Huang Shan: Ten Years of Studying Chinese and Making Comics

This morning I realized that September marked my tenth year of studying Chinese. It’s put me in something of a reflective mood, so bear with me while I reminisce (or feel free to go watch this video of a porcupine eating pumpkins instead).

Ten years ago I had just started my third year of community college, where I was completing computer science pre reqs. Comp sci was a bit of a stretch for me, nerd though I am, since I’ve never had a very good grasp of math.1 So the simple answer I give for why I switched majors to Chinese is that I flunked out of calculus. (Although it might be just as fair to say I flunked calculus because I was studying Chinese.)

I’ve always liked computers though, for making obscure information accessible—being able to Telnet to my local library was just about the coolest thing ever, and I’m probably one of the only people in the whole world who’ve read Encarta CD-ROM encyclopedia from end to end. (Before that, all I had was a set of 1968 World Books that didn’t mention the Civil Rights movement.) After that it was Geocities and Livejournal and—glory of glories—Wikipedia.

Chinese started out as a whim, based on the fact that I had read that it was one of the harder non-European languages. Comp sci required me take two years of a foreign language, and despite the fact I’d already spent a year in Germany, and studied several years of Spanish and French, I wanted to challenge myself to learn something further removed from English. And, as a bonus, back in 2005, China was in the news in big way and it seemed like picking up a basic competency would be a good way to improve my future job prospects.

More broadly, I think I was also attracted to the idea of finding an unknown place. Robinson Crusoe was one of my favorite books growing up, along with The Little Prince, and the movie version of Lawrence of Arabia. My dad had spent a gap year bicycling around Europe back in the 1970s, and I think that inspired me in a big way, too. And then while I was living in Europe myself I got into the Beats—Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Burroughs, especially. When I got back to the States I became obsessed with the idea of radical simplicity, thanks in large part to the pamphlet Fighting for Our Lives which an ex-girlfriend had sent me. I dropped out of school and moved to an organic farm on the East Coast, where I spent a year trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life.

Eventually I got the idea of trying to backpack from Bangkok to Yunnan, but ended up running out of money in Phnom Penh. After a couple of desperate months teaching English in Cambodia I’d decided it was time to go home and try something new. It’s a fun story to tell now, but at the time I remember being absolutely terrified. I was broke, and I’d become convinced that my family was going to end up footing the bill to life flight me home after getting into a traffic accident or worse.  It wasn’t an especially rational fear, I’ll acknowledge, but in hindsight it got me thinking about the fact that privilege it not really something you get to accept or reject. Privilege is about family, it’s about where you are born, the way you speak, not just the way you interact with the world, but the way the world interacts with you.

So I would like to think that dedicating my life to studying (and now translating) Chinese has been about continuing to work from a position of privilege to create social change. The ideological struggle of the 21st century is arguably cultural homogeneity vs heterogeneity. A Starbucks on every corner and an iPhone in every home, but also bubble tea and taco trucks on every other corner and Chinese and Korean and Latin American science fiction in every home, too.  I think this ties into the fight against climate change, which is really only the second existential global crisis we’ve faced (the first being the atom bomb). Fossil fuels and the infrastructure that supports their extraction and consumption are the epitome of big business. But cultural production and consumption (arguably) represent a different kind of business, one that is potentially much more sustainable given how many humans we have running around on the planet these days.

We’ve been given an amazing gift of a brain that thinks and learns and yet most of us spend our time engaged in mundane tasks, buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have.2 And even worse, we’re destroying the planet to do it.

I’d like to think that we can turn the corner on this thing, and that my small contribution will be measured in words and pictures, rather than in dollars and carbon. There is no shortage of coverage of China in the news, but so little of it is of real substance.  The average American doesn’t understand China because they don’t ever get a chance to. China isn’t tea and Beijing opera and kung fu, nor is it smog, corruption, and a growing income gap—or rather, it is all those things, but also a lot of other things, too. Real Chinese voices are diverse. They don’t always agree with each other. A great number of them don’t even live in China.

So, in the spirit of sharing an alternative voice, and something I made, rather than bought (just in time for Christmas too!) I tracked down an old project of mine that’s been sitting in a desk drawer for the last couple of years. (There are also a couple dozen print copies floating around, and at one point you could check it out from the Multnomah county zine library. Alas no more.)

