Curating philanthropy and socialist governance: the Chinese Charity museum

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Museums and Social Issues, 2018, 13 (2), pp. 78 - 93
Issue Date:
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© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This paper examines the growing political importance of philanthropy in the People’s Republic of China as presented in the Chinese Charity Museum, probably the only national-level museum in the world to feature permanent exhibits focused solely on the subject of philanthropy. The paper explains why charitable practices, which purportedly flourished in pre-communist China, “disappeared” during the Mao era (1949–1976), and why philanthropy is now a government-endorsed activity. It then examines the state-prescribed role of Chinese museology and the creation of a charity museum in Nantong City, before investigating the socio-political narrative that frames the Nantong collection. It concludes that the museum’s “story” simplifies and elides the significant change in forms of philanthropic institutions and practices in contemporary China, relative to their pre-1949 precursors, but yields new insight into how the Chinese Communist Party is recasting philanthropy as an integral part of socialist culture and state-led welfare provision.
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