The Shanghai Manhua Society
 Chapter 4: Come Together

This is the fourth chapter in my MA thesis, The Shanghai Manhua Society: A History of Early Chinese Cartoonists, 1918-1938,  completed in December 2015 at the Department of Asian Studies at UBC. Since passing my defense, I’ve decided to put the whole thing up online so that my research will be available to the rest of the world. I’ve also decided to use Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, which means you can share it with anyone you like, as long as you don’t charge money for it. Over the next couple of days I’ll be putting up the whole thing, chapter by chapter. You can also download a PDF version here.

While it is clear that the members of the Manhua Society were connected through a variety of social and professional institutions, it took them more than five years to form a society dedicated to the production and promotion of cartoons and comics in China. Initially, they may not have seen the need to organize, instead being satisfied to be paid to draw cartoons on a semi-regular basis for the Shenbao and other periodicals. For most of them, cartoons probably seemed like a hobby, or side-business, to their more lucrative work in advertising and teaching.

The escalating political turmoil of the 1920s would seem to be obvious catalyst for the formation of the Manhua Society. On the other hand, cartoons and comics provided these young men with the means not only to speak out against foreign imperialism and government corruption, but also establish their respective careers and provide for their families. One event in particular has special significance for the formation of the Manhua Society, not simply because it spurred the Manhua Society members into action, but because it provided an opportunity for publishers (particually of pictorials) to capture the attention of readers.

The Shot Heard Round the Bund

On May 30, 1925 policeman in the International Settlement opened fire on a crowd of Chinese protesters, many of them students, gathered outside the Laozha police station老閘捕房, killing nine and injuring many more.  The students had gathered to protest the trial of students who had been arrested performing a mock-funeral demonstration following the shooting of a Chinese worker in Japanese-owned cotton mill earlier in the month.

Two days later, the tabloid Pictorial Shanghai 上海畫報released its controversial first issue on June 6, 1925, featuring photographs of the bloody protests.[1] Published by the popular noveist Bi Yihong畢倚虹(born Bi Zhenda 畢振達, 1892-1926), who was associated with the Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies clique, the tabloid employed not only Zhang Guangyu and Ding Song, but also St. John’s graduate and future Manhua Society member, Wang Dunqing.[2]

Over the next month, a triple strike of merchants, students and workers organized by the KMT working in cooperation with Du Yuesheng and the Green Gang led to riots and more deaths, providing Pictorial Shanghai with enough sensational content to publish a new issue every three days.[3] Clearly inspired, two months later on August 3, 1925 Zhang Guangyu launched his own three-day tabloid, the two-page broadsheet, China Camera News三日畫報. The May 30 Incident galvanized the young cartoonists into action, providing a ready market for their pointed political satire, and in addition to news and topical essays, the first issue also included satirical drawings諷刺畫 by four future members of the Manhua Society: Lu Shaofei, Huang Wennong, Ding Song, and Zhang himself.[4]

Lu Shaofei, who had returned from Shenyang some six months earlier, was also busy that summer putting together an exhibition for the fourth annual Aurora Art Club show晨光美術會第四屆展覽會, held August 1-7 at the second campus of Iron Forge Creek Art University 打鐵浜藝術大學第二院, to the south of the French Concession in present day Jinshan. An preview published in the Shenbao the day before the show opened to the public makes it clear that this exhibition included the material which would published nearly three years later as Cartoon Travels in the North: “Mr. Lu Shaofei’s more than seventy sketches of his travels to the capital and Fengtian, featuring landscapes of the north, strange and bewildering to behold, without a set form, are especially impressive” 魯少飛君之旅京奉寫生約七十餘件、北地風光、怪怪奇奇、不名一狀、尤為可觀云. [5]

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The Shanghai Manhua Society
 Chapter 3: Wild Cards

This is the third chapter in my MA thesis, The Shanghai Manhua Society: A History of Early Chinese Cartoonists, 1918-1938,  completed in December 2015 at the Department of Asian Studies at UBC. Since passing my defense, I’ve decided to put the whole thing up online so that my research will be available to the rest of the world. I’ve also decided to use Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, which means you can share it with anyone you like, as long as you don’t charge money for it. Over the next couple of days I’ll be putting up the whole thing, chapter by chapter. You can also download a PDF version here.