At the end of my first year studying abroad in Harbin, I lucked out and got to spend a month seeing the sights with my fellow China nerd, Oregonian, and BFF Kim. Kim had been planning the trip with Martin, a German China nerd who she met in Beijing, and they were generous enough to let me tag along. We climbed mountains, visited Qufu, where Confucius was born and buried, toured the Tsingtao factory, and got lost in Shanghai. In short, it was the kind of trip you can only have when you’re in your early twenties and have China on the brain.

Two years later I self-published a short comic about one of the more memorable incidents from the trip, on Huang Shan (aka Yellow Mountain):

huang-shan-cover

huang-shan-page-2 huang-shan-page-3 huang-shan-page-4 huang-shan-page-5 huang-shan-page-6 huang-shan-page-7 huang-shan-page-8 huang-shan-page-9  huang-shan-page-11

huang-shan-page-10 huang-shan-page-12 huang-shan-page-13 huang-shan-page-14 huang-shan-page-15

Okay, so maybe not a masterpiece, I admit! But I’ve been thinking a lot about this comic lately, and the spirit of generosity that went into it. I didn’t make any money from it, but I made a lifelong friend—Nim, the founder of Research Club, was sitting next to me at the Portland Zine Symposium and we bonded over stories of misspent youth and art making. That led to a whole circle of artists and zinesters that I ended up spending my last year in Portland with, before heading back to China in 2010.

My second Chinese experience was amazing too, in a different way—I got back together with Ding, and we built a life together in Shanghai. I had my first adult job, with suits and everything! But I also made sacrifices that I didn’t need to make. I mostly stopped drawing and writing comics.3  Life got simpler, but it didn’t get easier. Going back to school was a part of that process of finding a way to make a living but not let the bastards grind me down, so to speak.4

I feel lucky for all of the opportunities that studying Chinese has given me, especially now that I find myself (miraculously) gainfully employed as a translator of Chinese comics and sci-fi, among other things. I don’t think I would have predicted that I would end up here, though, and it’s hard to say how long it will last. Sometimes I feel like life is more about finding out what you don’t want to do that it is about finding what you do want to do (or can make a living doing). I used to think that once you found it you were done, but now I’m starting to realize that it’s a constant process, shaped not only by opportunity and privilege, but by consciously spending your time doing this and not that.

It’s about finding that big thing and seeing where it takes you.

 

  1. I also mix up left and right, and can’t read music or follow dance steps to save my life, meaning like most left brainers scarred by years of math classes I probably have a mild case of dyscalculia. []
  2. To quote St. Carlin []
  3. I’ve actually been making comics since high school, but I when I stopped I was in my mid-twenties. So the ‘ten years’ in the title of this blog post refers to two separate, but overlapping periods of my life. []
  4. To quote St. Atwood. []

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 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?”

 

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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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Zhang Guangyu’s Manhua Journey to the West (1945) – Part 6 of 6

Zhang Guangyu’s 張光宇 (1900-1965) overlooked masterpiece, Manhua Journey to the West 西遊漫記 was originally created in the fall of 1945 while Zhang was living in the wartime capital of Chongqing. Deeply critical of the ruling KMT government, it was eventually banned and did not see print for another 13 years. For the sake of introducing Zhang’s out-of-print work to a larger audience, I’ve taken the liberty of translating the entire 60 page comic into English.

In the final part of this 6 part translation, the pilgrims have just escaped from the forces of False Qin and are sitting down to rest when a “black force” 黑气 approaches and steals their shadows. The black force is revealed to have come from the nearby the “black market” 黑市场, a shadowy realm of ghosts and demons guarded by a giant cat with one eye open and the other eye closed. Mice are said to be flowing into and out of a hole in the wall of the market, “like cars speeding back and forth on a motorway.” Eventually the pilgrims’ shadows make their way into the market where they immediately fall into a slimy pond full of talking carp who tell them to, “Seek profits! Seek profits!” They are rescued by a giant skeletal hand only to find themselves facing the “Spirit of Idle Capital” in the “Hall of Laughter and Curses.” The spirit takes a fancy to Zhu Bajie and follows his shadow back into the human realm to take over his body. Zhu Bajie then apparently abandons his body, somehow tricking the spirit.1 Once back in the human realm, Tripitaka asks Monkey to find some food and water for him. Monkey manages to find a stream inside a cave, but just as he is about to fill a kettle with water, a three-headed dragon appears and challenges him to a riddle…

