Administration apologizes for museum publishing controversial Chinese warlord’s cultural product
Published: Jan 20, 2022 06:27 PM
Mansion of Marshal Zhang Zuolin in Shenyang, Liaoning Province Photo: IC

Mansion of Marshal Zhang Zuolin in Shenyang, Liaoning Province Photo: IC

The Shenyang Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism in Northeast China's Liaoning Province apologized on Wednesday for publishing a cultural product featuring a portrait of a controversial historical figure. 

The administration issued the apology late Wednesday for a transportation card that sported the likeness of Zhang Zuolin, an influential Chinese warlord who ruled Northeast China between 1917 to 1928 and got wide criticism for executing Chinese intellectual and revolutionary Li Dazhao in 1927. According to the statement, the superior supervisory unit - the Shenyang Cultural and Creative Center - did not properly vet the product designed by the Marshal Zhangs Mansion Museum, which focuses on the controversial warlord's life.

"Although the product has not been released for public sale, it has caused negative social impact. We sincerely apologize to the public. The relevant personnel have been suspended from their jobs, and further processing will be carried out in accordance with relevant regulations." the apology read.

The hashtag about the apology has earned 160 million views on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo. Many Chinese netizens took to social media to criticize the institutions involved, with some questioning whether a museum for such a controversial figure should exist.

Wang Sixin, a media law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times that the relevant personnel responsible for reviewing and producing such products should also be held accountable, and he recommended that relevant departments should establish an evaluation mechanism to avoid similar mistakes.

According to a report by the Paper, the official Sina Weibo account of Shenyang Cultural and Creative Center earlier issued a post promoting the transportation card, claiming the card could be used in more than 300 cities across China to take buses or subways, and it was a worthy collector's item.

The post caused a lot of criticism online, and it was later deleted. 

Zhang Yiwu, a professor of cultural studies at Peking University, told the Global Times that the people who designed the card lack knowledge of the history and the background of Zhang Zuolin.

"Historical figures who made great contributions to the Chinese people are suitable to be made into cultural products, but Zhang Zuolin, such a controversial historical figure, is really not appropriate," he said. 

However, Zhang Yiwu pointed out that the evaluation of historical figures should be separated from the museum itself because the institution is valuable for historical criticism and can allow people to learn about history.

Marshal Zhangs Mansion Museum was established on the site of the official residence of Zhang Zuolin and his eldest son, Zhang Xueliang who unlike his father, was a  great patriot. It is the largest and best-preserved former residence of celebrities in Northeast China, and is a national-level tourist attraction, according to the museum's official website.