After its consolidation of power in the late 1920s, the Nationalist government launched a series of projects, including the construction of transport infrastructure in south-eastern China, and the New Life Movement, which aimed to build a strong and united nation, to boost the economy and encourage patriotism. Touring around the nation’s scenic sites was encouraged and deemed a patriotic activity, which contributed to the ‘aestheticisation of life’. As such, economic nationalism and nation-building were imbued into the tourism industry. Through this process, picturesque landscape and the traditional landscape aesthetic gained currency and were selected as the most appropriate representation of scenic China, which contributed to the rise of travel landscape painting and the transformation of landscape painting in modern China.
This project draws extensively on primary sources such as paintings, photographs, local gazetteers, topographical gazetteers, guidebooks, magazines and newspapers, investigating the correlation between the tourism industry and visual representations of scenic sites in modern China. Using scenic sites as the point of entry, this research will be divided into two parts with a focus on three scenic sites, namely Mount Huang, Mount Yandang and Mount Tiantai. These sites were selected because they were promoted as the most representative scenic attractions in south-eastern China by the Nationalist government, and were regarded as the most popular subjects for landscape painting by the Republican art world. The first part of the project will trace the ‘sacralisation’ and commoditisation of these sites during the Republican period by closely examining the role played by the Nationalist government and other institutions in the process and analysing the discursive practices that have constructed the meanings and values surrounding the tourism industry and scenic sites. The second part will look into the visual representations of these sites within the context set by the first part of the project, aiming to offer a comprehensive and clearer picture of the interaction between scenic sites, tourism, nationalism and the visual arts, and highlight the dynamic visual culture and its correlation with nation building in Republican China. Adopting current theories on tourism and landscape, the project attempts to bring forward the two understudied areas, the tourism industry and travel landscape painting, in the hopes of filling in the gaps from existing research and advancing our understanding of the social history of travel landscape painting.