1945张光宇_西游漫记 (52)

51. 那 四个影子再往前走几步,却被一堵城墙挡住,只是寻觅不着一个城门,正在迟疑间,忽然墙边有淅索之声,接着发现那 边有个小窟窿,许多耗子钻进钻出,好像马 路上的汽车一样驶来驶去,在另一个角落里却见有一对猫眼睛,一只眼开,一只眼闭,好像马路上的红绿灯一样,四个影子上前打问:“警察先生,请问如何入 城?”话还没说完,早被那猫脚爪猛的一掌,打进了城。

The four shadows walked another few steps, but found themselves blocked by the city wall. No matter how hard they looked they weren’t able to find the gate. Just as they found themselves in a state of befuddlement, they heard a pitter pattering sound, so they looked around and discovered there was a hole through which a multitude of mice were passing, like cars speeding back and forth on a motorway. To one side there was a pair of cat-eyes, one open and the other closed, appearing for all the world to be nothing else than a pair of traffic signals. The four shadows went forward to ask, “Mr. Police Officer, please, can you tell us how to get into the city?” Before they had finished asking their question, the cat had snatched them up with violent movement of his claws and pulled them into the city.

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52. 四 个影子被打进城去,不偏不倚正跌中在一个混水潭里,四下乱摸,尽是泥浆,腥臭难闻,冰冷透骨,摸来摸去终摸不到岸边,大家却摸着几条鲤鱼,鱼在手中却能作 人言曰:“得利!得利!”吓得他们又惊又喜,正在这时上面伸下一只枯骨大手,一捞便连鱼带影捞出水面,顺手又把他们送进一个骷髅嘴里,直吞下肚。

The four shadows were pulled into the city, and without exception dumped into a pond. Feeling about in every which way, there was only mud, and an unpleasant fishy smell. The icy-cold water penetrated to their bones, and feeling this way and that they were still unable to find the shore. They did, however, find several carp, who they discovered were able to speak upon touch human hands, saying, “Seek profits! Seek profits!” This both shocked and pleased the shadows. Just then, a dried-up skeletal hand reached into the pond and pulled both the fish and shadows out of the water, carrying them to the mouth of a skeleton which immediately swallowed them whole.

 

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53. 他们四个便在肚中游历,东张西望,只见黄金满屋,珠宝无数,美钞堆积,法币铺地,东边百货,西边食量,客所中悬有横额曰:“笑骂堂”,两边骨柱上有一联 云: “要钱且先伸手,不贪何来污名?”八戒看了,甚是赞赏,忽然从骨缝里冒出青磷磷一个幽灵,自称:“吾乃游资之魂” 今欲投个凡胎,寻个对象!”言时目注八戒影子,嘻嘻的笑着,直扑将过来。

The four shadows made a tour of the skeleton’s bowels, looking all around. The room was piled full of gold, and limitless pearls and jewels, piles of American dollars, French francs scattered across the floor; a quantity of various goods to the east, foodstuffs to the west. In the main hall, a hanging tablet read, “Hall of Laughter and Curses,” while the two pillars on either side of the hall bore a paired couplet which read, “If you want money, you just need to stretch out your hand. / Without greed where does a dirty name come from?” When Bajie saw this, he was full of admiration. Suddenly, a phosphorus ghost emerged from a crack in the bones, saying, “I am the Spirit of Idle Capital! Today I want to find a fetus to be reborn into, to find a partner!” As he was speaking, he eyed Bajie’s shadow, laughing happily, and rushed over.

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Zhang Guangyu’s Manhua Journey to the West (1945) – Part 4 of 6

Zhang Guangyu’s 張光宇 (1900-1965) overlooked masterpiece, Manhua Journey to the West 西遊漫記 was originally created in the fall of 1945 while Zhang was living in the wartime capital of Chongqing. Deeply critical of the ruling KMT government, it was eventually banned and did not see print for another 13 years. For the sake of introducing Zhang’s out-of-print work to a larger audience, I’ve taken the liberty of translating the entire 60 page comic into English and will be posting it in installments on my blog over the next several weeks.

