Zhang Guangyu’s Manhua Journey to the West (1945) – Part 1 of 6

In my post on cartoon versions of Sun Wukong, I discussed Zhang Guangyu’s 張光宇 (1900-1965) overlooked masterpiece, Manhua Journey to the West 西遊漫記. Originally created in the fall of 1945 while Zhang was living in the wartime capital of Chongqing, Manhua Journey to the West was initially introduced to the public through a series of popular exhibitions in Chongqing,  Chengdu, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Due to both the limitations of the print industry at the time, and eventual KMT censorship, and the turmoil accompanying the founding of the PRC it was not until 1958 that a book version was finally released by the People’s Fine Arts Press 人民美術出版社出版 in Beijing. In 1998, over three decades after Zhang’s death in 1965, it was republished Shandong Pictorial Press 山東畫報出版社, and from December 25, 2012 to February 24, 2013, the original artwork was put on display in as part of a larger retrospective exhibition of Zhang’s work at the Suzhou Museum 苏州博物馆.

My own exposure to the work came several months ago while reading a recently published collection of essays dedicated to Zhang Guangyu and his works. Before reading this collection, I had primarily thought of Zhang both as a magazine editor and also as an organizer of various influential cartoonists’ organizations. Aside from several memorable covers of Modern Sketch 时代漫画and other magazines he was involved in during the 1930s, I had not seen much of his work as an artist. Fortunately, along with the essays, the editors choose to reprint examples of not only his covers, but also selections from his full color comics, including two pages from the Manhua Journey to the West. Zhang does not seem to have done much work in black in white, nor does he seem to have had much interest in doing simple gag strips. This may explain why he is less well known than cartoonists such as contemporaries Zhang Leping 张乐平 and Feng Zikai 丰子恺, whose black and white cartoons can be easily and cheaply reproduced without much loss in quality. Even online, color works tend to fair more poorly in transmission, since many colors cannot be accurately reproduced by the compressed image file formats which are most commonly used.

Not having access to the original book, or a reprint thereof, however, curiosity drove me to seek out an online version of Manhua Journey to the West. After almost giving up, I was finally able to find a Chinese-language art blog which had reposted the entire series of drawings, with the narration included as text below the image. For the sake of introducing Zhang’s out-of-print work to a larger audience, I’ve translated the 60 page text, as recorded on that blog, with a few edits for what seem to be transcription errors. Enjoy!

 

1945张光宇_西游漫记 (1)

Manhua Journey to the West: Part 1,  written and illustrated by Zhang Guangyu 張光宇

 

1945张光宇_西游漫记 (2)

1. 话说古时有个国王,掌理朝政,精明能干;有一夜梦里见历史老人手拿一个圆球,一手执着一册天书扬言道:“世界之大,无奇不有,你这小小的王国,算得了什 么?我把这球赠汝,将去仔细观看,里面自有千变万化!”言罢把球郑重递与国王,国王接过来待又问:“你这本天书也能送给我吗?”老人道:“慢来!慢来!” 说罢便不见了形迹。

It is said that in ancient times there was a king, who was capable and efficient in dealing with affairs of state; in a dream he saw Father Time carrying a sphere in one hand, and in the other a celestial tome, warning him, “In the vastness of the world, there is no limit to the extraordinary things that exist. What does your teeny tiny kingdom amount to compared to all of this? I gift this sphere unto you, study it closely, for it contains the myriad changes and the countless permutations!” His words completed, he handed the sphere to the king, who took it asking, “Will you gift your celestial tome to me as well?” Father Time said, “One thing at a time! One thing at a time!” and with that, disappeared.

 

1945张光宇_西游漫记 (3)

2. 国王从梦中惊醒,那个圆球果然还在手中,仔细一看,原来是个浑圆水晶球,上面没有什么东西可看,只见球的中心透亮发光,渐渐的显出花样来了。

The king awoke from his dream only to discover that the sphere was still in his hands. Studying it closely, he found that it was a perfectly round crystal ball, with nothing visible on its surface, aside from the fact that the center of the sphere was translucent and glowing. Slowly but surely patterns began to emerge.

 

1945张光宇_西游漫记 (4)

3. 原来是一幅“山海舆地图”,连自己的王国也发现在一个角落里。

It turns out that it was a “map of the mountains and seas,” in one corner of which he was even able to find his own kingdom.

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Wu Youru: The “First” Chinese Cartoonist

Firsts are always controversial. If the first Chinese cartoonist was the student of another, earlier cartoonist or proto-cartoonist, either by instruction or by inspiration, then he wasn’t really the first Chinese cartoonist, was he?

In a way, it all depends on how broadly or narrowly you choose to define the word “cartoon,” or kǎtōng 卡通 or “comics” mànhuà 漫畫 in Chinese. Strictly speaking, the first time the word “manhua” was used to describe a cartoon-like drawing by a Chinese artist occurred when Zheng Zhenduo 鄭振鐸 published drawings by Feng Zikai 豐子愷 under that name in the periodical Literature Weekly 文學周刊  in 1925. Most scholars agree however that Feng’s work represents a synthesis of earlier works. Geremie R. Barmé, for example, has found particularly strong stylistic and thematic resemblances to the popular Japanese artist Takehisa Yumeji 竹久夢二 (1884-1934) whose work Feng was exposed to while studying abroad for 10 months in 1921.1

Chinese scholars Bi Keguan 畢克官 and Huang Yuanlin 黃遠林, meanwhile, have “[traced] a genealogy back to such pre-modern proto-cartoons as stone etchings (shike 石刻) from the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 CE) and humorous brush paintings from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).”2 These stone etchings were likely based on earlier works in more ephemeral media, like wood or paper, which themselves would have found inspiration in the oral tradition.