Ji Xiaobo, Ding Song, Zhang Guangyu, Zhang Zhengyu, and Lu Shaofei all met in the late 1910s, and found an affinity in their shared interest in cartooning, and also perhaps a sense of social exclusion, since all four men were born into a merchant or tradesmen families. Their relative lack of education stands in contrast with many Republican-era intellectuals and artists who came from wealthy families and were educated abroad. Although Ye Qianyu was given the benefit of a high school education, and was also somewhat younger, like the Zhang brothers and Ye Qianyu, he seems to have mostly forged his own path to becoming recognized as a professional artist.

The remaining members of the Manhua Society are Wang Dunqing, Huang Wennong, Hu Xuguang, Zhang Meisun 張眉蓀 (1884-1975) and Cai Shudan 蔡輸丹 (n.d.). Of them, Zhang Meisun seems to have been an early acquaintance of Ding Song, having studied art together at Tushanwan orphanage while both men were in their teens, and Hu Xuguang a student of Ding Song, having studied at the Shanghai Art Academy. The rest, like Ye Qianyu, seem to have been wild cards, attracted to Manhua Society by chance encounters and shared interests. Some, like Zhang and Cai, don’t seem to have left any cartoons behind, with Zhang becoming a well-known painter of watercolors, and Cai working as an assistant to Ji Xiaobo.[1]

Ye Qianyu has mentioned that he first became interested in cartooning after seeing cartoons by Huang Wennong, who himself may have been influenced by Shen Bochen without ever meeting him. Wang Dunqing, meanwhile, quickly rose through the ranks of the Manhua Society, taking over the chair from Ding Song in November, 1927. He made fast friends with Ye Qianyu, but seems to have remained distant from many of the other members of the society.

Wang Dunqing: The Boy Scout

Born in 1899 in Wangjiangjing 王江涇鎮, a prosperous village near Jiaxing 嘉興 city, located to the south of Shanghai, Wang Dunqing is unique among the founding members of the Manhua Society for his high level of education, having earned a BA from the prestigious English-language St. John’s University 聖約翰大學. During his time at St. John’s Wang was an active member of the Boy Scouts 童子軍, while also serving as the club president of the Illustration Research Society 圖畫研究會. The former appears to have been under the influence of Donald Roberts, a professor of English and History who organized the St. John’s Boy Scouts troop in 1917. [2] Roberts, an avid collector of early Republican-era illustrated broadsheets, may have encouraged the young Wang to pursue his interests in cartooning. By the time he graduated with his BA in 1923, Wang was set on a career in the arts. Following a short stanza from Longfellow’s 1878 poem Kéramos,[3] his yearbook biography modestly proclaims (in English):

With a glance at the picture, you can immediately tell who he is. It is not strength, but his fine character and art that win the love and admiration of all his fellow students. As a friend, he is always sincere and ready to help without hesitation. As an athlete, he is noted for his fine college spirit. His beautiful verses in Chinese are depictable [sic] of humanity and true to nature. His clear perception with a firm, bold hand marks him a true artist of distinction. With such an intelligence, capacity and character, we are sure that a bright future awaits him.[4]

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The Shanghai Manhua Society
 Chapter 2: The Ties That Bind

This is the second chapter in my MA thesis, The Shanghai Manhua Society: A History of Early Chinese Cartoonists, 1918-1938,  completed in December 2015 at the Department of Asian Studies at UBC. Since passing my defense, I’ve decided to put the whole thing up online so that my research will be available to the rest of the world. I’ve also decided to use Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, which means you can share it with anyone you like, as long as you don’t charge money for it. Over the next couple of days I’ll be putting up the whole thing, chapter by chapter. You can also download a PDF version here.

Given Ji Xiaobo’s job as a censor for the Nationalist government in the 1930s, it is perhaps unsurprising that when Ye Qianyu wrote his autobiography in the late 1980s, he decided not to mention that Ji Xiaobo was an old acquaintance of two key founding members of the Manhua Society, Zhang Guangyu and Ding Song.  Since Ji Xiaobo claims to have met both in 1917, while working Sun Xueni’s Shengsheng Fine Arts Press, it stands to reason that Ji Xiaobo would have introduced the two cartoonists to Ye Qianyu when the talented young artist was promoted to the advertising department of Three Friends in 1925.

