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. 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. 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. 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. 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.).  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. 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.” Writing in his particularly bombastic style in late 1924, Lu Xun concluded,