Daily Life in the Shanghai Region: An Exhibit of Village Folk Art from the People’s Republic of China

April 21 – July 31, 1982

The exhibition of “Daily Life in the Shanghai Region” is an attempt to
fill a gap in our knowledge and to document the artistic products of
the peasants. Its purpose is to capture that elusive quality of folk
art found neither in the arts of the imperial courts nor of the literati.
The objects in the exhibit represent items made for local usage,
rather than the commercial crafts or Westernized products intended
for the urban Shanghai masses or for export.
All the objects in the exhibition originate from the peasants and
villagers who live in what are now the suburban counties of Shanghai
or from their descendants who migrated from adjacent Jiangsu and
Zhejiang Provinces to the city. The latter still forms the largest
portion of Shanghai’s population today. For this reason, included
are not only objects made in the Shanghai Municipality, but also
those produced in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces which are
commonly found in Shanghai. Some of the objects from peasant
homes are still being made today. Others of older vintage are no
longer being produced because of a changing way of life. These have
been loaned primarily by private collectors in Shanghai, many of
them prominent artists. A rich source of folk art in China
exists in the festivals of the lunar calendar by which the peasants fix
their almanac. For instance, the coming of spring is celebrated at
the beginning of the lunar year; the Dragon Boat Festival at the
time of summer solstice; the Moon Festival during the autumn equinox;
etc. Spring Festival, as New Year celebrations are known today,
is the most festive and important holiday of the year. It is the holiday
of family gatherings, visits, best foods, new clothes and home decorations,
gifts, games, and entertainments. It is also the season for
folk art. Having a brief spell of leisure time during the winter recess
and inspired by the awakening of nature, the peasant has traditionally
created at this time of the year a rich variety of art. During the
Spring Festival, New Year prints, papercuts, lanterns, toys, etc., are
produced in the rural areas and are brought into the city for sale by
street vendors.