Instead, Ye recalls that he met Zhang Guangyu after submitting a cartoon to his tabloid, the China Camera News 三日畫報in the summer of 1925, shortly after arriving in Shanghai.[1] There may be an element of pride at work here as well, because according to Ye, Zhang was so impressed with his work that he asked to meet him in person. Or it may be that Ji never introduced them, and Ye resented him for not having done so. Regardless, it seems clear that Ye Qianyu and Zhang Guangyu hit it off almost immediately, with the younger Ye referring to Zhang as “the first of the older generation of manhua artists I met” 最早认识的老一辈漫画家.  This, again, is curious, because Zhang, born in 1900, was only one year older than Ji Xiaobo.

In comparison, Ye hardly mentions Ding Song. Given their respective ages, Ye Qianyu and Ji Xiaobo were likely much closer friends with Zhang Guangyu than they were with much older Ding Song. Nevertheless, Ding Song seems to have provided the group with a certain amount of guidance. Meeting notes for the society indicate that Ding Song was the chairperson of the group for the majority of 1927, stepping down in favor of Wang Dunqing in November, and he was a teacher and mentor to both Zhang Guangyu and Lu Shaofei. Most importantly perhaps, as the oldest member of the Manhua Society by nearly a decade, Ding Song is in many ways typical of the cartoonists who emerged in the first decade of the Republic prior to the formation of the Manhua Society.

Ding Song: The Grandfather

Born in 1891 in Fengjingzhen 楓涇鎮, a small town in Jiashan county嘉善to the southwest of Shanghai, Ding Song’s parents both died when he was only 12. He spent his teen years at the Tushanwan土山灣orphanage in Xujiahui district, which had been founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1864.[2] While at Tushanwan, Song studied Western religious and secular art with Zhou Xiang周湘 (1871-1933) and Zhang Yuguang張聿光 (1886-1968), in addition to learning how to operate a printing press. He quickly made a name for himself as an artist, and in 1913, Song was invited to serve as academic dean for the newly founded Shanghai Art Academy 上海美術院 , later being promoted to provost.[3] It was around this time he became close friends with the prolific cartoonist Shen Bochen沈泊塵 (born Shen Xueming 沈學明, 1889-1920), who had been hired as a staff cartoonist for the three-day tabloid The Crystal 晶報in 1912.[4] Under Shen’s encouragement, Ding Song to soon began drawing and publishing his own cartoons.

In late 1913, Ding Song helped launch the monthly magazine Unfettered Magazine自由雜誌, edited by Tong Ailou童愛樓 (n.d.). [5] In December, Ding Song and others continued the magazine under a new name, The Pastime 游戲雜志, edited by Wang Dungen 王鈍根 and Chen Diexian 陳蝶仙. Starting in 1914, Ding Song also became a regular contributor to The Saturday 禮拜六, drawing numerous full color covers for the magazine. As an artist, Ding Song excelled at drawing the human form, in particular intimate portraits of beautiful women. Much of the humor in his work, however, comes from the juxtaposition of grotesque caricature with ironic titles. For example a 1921 cartoon titled, “Falling in Love” 戀愛 depicts an obese, bald, and drooling woman with two pinhole eyes. A pigeon-toed man, presumably her husband or lover, stands behind her, holding her shoulders and gazing down at her affectionately.[6] Beside them, an overweight dog ambles along on stubby legs, his vacant expression inviting comparison with the hideous woman. Years later, similar works by Shen Bochen would come under fire from the preeminent Republican-era author and critic, Lu Xun魯迅 (1881-1936) who Geremie Barmé surmises found that his satirical drawings were an “essentially conservative and xenophobic populist art form” under its “flash Western exterior.”[7] Writing in his particularly bombastic style in late 1924, Lu Xun concluded,

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The Shanghai Manhua Society
 Chapter 1: War, What Is It Good For?

This is first chapter in my MA thesis completed in December 2015 at the Department of Asian Studies at UBC,  The Shanghai Manhua Society: A History of Early Chinese Cartoonists, 1918-1938.  Since passing my defense, I’ve decided to put the whole thing up online so that my research will be available to the rest of the world. I’ve also decided to use Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, which means you can share it with anyone you like, as long as you don’t charge money for it. Over the next couple of days I’ll be putting up the whole thing, chapter by chapter. You can also download a PDF version here.

