Nudes Clothed in protest in China

Chloe by Jules Lefebvre - nude and clothed

The online campaign began on Monday after a national news program covered the marble penis of David by Michelangelo, one of Italy’s most famous artists, with a mosaic.

The mosaic had been removed by the time the program was rerun the following day but not before the cover-up had caused some anger online. “The statue of David is a well-known masterpiece of art but the TV station treated it like some vulgar adult movie” was one comment on

“Apparently the TV station doesn’t believe that its audience would treat art properly” was another comment on the microblog.

An online poll by showed only 4.2 percent of those who took part believed it was necessary to put on the mosaic while 93.3 percent said it was totally unnecessary.

The Italian Embassy in China responded to Chinese media enquiries by saying that the TV station had put the mosaic probably to protect its sensitive audience.

It is not the first time that Chinese web users have drawn clothes on famous paintings.

In February 2009, there was anger when a set of Renaissance artworks had been deleted from an album on because of their nudity.

They immediately drew clothes on the nude figures in the paintings and put them back online.

via An online cover-up for classic art – People’s Daily Online.

The attitude towards the nude in china is fascinating, There appears to be a cultural shift happening as some of the younger generations gain power. The internet breaks down barriers and grants power to everyone and a voice to all. There have been nude protests led by famous Chinese artist AiWeiWei and this online protest is the latest in a culture that is trying to change their historic attitudes.

The online movement, mainly on, has the slogan “Dress the nude rather than add mosaic,” I think it is interesting, however, what does putting clothes on the nudes actually say? what is this movement trying to accomplish? it seems a little counter intuitive to me. are the protesters showing how less attractive the works are with clothing? or are they trying to show more creative ways of covering up than a mosaic? this seems to me to be the wrong way to go about de-sensitizing people to the nude. I understand nude protests. I understand the creativity involved in clothing these works and some of them sound interesting (I have had a very hard time tracking any down), but I don’t understand the movement itself.

For a fascinating look into the history of the attitude towards the nude in china read Fleshing out Morality; an editorial on this event by Raymond Zhou. I was particularly interested in the concept that nudty was associated with poverty and circumstance. his line “As life gets better, circumstance-induced public nudity gets rarer” has given me a great deal to think about.

4 thoughts on “Nudes Clothed in protest in China

  1. That’s not so surprising. Historically it has been the poor that go unclothed, not the wealthy. That remains true today worldwide as fashion and designer clothes designate the ‘better’ class. As I’m sure you know, the color purple once was rare and restricted to the nobility not because of the need for purple as much as its use as a status symbol. Clothing has denoted status from the moment it became more than protection from the elements.

    China’s history holds that the poor are naked, so nudity is of course a sign of poverty and lower social status, like gaudy colors and cheap jewelry are the symbols of ‘trailer trash’ in America. And China has a history longer than the rest of the world, so don’t expect change too soon. China is a pseudo-Communist dictatorship and as such will change just as quickly or slowly as its leaders permit.

    China’s protesters are a very brave lot, knowing that they could disappear at any moment. Their forms of protest may make little sense to us who are accustomed to at least some degree of free expression, but perhaps the meaning is clear to them. We have to give them credit for protesting at all; are WE willing to ‘disappear’ for the sake of art?

    We conscientiously avoid any nudity at all on our Facebook Page, having been suspended in the past several times as we tested the limits of tolerance. Are we willing to lose that social media connection for the sake of making a point, for making a statement?

    Not bloody likely! Yet these brave folks in China risk all just to make THEIR point. How they do it is their business; THAT they do it deserves our applause and admiration!

  2. I agree, I think it is wonderful that so many have risen up in protest, it’s just an interesting take on a protest. especially as it’s one that’s happened before! it seems to be a particularly Chinese protest in many ways, protesting by exaggerating the initial issue to extremes to point out the error. there’s something very…compliant about it, protest through rebellious compliance perhaps?

    I’m still stuck on Zhou’s article though, I think it’s so interesting that the attitude towards the body is s different, that we have taken completely different tracks between greek ideologies and confucianism. The psychology of clothing fascinates me, it always has (which is why I love clothing history and research! and costuming) but the idea that the convenience of indoor plumbing might have changed our attitudes, and that complacence towards the naked body may affect perceptions as well. it’s something I have to think on a whole lot more… there’s so much there!

  3. Differences in protest: Throwing shoes! And the bath house thing makes sense too, wonder if that was a similar part of the change in Western attitudes too. A lot of things change when folks lose the unexceptional everyday opportunities to see each other naked, such as in school or gym showers. We see stories about both the ‘shameless’ men and women who ‘flaunt’ their nudity in public facilities by not hiding behind towels while changing clothes, and those who are amused by people who do hide behind towels at the same places!

    One more thing about bathing and social repercussions; it’s not often mentioned but consider the difference that cleanliness would make in intimate settings in the past before daily bathing became common. When the time came to be ‘friendly’ with each other, couple were also getting up close to perhaps days, weeks, or months of accumulated grime and accretions. It would be interesting to hear how that affected sexplay as far as certain now-common practices which might have been rather unpleasant then. A clean body encourages much more originality than a smelly grime-encrusted one, methinks!

    Funny that nudists, who at one time would have appeared to be poverty-stricken peasants due to their nudity, are now probably among the cleanest people in the world! We’re constantly in and out of showers and pools, and are very conscious of cleanliness as everything is ‘on display’!

    Bit of a ramble there, sorry about that! 😉

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