "model," as well as to spread its educational message, the Rent Collection Courtyard was quickly publicized and just like the operas, it underwent revisions. Replicas were put on display in Beijing and modifications were introduced. The 114 figures were increased to 119, some were remodeled, incorporating the ideas of workers, peasants, soldiers, and Red Guards. These revisions gave "bolder expression" to the "great and invincible thought of Mao tse-tung." The most extensive changes were in the final section of the six-part display, the portion titled “Revolt.” Here scuptured figures held placards with political slogans or a volume of Mao’s writings. The revised version was touted as a victory for Mao Zedong Thought.

From Ellen Liang, The Winking Owl
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 62.

The Six Parts of the Rent Collection Courtyard:
Bringing the Rent | Examining the Rent | Measuring the Grain | Reckoning the Accounts | Forcing the Payment | Revolt

Related Readings

Rent Collection Courtyard - Sculptures of Oppression and Revolt (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1968)
Forward and Introduction
Comments by workers, peasants, soldiers, and foreign observers
Scene by scene notes

We Must Revolutionize Our Thinking and Then Revolutionize Sculpture An article by the artists who created the Rent Collection Courtyard sculptures, Chinese Literature (No. 4, 1967)

Appraisals of 'Compound Where Rent Was Collected'— A collection of writings by workers, peasants, soldiers, and Red Guards about the Rent Collection Courtyard, Chinese Literature (No. 4, 1967)

The Rent Collection Courtyard Revisited:
Cultural Revolution, Chapter 2; Expatriate Artist Updates Maoist Icon and Angers Old Guard, The New York Times, August 17, 2000: At the 1999 Venice Biennale, artist Cai Guo-Qiang's partial reconstruction of the Rent Collection Courtyard generated controversy and debate.

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