Fittingly, given the role free trade agreements have played in the development of 21st century cities, Shanghai of the early 20th century, “portent of the modern world,” was made possible by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 which designated Shanghai a ‘treaty port,’ becoming a casualty of the first Opium War between the rapidly expanding British Empire and the ailing Qing Empire.[1] The Manchus had ruled China since overthrowing the ethnic Han Ming dynasty in 1644, overseeing a huge growth in population and territory. According to many scholars who have studied the era however, the Manchu reforms were primarily targeted at restoring rather than reforming political, economic, or social institutions which they inherited.[2] Eventually, foreign aggression forced the imperial government to begin efforts toward Western-style modernization.[3] The British treaty was soon followed by similar French and American treaties in 1844. Chinese entrepreneurs flocked to the foreign concessions to take advantage of the new economic opportunities they provided, while many others sought refuge from the political turmoil of the Taiping Rebellion of 1851 to 1864. Foreign products, most famously opium, but also English wool, Indian cotton, Russian furs, American ginseng, and silver bullion mined in Mexico were imported into China through the docks and godowns [warehouses] of the Huangpu, and while goods such as tea, silk, and porcelain were exported from the farms and villages of the Chinese countryside. Over time, a local manufacturing industry (of which printing presses were to form a large part) emerged, eventually overtaking the import-export business.

In 1895, the defeat of the Qing in the first Sino-Japanese War led to the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which created the first Japanese concessions in China while also establishing a legal precedent for foreign-owned manufacturers within China. At first, Chinese industrialists struggled to compete with the capital resources and more advanced manufacturing techniques of foreign-owned factories. Chinese firms quickly latched onto the idea of using the rhetoric of nationalism to sell their products, which often came at a higher or equivalent real cost, with a lower level of perceived quality. Anti-Japanese sentiment was stoked even further by the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, when Japan seized additional concessions in the Liaodong peninsula 遼東半島, in the northeastern province of Liaoning 遼寧, which at the time was known as Fengtian 奉天.

When the by then widely despised Qing government was finally overthrown in late 1911, the ensuing wave of nationalism help bring by Sun Yat-sen’s 孫中山 (1866-1925) Kuomintang 國民黨[Chinese Nationalist Party, KMT] to power, with the support of the leading Qing general, Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 (1859-1916) and his modernized Beiyang Army. Meanwhile, business owners quickly realized the opportunity to seize market share from foreign imports with the establishment of the Chinese National Product Preservation Association 中華國貨維持會. Beyond simply promoting Chinese products, the CNPPA would go to organize numerous anti-Japanese boycotts from its headquarters in Shanghai, which were largely suppressed by the Republican government under pressure from the Japanese legation.[4]

When World War I broke out in August, 1914, Japan, which had been formally allied with England since the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, seized the German concession in Qingdao, Shandong province and proceeded to force the Yuan Shikai’s government, which had ejected Sun Yat-sen’s KMT the previous year, to accept a list of demands, including the recognition of the various Japanese territorial claims in China. In late 1915, Yuan reinstated the monarchy, declaring himself Emperor Hongxian of the Chinese Empire 中華帝國大皇帝洪宪, a controversial decision which led to the break-up of his government even before his death from kidney failure in 1916.

Following Yuan’s death, the Beiyang Army split into warring factions, which coalesced into three main groups: the Anhui clique 皖系, the Zhili clique直系, and the Fengtian clique 奉系.[5]  At first, the most powerful of these was the Anhui clique, which controlled Beijing under the leadership of Duan Qirui 段祺瑞 (1865-1936), an Anhui native, with the support of the Japanese who provided loans in exchange for under-the-table territorial concessions. For similar reasons, the Japanese also supported the Fengtian clique, which was based in the far northeastern corner of the country above Korea, known as Manchuria, and led by Zhang Zuolin 張作霖 (1875-1928), with the support of Zhang Zongchang 張宗昌  (1881-1932) and others.  Hebei and its surroundings, meanwhile, were controlled by the Zhili clique, led by Cao Kun 曹錕 (1862-1938), in partnership with Wu Peifu 吳佩孚 (1874-1939), Feng Yuxiang 馮玉祥 (1882-1948), and Sun Chuanfang 孫傳芳 (1885-1935).

For much of the late 1910s and early 1920s, however, the province of Canton in the far south was largely controlled by the KMT under Sun Yat-sen’s leadership. Sun initially formed alliances with local warlords, in particular Chen Jiongming 陳炯明 (1878-1933), but found them to be unreliable allies in his quest to reunify China under KMT rule. In 1924, Sun founded the Whampoa Military Academy 黃埔軍校 in Canton with support of the Soviet Union and the New Guangxi Clique 新桂系, which controlled neighboring Guangxi province, a major center of opium production.[6] As part of the terms of support from the Bolsheviks, the KMT had formed an alliance with the Chinese Communist Party in 1923, known today as the First United Front of the Nationalists and Communists. In 1925, Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石 (1887-1975), commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy, drew on the graduates of Whampoa to found the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), a force which would ultimately retake the country for the KMT following Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925.