In part 4 of this 6 part translation, Monkey narrowly avoids a full-body haircut only to land on the giant Peach of Immortality, where he finds himself surrounded by dancing immortals and fairies. Monkey concludes that he has somehow arrived back at the Southern Heavenly Gates. Princess Iron Fan appears in the middle of the festivities and asks Monkey to dance and rather surprisingly, given his characteristic lack of interest in the opposite sex in the original novel, he agrees. After their dance, Princess Iron Fan leads Monkey into the garden to “whisper sweet nothings among the grapevines.” Just when things are starting to heat up though, an unpleasant surprise soon cools Monkey’s ardor…

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31.   悟空从那美女剪刀下挣扎脱身,踉踉跄跄逃出门外,回头一看见有“美发宫”三个字写着,他方[才?]明白道:“老孙的毫毛根根都有用处,如果把他剃净岂不难看,而且 世界哪有光皮猴孙,幸亏老孙机警逃得出来,否则就大上其当了!”说着他倒反而得意起来,反背着手洋洋地沿走廊踱过去,忽然脚底下的地板自己转动起来,一霎 时像旋转乾坤般的转得孙猴儿头昏眼花,手足无措,翻了不知多少筋斗。

Sun Wukong wrestled free from the woman with the scissors, stumbling and staggering out of the door, he looked back to see the words, “Palace Hairdressers,” leading him to say, “Every hair of Sun Wukong’s downy fur has its use, if you shaved me bare, wouldn’t I look terrible? Besides, who’s ever heard of a hairless monkey? Good thing that the vigilant Sun managed to escape, otherwise I would have fallen into her trap!” Having said this, he began to feel full of himself, strolling down the corridor with his hands clasped behind him, smiling contentedly, when suddenly the floor beneath his feet swiveled and with a whoosh! Sun Wukong spun around like a yin yang sign, leaving him dizzy with blurred vision. He was completely helpless, somersaulting into the void who knows how many times.

 

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32. 转动渐渐的和缓下来,悟空耳朵边听得音乐幽扬,觉得身子又滑进一个地方,又听见拍手喝彩的声音:“好一个偷桃的猴子来了!”睁眼一看原来置身在一只大蟠桃 上,四面环绕着诸天大罗神仙,上面端坐着西王母仙驾,恍然悟到:“怎么又会来到南天门咧?”一下子一列彩衣仙女围着蟠桃又跳起舞来。

The spinning gradually lessened, and Wukong began to hear the wafting melodies of music. He perceived that he had arrived in a new place, hearing the sound of applause: “A peach stealing monkey has arrived!” Wukong opened his eyes to discover that he was lying on top of a peach of immortality, surrounded from four sides by gargantuan Daoist immortals, headed by the Queen Mother of the West. Suddenly becoming aware of where he was, Wukong said to himself, “How come I’m back at the Southern Heavenly Gates again?” In a flash, a row of fairy maidens in colorful gowns surrounded the peach of immortality and began to dance.

 

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33.  彩衣仙女舞罢,又是一阵掌声,音乐转换调子,众仙翁仙姑都一对对拥抱着作蝴蝶仙舞,其间
南极仙翁与何仙姑舞得尤其精彩。

When the fairy maidens had finished dancing, there was another burst of applause, and tune changed, and each of the elderly immortals was paired with a female immortal, pressing close together and doing the Butterfly Dance of the Immortals. Among them, the immortal of the South Pole and the fairy maiden He were particularly splendid dancers.

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Zhang Guangyu’s Manhua Journey to the West (1945) – Part 3 of 6

Zhang Guangyu’s 張光宇 (1900-1965) overlooked masterpiece, Manhua Journey to the West 西遊漫記 was originally created in the fall of 1945 while Zhang was living in the wartime capital of Chongqing. Deeply critical of the ruling KMT government, it was eventually banned and did not see print for another 13 years. For the sake of introducing Zhang’s out-of-print work to a larger audience, I’ve taken the liberty of translating the entire 60 page comic into English and will be posting it in installments on my blog over the next several weeks.

