Anti-Epidemic Images in the Dianshizhai Pictorial

Junping Liu


The Dianshizhai Pictorial is a compilation of images reflecting social changes during the years 1884–1898. The Dianshizhai Pictorial uses new printing technology, and its images reveal extensive innovations in daily life as well as social problems of the period. Among the social problems depicted are the pictures of disasters ensuing from epidemics, a topic that is new in the history of Chinese art. The Dianshizhai Pictorial is composed primarily of images. Yet, the images themselves often contain text. The text can be poems as well as commentary. Each is deserving of close study. This article focuses on the images. The images record the outbreak of disasters in society and life. Not only do they show images of plagues but they also depict many of the political issues of the time, and people’s understanding of disasters. Additionally, they reveal the underbelly of corruption that was entangled in the handling of the disasters. Through visual and textual analysis, such as the transmission of epidemic images, prevention and disaster relief methods, this study reveals the role of the artistic image in the formation of the concept of nationality, modernity, and the character of masses in the late Qing Dynasty.

Key Words

Dianshizhai Pictorial, epidemic, disaster, history of art, social problems

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