In was during these turbulent times that Ye Qianyu, today the most well-known member of the Manhua Society, grew up. Ye’s early life story is unique among his peers not so much in the particulars, but because we know a great deal about it, largely thanks to his autobiography which was published in the 1990s. Ye’s early life illustrates how the numerous military conflicts of the late 1910s and early 1920s shaped the lives and aspirations of the first generation of manhua artists in China.

Ye Qianyu: The Student

Born in 1907 into a family of merchants in Tonglu county 桐廬縣, Zhejiang province, in the mountains to the southwest of Hangzhou at the confluence of the Fenshui and the Fuchun, at age seven Ye entered Baohua Primary School 葆華小學. After graduating in 1916 he enrolled at Zixiaoguan Advanced Primary 紫霄觀高等小學 where in addition to his other coursework he also studied traditional ink painting and handicrafts. He spent five years at Zixiaoguan before graduating in 1921.[7]

While Ye was in his third year Zixiaoguan, World War I ended with the Treaty of Versailles. Signed on June 28, 1919, due to secret territorial concessions granted by the various warlord cliques in exchange for loans and military equipment, this controversial document upheld Japanese claims over Qingdao and the Liaodong peninsula, despite China having contributed some 140,000 laborers to the Allied war effort. More than 800 miles to the north of Hangzhou, student protests against both the warlords and Japan took place in the capital of Beijing on May 4, 1919, quickly spreading to rest of the country. The “May Fourth” movement, as it came to be known, was a watershed moment for a new generation of Chinese intellectuals who increasingly came to advocate for the abandoning of “backward” Chinese tradition in favor of the modern ideals of “science and democracy.” Although he was only 12 when the May Fourth movement began, in his memoirs Ye recalls participating in student protests inspired by the May Fourth movement several years later while going to school in Hangzhou.

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The Shanghai Manhua Society: A History of Early Chinese Cartoonists, 1918-1938

Last December, I completed my Masters of Arts in Asian Studies at UBC. Altogether it took me about two and half years. For the first year, that meant attending graduate seminars, doing assigned readings, and writing seminar papers (many of which I’ve since re-purposed as posts on this blog). I also helped organize my department’s graduate conference and worked as a teaching assistant, first in Chinese film and later for Chinese language courses. The last year and a half of my program was dedicated to completing my thesis, a long piece of original research intended to both develop and highlight my mastery of my chosen subject matter. Although I had hoped to complete a comprehensive history of Chinese comics, I soon realized this was far beyond the scope of a MA thesis. With the encouragement of my advisor,  Chris Rea, I decided to focus on the Shanghai Manhua Society, an important group of cartoonists who came together in Shanghai in the mid-1920s.

For most scholars, academic research is first and foremost a means to an end. (As a wise man once said, the only good thesis is a finished thesis.) That said, it is also represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to study something which interests you, and (hopefully) share that interest with others. Over the last couple of years, Chinese cartoons and comics have been gradually attracting more and more interest abroad. In Chinese studies, much of this interest is framed within the context of print culture studies, taking inspiration from Jürgen Habermas’ influential concept of the public sphere as the birthplace of modern democracy. I can’t, however, say that I have much of a mind for theory. I like Chinese comics because I like comics and I like China. If that sounds like an easy out, well. Perhaps it is.

Since passing my defense, I’ve been considering putting my entire MA thesis online so that my research will be available to the rest of the world. I’ve also decided to use Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, which means you can share it with anyone you like, as long as you don’t charge money for it. Over the next couple of days I’ll be putting up the whole thing, chapter by chapter. You can also download a PDF version here.

Finally, now that I’m working as a full time translator / agent / consultant / tour guide, any time I spend on this blog is time I could be spending on paid gigs.1 If you’d like to support my research going forward I encourage you to consider sponsoring my blog via Patreon. Thank you!

manhua society emblem

Zhang Meisun “Emblem for the Manhua Association” 漫畫會會徽 November, 1927.

Table of Contents

List of Tables
List of Figures

Abstract
Acknowledgements
Epigraph

Introduction

Chapter 1 : War, What Is It Good For?