In part 2 of this 6 part translation, Monkey and Zhu Bajie run into Lady Mengjiang, who husband has been forced to labor on the wall.1 Monkey promises to seek vengeance and with the help of a crow monster, he and Zhu Bajie are able to track down the Crested Falcon. A battle takes place and Monkey handily dispatches his foe, freeing his master and Brother Sand.  The four pilgrims continue on the “City of Sweet Dreams” 梦得快乐城2 above which floats the Pharaoh’s spectacular palace of air balloons, the Epang Palace 阿房宫.3 The mayor of the City of Sweet Dreams agrees to take the four pilgrims up into the Epang Palace in an elevator, but Monkey is impatient, so he flies ahead on his magic cloud only to find himself face to face with an army of monsters and, possibly even worse, hairdressers…

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21. 孙 悟空朱八戒走在前面,行了一程,只不见师傅与沙和尚随来,心中有些疑惑,孙猴知道有变,一个筋斗云翻上半空,四面一望,并无动静,但见半山腰有一白衣女子 正在哭哭啼啼的喊:“好命苦,我的丈夫,今番又被拉去当壮丁,叫我如何过活呀!……”十分凄切,悟空踏住云脚,翻身落地,上前打问,原来她叫孟姜女,她的 丈夫范杞良是万年老丁,回为没有钱今番又被鸦鸦鸟们奉了毛尖鹰之命强拉去当新丁!孙猴听了,十分愤怒道:“我齐天大圣与你们报仇!”孟姜女拜谢不已。

Sun Wukong and Zhu Bajie went ahead, but they couldn’t find their master or Brother Sand, so they began to feel uneasy. Sun Wukong knew that something was the matter, so he jumped on his magical cloud and sprang up into the sky, looking all around, but no one was out and about. Then all of a sudden halfway up the mountain he saw a woman in white, sobbing and crying out, “Life is so unfair, today my husband was taken away to be conscripted, how can I ever go on!?” Completely at a loss, Sun Wukong stopped his cloud, and turned around to coast to earth. Going up to ask her what was up, he found out she was called Lady Meng Jiang. Her husband, Fan Qiliang, was an old laborer of many years, but because he didn’t have any money he was once again conscripted by the Crow-crow Birds to become a new laborer! Upon hearing this, Sun Wukong was filled with rage and said, “I, the Great Sage Equal of Heaven will take revenge on your behalf!” Whereupon Lady Meng Jiang thanked him profusely.

 

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22. 且说朱八戒在地面上四处探寻师傅的下落,却一无所得,正在纳闷,忽然路边踱来一只鸟鸦小黑精,嘻皮笑脸的,八戒喝住道:“你见到两个和尚否?”小黑精答道: “有的,有的,听说已经陷入地牢。”八戒问道:“有何解救办法?”小黑精打手作势意思要钱,八戒会意,连说:“这有何难,要多少便与你多少!”

Meanwhile, Zhu Bajie was looking all around for their master’s whereabouts, but he had come up empty handed. At his wits end, a little black crow monster came strolling past, laughing and smiling, so Zhu Bajie shouted at him, “Have you seen two monks?” The little black monster replied, “I sure have. I heard that they’ve already been put in the underground prison.” Bajie asked him, “Is there any way that I can rescue them?” The little black monster made a gesture with his hand, indicating he wanted money. Bajie caught his drift right away, saying, “What’s the big deal? However much you want, I’ll give it to you!”

 

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23. 两 个正在谈得合缝,半空中孙悟空懊丧而回,八戒高兴道:“有着落了。”……于是悟空八戒随着小黑精同去辨理“赎丁”手续。行至一处,只见一连串的人,被众鸟 鸦精牵着,绳捆钱锁,郎当而行,正见三藏师傅与沙僧也杂在中间,悟空见了咆哮一声叫:“众小妖们慢走!”举起金箍捧[棒?]见一个黑精便打死一个,打得满地是黑 尸,像打翻了炭篓子一样。

Just as the two of them were finishing their deal, a despondent Sun Wukong suddenly appeared. Bajie happily said, “I know where they are.” Whereupon Sun Wukong, Bajie, and the little black monster all went together to redeem the captives. They arrived in a place where they saw a linked chain of laborers being leady by the Crow-Crow bird monsters. The prisoners were all tied together, making their dispirited way. Upon seeing that Tripitaka and Brother Sand had been mixed in with the rest, as well, Sun Wukong let out a roar and said, “Not so fast you little demons!” Taking up his golden-banded staff, he struck dead every black monster he saw, until the ground was covered with black corpses, exactly as if he had overturned a basket of coal.

