Magazine Advertisements




The commercial publication of magazines and newspapers exploded during the early decades of the twentieth century, partly due to the wave of reforms that was taking place in Chinese society.  In the aftermath of the failed Boxer Rebellion, students, intellectuals, government leaders and the wider public were convinced that China must become stronger as a nation in order to face the threat of foreign imperialism.  Educational, military, and constitutional reforms were instituted as a result.  Chinese society changed even more with the May Fourth Movement of 1919.  Begun originally with student demonstrations against a peace treaty that was perceived to be unfair to China's territorial rights, the movement eventually grew into a nation-wide call for change.  Periodicals, seen as an excellent forum for publicizing new ideas, grew in numbers and circulation.

These new publications, ranging from women's magazines to literary journals, helped to usher in a new era of mass popular culture.  Companies saw the potential to reach a wider audience and began to advertise their goods in them.  As competition increased, so too did the number and quality of advertisements.

What kind of lifestyle is being endorsed in the journal cover to the left?

Cover of The Ladies Journal

SOURCE:  Funu zazhi, Vol. 11 No. 8, 1925. Magazine cover.





In this Pond's Cream ad, why show a woman peering in a mirror?

Magazine advertisement for Pond's cream

SOURCE: Funu zazhi, Vol. 11 No. 12, 1925.


In what ways would the family in this appeal to Chinese consumers?  What kind of product do you think the ad is for?

ANSWER:  According to the text of the ad, Dr. Williamsí Pink Pills for Pale People could be used to cure various female ailments.  The ad is based on a testimonial letter from the family in the picture.  The wife was vomiting after meals and becoming weak and sickly.  After taking the pills, however, she regained her appetite and good health.  The ad also claims that the pills can be taken for any number of other male and female afflictions. 


Magazine advertisement    

SOURCE:  Funu zazhi, Vol. 12 No. 11, 1926.

To the right is an advertisement for a hot drink popular in the West.

What new ways of using characters do you see here?

ANSWER:  During this period characters were often incorporated into the design itself, rather than being used just to convey information.


Advertisement for Ovaltine

SOURCE:  Funu zazhi, Vol. 17 No. 11, 1931.

Swimming and other recreational sports became increasingly popular among middle class Chinese in these years.  Below left is an ad from the 1940's for a Chinese-made bathing suit. Below right is an ad for English roller skates from about the same time.

Do you think the people depicted in the ads below are supposed to look Chinese or Western? 

Ad for bathing suit                     

SOURCE:  Bainian Shanghai (Hong Kong: Guangming wenhua shiye gongsi, 1942), no page number available.

Ad for roller skates

SOURCE:  Bainian Shanghai (Hong Kong: Guangming wenhua shiye gongsi, 1942), no page number available.

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