Calendar Posters




A new form of advertising that developed early in the 20th century was the calendar poster.  Major companies would present these calendars as gifts to their clients at the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  These posters usually had a large glossy image in the middle with calendars for one or two years on the sides.  While strikingly different in content and style, this method of marketing does have its roots in the tradition of Chinese folk prints [in the guide, below], colorful pictures exchanged at the New Year.  The subject matter of such prints usually drew from a body of popular folklore and auspicious symbols.  In contrast, calendar posters presented new cosmopolitan images targeted at the growing urban middle class.  

As you look at some of the examples of advertising posters below, think about the intended audience of these ads.

Why do you think images of women were so frequently used in advertising?  How do these calendars compare with western advertising strategies?

Colorful calendars such as this were hung in Chinese homes during the New Year celebrations. This calendar shows the zodiac symbols that served as the traditional year names. During the Lunar Year people in North China would offer sacrifices to the gods of the constellations (symbols for which are pictured here) in order to ensure prosperity during the coming year.

How many animals can you recognize on the calendar?


 Calendar with zodiac symbols 

SOURCE:  Zhonghua minzu banshu (Taibei: China National Museum of History, 1977), p. 18
ANSWER:  There are twelve animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

The majority of advertising revenue in the 1920s came from pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and tobacco companies.  To the left is an advertisement calendar for the Nanyang Brothers Tobacco Company from 1921.

This image draws from Chinese landscape and portrait painting traditions, as well as new ingredients from Western art. 

Can you identify elements that reflect these sources?

Nanyang Brothers Tobacco Company Calendar Poster, 1921

SOURCE:  Yi Bin et. al., Lao Shanghai guanggao (Shanghai: Shanghai huabao she, 1995), p. 84.

Compare the calendar for "Three Cats" cigarettes below (1930s) with the BAT ad above.

What are some of the associations smoking might have for a female consumer?  What kind of social changes in these years that might be reflected in the differences between these two ads?

"Three Cats" cigarettes advertisement calendar

SOURCE:  Yi Bin et. al., Lao Shanghai guanggao (Shanghai: Shanghai huabao she, 1995), p. 66.
SOME THOUGHTS:  The popularity of foreign cigarettes and cosmetics might be partly due to the associations they carried.  As in the West, smoking and wearing makeup was taken as an expression of independence in women.


To the left is a poster for Eveready Batteries from 1931.

Looking at the technique, the pose, the style of the foliage, the architectural details, and the composition, which aspects strike you as more Chinese or more Western?

Poster for Eveready Batteries

SOURCE:  Postcard, copyrighted by Dal Housie Enterprises, Orchard P. O. Box 0248, Singapore 9123.

In the advertisement for Coca Cola to the right, the name "Coca Cola" was translated into four Chinese characters that sound similar and mean "delicious and fun."

Compare this image with the cigarette poster above.

What might account for the change in dress and pose?


Compare this calendar to the folk print [above in the teachers guide]. 


What differences do you see in their color and tone?  


MORE:  The style of calendars changed due to artistic innovations such as the rub and paint method.  The technique involves the application of a thin layer of carbon powder on the image.  The shadowy sections of the image are then carefully rubbed to take on the contours of a faint sketch.  Watercolors are then applied.  The result is a fair and unblemished tone with a slightly rosy tint.




Coca Cola poster from the 1920s
SOURCE:  Yi Bin et. al., Lao Shanghai guanggao (Shanghai: Shanghai huabao she, 1995), p. 72.

To the left is an advertisement for Grande, Price, & Co. from 1934.

According to a 1930 article in the magazine The Modern Lady, it is improper for a lady to sit with her legs crossed.  

Look carefully at the picture. 

What are some other signs of "un-ladylike" behavior?  How can we tell she is not alone?


ANSWER:  There are two glasses.




Poster advertising liquor

SOURCE:  Yi Bin et. al., Lao Shanghai guanggao (Shanghai: Shanghai huabao she, 1995), p. 90.

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