ROCI CHINA research guide

This guide provides links to a selection of digitized or online materials related specifically to ROCI CHINA. Materials provided in this guide are for reference and research purposes only. For reproduction requests, email the archives.


More than 300,000 people attended the ROCI CHINA exhibition that opened at the National Art Gallery, Beijing, in November 1985. Included in the presentation were examples of Rauschenberg’s 7 Characters (1982), a series of unique collages representing seven Chinese characters. The works were made in collaboration with papermakers at the world’s oldest-known paper mill, Xuan Paper Mill in Jingxian, Anhui Province. Before spending two weeks at the mill, Rauschenberg traveled throughout the country visiting museums, cities, villages, archaeological sites, and meeting with art students in Beijing. Photographs from the trip are included in his photographic mural, Chinese Summerhall (1982–83), which was also part of the ROCI CHINA presentation. During the run of the exhibition, Trisha Brown Dance Company performed Glacial Decoy (1979), Set and Reset (1983), and other works at the Minzhu Wenhua Gong Theater, Beijing. Rauschenberg received a Certificate of Merit from the Ministry of Culture, Beijing, for the exhibition’s contribution to cultural exchange. ROCI CHINA provided a rare view of Western contemporary art. In a country where traditional media and methods were the artistic norm, Rauschenberg’s unusual choice of materials and techniques was eye-opening.



The 7 Characters (1982) series of unique collages, representing seven Chinese characters, was created in collaboration with papermakers at the Xuan Paper Mill in Jingxian, China. To a base of thirty-ply paper and a layer of silk, each one of the seven Chinese characters is added in pulp relief. Images from posters found in Shanghai are attached and overlaid with a thin transparent paper. The artist then applied gold leaf and a cloth medallion to each work. Published by Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, many of the works were included in connection with the ROCI CHINA exhibition held at the National Art Gallery in Beijing in 1985.

Rauschenberg photographed extensively with color film during a 1982 sojourn in China. He used this material for his first and only project involving chromogenic prints. Rauschenberg worked with the University of South Florida’s Graphicstudio to produce a 100-foot long, 30-inch tall, color photograph printed on a single sheet of Kodak paper titled Chinese Summerhall (1982), cutting and collaging a selection of negatives for final image. Having used only a small portion of the photographs he captured for this work, he made a selection of twenty-eight additional images, the majority of which do not appear in the 100-foot print. These were printed in two portfolios, both titled Study for Chinese Summerhall (1983; one contains eighteen 40-by-30-inch prints and the other contains ten 24-by-20-inch prints). In 1984, he made five more photographic editions with Graphicstudio, each featuring an excerpt from the 100-foot print and titled Studies for Chinese Summerhall (1984).

View select 7 Characters (RRF website) 
View select Chinese Summerhall artworks (RRF website)
View artwork checklist (PDF)


Archival Documents 
Archival documents including awards, itineraries, floor plan, invitations and other materials related to Rauschenberg’s Chile trip and the ROCI CHINA exhibition. 

View select digitized archival materials (PDF)


Exhibition catalogue for the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange: ROCI CHINA exhibition, held at National Art Museum of China, Beijing, November 18–December 5, 1985; China Lhasa Tibetan Exhibition Center, December 2-23, 1985. Exhibition brochure (China and Tibet) with essay by Donald Saff, text by Wu Zugang, poem by Laba Pingcuo, previously published essay by Robert Hughes, and previously published statement by Rauschenberg.

View catalogue (PDF)


Documentary Photographs 
Documentary photographs including installation images, travel snapshots and other images related to Rauschenberg’s trip and the ROCI CHINA exhibition.

View select digitized documentary photographs (PDF)
View digitized snapshot contact sheets (PDF)


Oral Histories
Oral history transcripts of individuals involved in ROCI.

See ROCI Research Guide (webpage)


Press releases in Chinese and English.

View materials (PDF)
See ROCI Research Guide (webpage)


Rauschenberg's Photography
Contact and slide sheets for photographs taken by Rauschenberg during his travels in China.

View color contact sheets (PDF)
View black and white contact sheets (PDF)


Raw and edited footage of Rauschenberg’s ROCI-related travels and documentation of ROCI exhibitions.

See ROCI Research Guide (webpage)


Other Materials (not digitized)
The majority of archival materials related to ROCI are not yet digitized and must be accessed onsite at the Foundation. Comprehensive information on these collections is found on the Archives Collections webpage. To find listings on related materials once on this page, scroll to the desired collection, download the finding aid PDF, and keyword search for "ROCI."

Below is a list of recommended collections to search. Email archives for help or questions.

  • Audiovisual Collection
  • Charles Yoder records related to the Rauschenberg Studio
  • Chun-Wuei Su Chien papers
  • Donald Saff records on Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI)
  • Photograph Collection
  • Robert Rauschenberg papers
A group of people look down at a sculpture made of wood and tire tread that sits on the floor. A green, blue, and yellow fabric artwork is visible hanging on the wall in the background.

Visitors at the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange: ROCI CHINA exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, November 1985. Photo: Unattributed.