 

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24. 悟 空救了三藏沙和尚及众弱丁,一不做,二不休,一路打进毛尖鹰的衙门来,毛尖鹰急披甲带胄,提枪出阵迎战,两个斗了三十余回合,毛尖鹰有些抵挡不住,急摇身 一变,往空中一纵,现出三头六臂,手持各式刑具,扑将过来;这里孙大圣那里肯示弱,也显出本领,现出三头六臂的巨神,手中有一件宝器,叫做“众心铁链正义弹”抛将过去,果然把那恶魔毁灭了。

Wukong saved Tripitaka, Brother Sand, and the many powerless laborers as well. In for a penny, in for a pound, he battled his way into the office of the Crested Falcon who hurriedly put on armor and donned his helmet, picking up a gun to go out and meet his enemy. The two battled for thirty rounds, but the Crested Falcon was outmatched, so he shook his head and grew up into the sky, appearing before them as a giant being with three heads, and six arms. In his hands he held a variety of implements, which he threw at Wukong. Not wanting to appear weak, the Great Sage Su Wukong also showed off his abilities, likewise turning into a giant with three heads and six arms, two of which held a jeweled device called “The Righteous Cannonball of the Iron Chain of the Hearts of the Masses.” With this weapon he was able to destroy the monster Crested Falcon.

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  1. This is a famous Chinese legend whose origins can be found in the Zuozhuan commentary to the Spring and Autumn Annals, compiled in the third or fourth century BC. See Wilt Idema’s Meng Jiangnü Brings Down the Great Wall : Ten Versions of a Chinese Legend. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008. []
  2. In his 1958 introduction to the print version, Zhang comments that the City of Sweet Dreams was meant to be stand-in for the “decadent and dissolute life in the interior during the war.” A somewhat garbled translation is available here. []
  3. This is the name of a famously grandiose palace which Qin Shihuang began construction on in 212 BC but was never completed. See Lukas Nickel, “The First Emperor and Sculpture in China,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 76, no. 03 (October 2013): 26. []

Zhang Guangyu’s Manhua Journey to the West (1945) – Part 2 of 6

Zhang Guangyu’s 張光宇 (1900-1965) overlooked masterpiece, Manhua Journey to the West 西遊漫記 was originally created in the fall of 1945 while Zhang was living in the wartime capital of Chongqing. Deeply critical of the ruling KMT government, it was eventually banned and did not see print for another 13 years. For the sake of introducing Zhang’s out-of-print work to a larger audience, I’ve taken the liberty of translating the entire 60 page comic into English and will be posting it in installments on my blog over the next several weeks.

In part 2 of this 6 part translation, Tripitaka and his three disciples, Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy find themselves in the Kingdom of Paper Money, where advances in agricultural production have made it possible to grow money to replace gold and silver. 1 When the the rulers of the Kingdom of Paper Money, Emperor Xizong 熙宗皇帝2 and his wife, Empress Dai Ling 黛玲皇后 discover Zhu Bajie’s special ability, however, they quickly hatch a plan to make the most of this ‘golden opportunity.’ Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Ey-qin, 埃秦 the Pharaoh3 has dispatched his most trusted advisor, the Crested Falcon 毛尖鹰4 to build a Great Wall of Ten Thousand Li with the help of the cruel “Crow-crow Birds”…

 

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11. 正在闹轰轰,忽然远处气喘喘急步跑来一个人,手持武器喝声:“强盗!敢犯国法,你们休要偷我们的钞票!”大家急得连声说:“抱歉!抱歉!过路只不知底细,未曾问过明白,请教!请教”后来经这个人解释,原来这里是“纸币国”境界,他是看守纸币的围警,纸币可代金银使用,经国王数度改革,现在已由工业生产进至农业生产,全国遍种“纸币”可供大量使用,十分便利。

Just as they were making an uproar, suddenly a breathless person came running over, a weapon in his hands. He shouted, “Bandits! You dare violate the law of land! Don’t even think about stealing our money!” Everyone hurriedly shouted, “Sorry! Sorry! We were just passing by and didn’t know what was what, and didn’t have a chance to understand the situation, please instruct! Please instruct!” In the end, following this individual’s explanation, they learned that this was the border to the “Kingdom of Paper Money,” and that he was a paper money guard. Paper money could be used in the place of gold and silver, and following a number of reforms by the king it had advanced from industrial production to agricultural production. All over the country “paper money” was being grown to meet a massive demand, and all in all it really was rather convenient.