Ye Qianyu: The Student
Ji Xiaobo: The Master
Burnt Bridges and Bad Blood?

Chapter 2 : The Ties That Bind

Ding Song: The Grandfather
Zhang Guangyu: The Godfather
Lu Shaofei: The Portraitist’s Son

Chapter 3 : Wild Cards

Wang Dunqing: The Boy Scout
Huang Wennong: The Missionary’s Son
Hu Xuguang: The Lumberjack

Chapter 4 : Come Together

The Shot Heard Round the Bund
An Unexpected Party
The Northern Expedition

Chapter 5 : The Breaking of the Fellowship

Shanghai Sketch I
Dr. Fix-It and the Pioneer Syndicate
Shanghai Sketch II

Chapter 6 : The Legacy

Birth of the Modern
The Manhua Boom
Censorship and War

Conclusion

Bibliography
Appendix: Tables

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  1. I also totally accidentally nuked the whole site while moving it to a new host last week and only barely managed to bring it back through a combination of an old back-up and  Google cache. The Lord of Light is merciful. []

Ming Dynasty Looney Tunes: Journey to the West in Popular Culture

Inspired by the tragedy of missing Eileen Chow’s presentation on Monkey King cartoons, here is the full text of my talk on pop culture adaptations of Journey to the West for everyone who wasn’t able to make it to our panel at AAS 2016 in Seattle this past weekend, The Construction of Xiyouji in the Sinographic Cosmopolis and Beyond. Some of these will already be familiar to readers of this blog, but others will (hopefully) be new:

Cut off my head and I’ll still go on talking,
Lop off my arms and I’ll sock you another.
Chop off my legs and I’ll carry on walking,
Carve up my guts and I’ll put them together.
[…] To bath in hot oil is really quite nice,
A warm tub that makes all the dirt gone.

Journey to the West, Chapter 46 (translated by W.J.F. Jenner, Foreign Language Press)

So speaks Sun Wukong, better known in English as the Monkey King, after Monkey, British sinophile Arthur Waley’s enduring early 20th century translation of Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West 西游记. Thanks to Waley’s judicious to abridgement of the massive Ming dynasty novel into a much shorter and (arguably) more readable novel, for a time at least The Great Sage was able to enjoy an equal measure of fame both at home and abroad. Although the novel is less well known today, nearly a century later, Monkey has many ways found an even greater success—as a cartoon character.

Monkey, 1st edition cover [front]

Monkey, 1st edition cover [back]

1st Edition Hardcover of Arthur Waley’s translation of Monkey (George Allen & Unwin, 1942) designed by Duncan Grant [back]

To my knowledge, no systematic study of Monkey King comics, cartoons, animations, plays, live action TV dramas, movies, etc. has ever been attempted. Perhaps the task is too daunting, or perhaps it seems redundant, given the very ubiquity of Monkey King merchandise and media already flooding the Chinese marketplace–especially in year of monk-orological significance, Anno Simian. At times I even suspect that stronger emotions may be at play: as one friend (Chinese American, but also an American living in China) put it when I mentioned that I was writing a paper on the topic, “Oh god, which of the eight million versions are you going to do?”

 

image005
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Manga Formosa: The Wild World of Taiwanese Comics

The following is a sneak peak of a talk I have been invited to give later this month for the Center for Chinese Research at the University of British Columbia. If you are interested in the topic and happen to find yourself in Vancouver, the talk will be Monday, February 29, 12-2pm in Room 120 of the C.K. Choi Building.

Although comics and cartoons (known in Mandarin as manhua) have existed as form of popular entertainment in Taiwan for at least a century, in comparison to Japanese manga they are almost completely unknown to your everyday English-speaking comics fan. Fortunately, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of China has been working to rectify this situation through their web-based marketing effort Books from Taiwan, which just last month released samples of twelve award-winning works of Taiwanese cartooning (translated and lettered by yours truly). In addition to the website, which includes over 300 pages of high quality PDFs and background information available to download free of charge, Books from Taiwan has also printed a shorter, 70-page condensed version of the same project to be handed out at book fairs and comic cons:

books-from-taiwan-III_comics

Understandably, I’m pretty stoked about this project. Here are quick summaries of the twelve books I was hired to translate and letter, with links to the sample chapters on Books from Taiwan, plus one that was done by the publisher:

