Before Mao Zedong dismantled China’s independent cinema industry, the country was home to a flourishing commercial film scene. With its central hub in Shanghai, the “Hollywood of the East”, the early 1920s saw the advent of bona fide studios, feature length films, a homegrown constellation of movie stars, and an attendant publicity machine. The thriving movie culture also spawned its own journalistic genre — the Chinese movie magazine, a remarkable 300 of which emerged in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. The publications were a colourful kaleidoscope of newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, and photograph albums — beautiful artifacts that contained some of the most striking poster designs, artworks, and photography of the time.
These magazines document not only cinematic developments — the transition from silent film to the “talkies” — but also China’s dramatic political metamorphoses in the decades leading up to the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The magazines reveal the effects of Japanese invasions, as well as the ideological battle between Left and Right that culminated in Mao Zedong’s rise to power.