 

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12. 这人又道:“入境的人,可留下金银,兑换“纸币”方准过去!”三藏等觉得这辨法很好,笔录下来,留作参考,至于被八戒摇下来的一堆“纸币”,由八戒肚子里吐出黄金一锭交与围警作为兑换金,就算和平了事。

The guard continued, saying, “Those entering our borders can leave gold or silver, which can be converted to ‘paper money’! Tripitaka and the others thought this was all rather fine, and so they wrote down the sum of the pile of money shaken down by Bajie. for reference. Bajie then spat out a gold ingot which had been hidden in his stomach to exchange for the paper money and with that everything was settled.

 

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13. 朱八戒口吐黄金的消息,不到半日,早已传到纸币国京城内外,国舅杨天禄听得此情,急忙进宫去见妹子当今熙宗皇后黛玲娘娘。此时正当风和日丽,宫中鸟语花香, 只见熙宗皇帝御驾亲临百鸟亭,指手划脚正在训练众小鸟口叨纸币作出笼回笼上术,百花台上正坐着娘娘千岁,满身金饰,宝气珠光,但双眉颦蹙,含嗔带怒,似乎 有些不高兴,皇上整天只是弄着那些纸币,今见天禄笑嘻嘻迎上阶来,忙问道:“哥哥有甚快活事见告?”天禄即把朱八戒口叶[吐?]黄金的奇迹告诉了她。

In less than a half day’s time, the news of Zhu Bajie spitting up gold had reached the capital. Upon hearing this, the royal uncle, Yang Tianlu, hurriedly, went to the imperial palace to call on his younger sister, Empress Dai Ling, wife of Emperor Xizong. It was a pleasantly sunny day, with a calm wind. The palace was filled with the sound of birdsong and the fragrance of flowers. Emperor Xizong could be seen making his way to the Pavilion of Hundred Birds. Gesturing with his arms, he was training the birds to use their beaks to carry paper money in their mouths and fly in and out of their cage. Her majesty the Empress sat in the Pavilion of Blossoms, dressed in gold ornaments, with glistening jewels and shining pearls. Her eyebrows, however, were furrowed in displeasure, and her face betrayed anger. It seemed that she was rather unhappy about something. The emperor had spent the whole day playing with his paper money, so when the Empress saw Tianlu come smiling and laughing up the steps she hurriedly asked him, “Elder brother, whatever could it be that pleases you so much?” Whereupon Tianlu told her about the miracle of Zhu Bajie spitting up gold.

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  1. This is a pointed barb at the rampant inflation that was made possible after the Nationalist government took China off the silver standard in 1935 and replaced it with the ‘fabi’ 法币. When war broke out with Japan in 1937, the government began printing money to cover deficit spending. Poor harvests and the outbreak of the Pacific War exacerbated the situation, so much so that inflation averaged more than 300 per cent between 1940 and 1946. Things only got worse as the civil war dragged on, so it seems probable the 1946 banning of Manhua Journey to the West stemmed at least in part from Zhang’s blatant criticism of KMT fiscal policies. See Albert Feuerwerker, “Economic Trends, 1912-49,” in The Cambridge History of China: Republican China, 1912-1949, Pt. 1, ed. John King Fairbank and Denis Crispin Twitchett (Cambridge University Press, 1983), 113–14. []
  2. The historical Emperor Xizong (1119-1150) ruled during the short lived Jin Dynasty and oversaw campaigns against the failing Song dynasty. Another emperor whose name uses different characters, but is pronounced the same is Emperor Xizong 僖宗皇帝 (867-904), one of the final emperors of the Tang whose reign was threatened by agrarian rebellions which eventually led to the downfall of the Tang. Neither are particularly auspicious figures to be referencing. []
  3. Likely a stand-in for Sun Yat-sen. []
  4. Logically, then, this would be Chiang Kai-shek. []