1. Chang Sheng’s 常勝 post-apocalyptic thriller BABY

BABY_web_10
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The Man from River South Spoiler Free Character Map

As part of a translation project I’m working on, I took it upon myself to draw up a character map for Hai Yan’s 海宴 epic wuxia novel The Man From River South 琅琊榜  (aka Nirvana in Fire aka Langyabang). I’ve deleted (most) of the spoilers, leaving in the information which will help people watching the tv show on Viki follow along (click to see the full size version):

LANGYABANG-Spoiler-Free-Character-Map

Keep an eye out, I should have more news on this project soon!1

  1. Also, my much anticipated MA thesis defense has finally been scheduled for later this month (woohoo!) and a 70+ page book of translated comics samples for Books from Taiwan is at the printer and will soon be online as well! I haven’t had much time for this site recently, but hopefully that will change soon… []

Coming Attractions: Six Translations of Chinese Comics for the Summer and Fall of 2015

As many of you already know, I am on track to graduate from the Department of Asian Studies at UBC with my Masters degree in August. After a lot hand wringing, I’ve decided to take a year off from graduate school to devote myself to translation and other projects. I’m not sure if I will continue on to a PhD at the end of the year or not.

The good news: I’m still head over heels in love with Chinese comics, and plan to continue blogging and tweeting far, far into the foreseeable future. Here are the Chinese manhua and lianhuanhua that I plan to translate over the next six months to a year, depending other obligations (like eating,  sleeping, paying the rent, etc) that life throws my way. Also, if you have any suggestions for future projects, or would like to donate to support my translations, there is a page for that now!

xiaolingtong

1. Smarty Pants Visits the Future 小靈通漫遊未來

Adapted by Pan Caiying 潘彩英 from the original 1978 story by Ye Yonglie 業永烈 with art by Du Jianguo 杜建國 and Mao Yongkun 毛用坤.

(Liaoning Fine Arts Press 遼寧美術出版社, May, 1980, 150 pages)

Description: Popular lianhuanhua adaptation of a groundbreaking post-Cultural Revolution sci fi story. A young boy visits the near future and learns about all of the amazing new technologies which will make life easier for the Chinese people, including smart watches, robot butlers, hover cars, and (of course) giant watermelons.

Think The Jetsons meets EPCOT as imagined by Deng Xiaoping.

 

confucius a life of crime

2. Confucius: A Life of Crime 孔老二 罪恶一生

Xiao Gan 萧甘 with art by Gu Bingxin 顾炳鑫 and He Youzhi 贺友直

(People’s Press Shanghai 上海人民出版社, June, 1974, 23 pages)

Description: This short comic was produced towards the end of the Cultural Revolution as part of the 1974 “Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius” campaign launched by the Gang of Four. Sharply critical of the ancient philosopher whose teachings (or interpretations thereof) have come to be seen as foundational to Sinophone countries, this irreverent look at the man from Qufu is one of the more light-hearted products of the disastrous Cultural Revolution.

Think O Brother Where Art Thou meets The Devil’s Dictionary as imagined by Christopher Hitchens.

 

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Imperial Chinese Avengers is a Thing: Four Chinese Superhero Mashups

The Avengers franchise and superhero films in general are big business in China, with the first film of the series earning Marvel and Disney some 567 million RMB [$91.6 million USD] when it was released in mainland movie theaters in 2012,1 with $17.4 million of that coming in on just the first day.2 Given the popularity of the film in the Middle Kingdom, perhaps it isn’t surprising to see cartoonists both here in North America and over in China attempting to “sinicize” 漢化 the heroes. Here are four examples I’ve come across in the last week.

 

1. Avengers of Imperial China by micQuestion

the_avengers_of_imperial_china_by_micquestion-d66c2tb

Source: http://micquestion.deviantart.com/art/The-Avengers-of-Imperial-China-373438271

Created in January, 2012, for a contest on CBR, micQuestion’s version features The Immortal Captain, Invincible Iron Mandarin, Mighty Thunder, and the Emerald Mountain.

2. Peking Opera Avengers by Gene Luen Yang

Captain-America

Captain America

Iron-Man2

Iron Man

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  1. http://www.sarft.gov.cn/articles/2013/01/11/20130111112329420341.html []
  2. http://deadline.com/2012/05/avengers-now-260-5m-overseas-could-reach-585m-worldwide-through-sunday-with-u-s-canada-russia-china-openings-265455/ []