Lisheng Zhang is a postdoctoral researcher with the Institute of Sociology and Anthropology, Peking University. His PhD, undertaken at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, investigated Chinese private heritage entrepreneurship through an ethnographic case study of the Jianchuan Museum Complex, China’s most high-profile non-state museum. From 2018 to 2020, he worked as research assistant for the UK-China collaborative project ‘Craft China: (Re)making Ethnic Heritage in China's Creative Economy’, funded by the AHRC and Newton Fund.

Ambivalent Nostalgia: Commemorating Zhiqing in the Jianchuan Museum Complex

Zhiqing, an abbreviation for zhishi qingnian (‘educated youth’), refers to the nearly 18 million urban young people, most with elementary to high-school education, whom the Chinese Communist Party sent to live and work in China’s rural areas between 1968 and 1980. Since the early 1990s, official and unofficial museum commemorations of the zhiqing generation have articulated a pervasive nostalgia marked by narratives of a ‘zhiqing spirit’ that celebrate qualities of perseverance, patriotism, and self-sacrifice. This essay examines the Museum of Zhiqing Lives in the Jianchuan Museum Complex, China’s most high-profile private museum project and home to the largest collection of Maoist artefacts.

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