In the late 1930s, design studies in China underwent a paradigmatic shift when the cosmopolitan idioms fashioned within treaty-port cities were rejected in favor of populist ethnonationalism, developed along the border regions of wartime China. This essay examines design compendia by Pang Xunqin and Lei Guiyuan, founding figures in modern design studies, as proposals that advocate for a reevaluation of folk and ethnic-minority traditions. Shaped by a signal moment in wartime modernism, the design proposals are located at the conjunction of two fields of knowledge that were discursively reframed by the heightened cultural nationalism of the Sino-Japanese War: the expansion of modern archaeology, and ethnographic study of minority cultures. In reclaiming folk-minority craft as a generative source of decoration, Pang Xunqin and Lei Guiyuan were also critically engaged with delimiting the design profession as a specialized realm of knowledge production.

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