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Chen Zanxi’s Sugarcoated Bullet series combines Chinese and foreign icons to create a satirical commentary on the state of revolutionary ideals and traditional values in modern Chinese society.

The title Red Star over China refers to Edgar Snow’s 1937 account of the Chinese Communist Party, based on his months spent with the Red Army, as well as extensive interviews with Mao and other leaders. The book provided a sympathetic account of the movement and was translated to Chinese in 1938. It has been published numerous times both in English and in Chinese, and has been widely read in China ever since it was published.

This painting features three longshoremen from the modern Beijing Opera On the Docks, which was one of the eight approved plays during the Cultural Revolution. In this story, a team of patriotic dockworkers heroically hurries to load a ship with sacks of rice-seed for an aid mission to Africa before the arrival of an impending monsoon.

In Sugarcoated Bullet: Red Star over China, the longshoreman are no longer lifting sacks of provisions for their starving comrades, but instead triumphantly hoisting a voluptuous Western woman. Specifically, the woman is from the baroque painting The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Peter Paul Rubens. This painting depicts a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphosis where the brothers Castor and Pollux abduct their cousins’ fiancés.

The garments of the longshoremen and the woman are a deep shade of red, but the towering five-pointed star in the background has faded to a less-than-revolutionary shade of pink.

A word from The Artist

“Sugar-coated bullet” refers to medicine coated with sugar, except that here the medicine is replaced with a deadly bullet. It is a metaphor for using clever disguises to trick people into happily welcoming an enemy attack.

Chairman Mao created this phrase soon after the founding of People’s Republic of China in order to guard against backsliding. It was a warning to those party members whose revolutionary spirit was slack to be on guard against the enemy’s hidden efforts to invade or entice defectors.

Ever since China’s policy of reform and opening, our achievements and economic developments have captured the world’s attention. This prosperity, however, also brings some negative aspects. While fast-food culture delivers speed and convenience, some precious qualities from our traditional culture are quietly being destroyed.

Sugar Coated Bullet: Red Star Over China

糖衣炮弹之红星照耀中国

By CHEN Zanxi 由陈赞西创作
Display: in cm

30.5 x 20.3cm | Series of 100
$35.00 each  100 remaining
40.6 x 27.1cm | Series of 300
$59.00 each  300 remaining
61 x 40.6cm | Series of 200
$199.00 each  200 remaining
76.2 x 50.8cm | Series of 50
$399.00 each  50 remaining
111.8 x 74.5cm | Series of 10
$999.00 each  10 remaining
Prints are created with archival-quality pigment inks and 100% cotton rag acid-free paper.

Each print comes with a certificate of authenticity numbered and signed by the artist.

Dimensions are for the size of the paper on which the image is printed - not the image itself. All prints have a white border to allow for framing.

Revenues from each purchase are shared with the artist.

A Closer Look

The baroque painting Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus depicts a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphosis where the brothers Castor and Pollux abduct their cousins’ fiancés. It was done by the Flemish painter Peter Paul Reubens (1577-1640).

More paintings from CHEN Zanxi