In short, it’s cartoonists all the way down.

More importantly, perhaps, as Tom Gunning points out in his landmark essay on “the first” fictional and comedic film (the Lumiere brothers’ L’Arroseur arrosé), the whole process of arguing over who is standing on whose shoulders can get in the way of looking at things which really matter, or as he puts it, “the issues history involves.” Even so, Gunning makes a good argument for paying attention to so-called “firsts” not so much out of respect for their chronological precedence, but instead to consider the ways in which they set a precedent for works yet to come:

“Firsts” are the bane of film history. Not only are they usually dubious (given how many films have disappeared), they also obscure the issues history involves. If this Lumiere film has a significance for the history and theory of film comedy…that significance comes precisely from the films that came after it, from the way it set up a widely imitated prototype.3

In this spirit, I think a strong argument can be made that it was not until the last decade of the 18th century that works which meaningfully anticipate manhua began to emerge, and that moreover the most influential “cartoonist” during this time period was the mysterious Wu Youru 吳友如 (1841-5?-1893?), one the most prolific “newspainters” of the late-Qing who created illustrations for the Dianshizhai Pictorial 點石齋畫報, published by the British entrepreneur Ernest Major’s 美查 Dianshizhai lithographic press4 in Shanghai from May 8, 1884, to August 16, 1898.5

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  1. Geremie Barmé, An Artistic Exile: A Life of Feng Zikai (1898-1975) (University of California Press, 2002), pp. 52–71. []
  2. Christopher Rea, ‘He’ll Roast All Subjects That May Need the Roasting’, in Asian Punches – A Transcultural Affair, ed. by Hans Harder and Barbara Mittler, pp. 389–422 (p. 392); Keguan Bi [毕克官], 黄远林 and Yuanlin Huang, Zhongguo manhua shi 中國漫畫史 [A History of Manhua in China] (Beijing: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 1986), Beijing. []
  3. Tom Gunning, ‘Crazy Machines in the Garden of Forking Paths: Mischief Gags and the Origins of American Film Comedy’, in Classical Hollywood Comedy, ed. by Kristine Brunovska Karnick and Henry Jenkins (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 87–105 (p. 88). []
  4. itself a part of the larger press, Shenbaoguan 申報館, responsible for the first newspaper in China, the Shenbao 申報 []
  5. Wagner, Rudolf G., ‘Joining the Global Imaginaire’, in Joining the Global Public: Word, Image, and City in Early Chinese Newspapers, 1870-1910 (SUNY Press, 2012), p. 131. It should be noted that Ernest Major himself left Shanghai in 1889, at which time the Shenbaoguan, and the Dianshizhai along with it, came under new management. Wu Youru left the press around the same time to start his own illustrated periodical, the Feiyingge Pictorial 飛影閣畫報. []

Putting 25 Years of Silence in Context with Comics and Animation

The Tiananmen Square Massacre is an incredibly difficult topic to discuss without getting smeared with the brush of anti-CCP demagogue or, alternately, pro-CCP apologist.1 The modern Chinese historian Jeff Wasserstrom has argued that the term “Tiananmen Square Massacre” itself is something of a misnomer, given that most sources seems to agree that most (if not all) deaths occurred in the streets of Beijing rather than the square itself.2 Perhaps for this reason, the Chinese term is the much more neutral 6/4 六四, not unlike 9/11 in English. Meanwhile the iconic image of the Tank Man, together with student leader Chai Ling’s 柴玲 heart-rending (albeit unsubstantiated) account of seeing students flattened by tanks in the Square, has overshadowed the much more numerous deaths caused by PLA gunfire. Equally critical, is the fact that workers and inhabitants of Beijing stood up and were killed along with the students, and that Beijing wasn’t the only city which experienced massive unrest: Shanghai experienced worker strikes and student walkouts, as did Wuhan, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Nanjing, Chengdu, and likely other cities as well.3

Unsurprisingly, the protests and crackdown remain sensitive topics in the PRC even today. More surreal, perhaps, is the fact that many younger Chinese know almost nothing about them and those that do often have little interest in discussing them:

Tiananmen Square: On This Site, in 1989, Nothing Happened

Simpsons Episode 12 “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” Season 16, aired March 13, 2005.

 

This contrasts starkly with the situation abroad, where China is perhaps best known for the events of June 4, 1989. As a student of modern Chinese cultural history I find myself intensely conflicted about talking about 6/4. On the one hand, as a historian, I recognize that history should be a neutral, “true record” of events as they actually occurred, something which often conflicts with the desires of nation states and political parties to paint their pasts in the brightest colors possible. 4

On the other hand, as someone who is passionate about Chinese literature and culture,  I often find myself frustrated with the extent to which the discourse on China is dominated by 6/4. Chinese literature in translation, in particular, seems to be almost singularly restricted to works which are “banned in China.”5 This leads to a very skewed perspective on Chinese popular culture in North America, which is in many ways every bit as vibrant (and trashy) as popular culture anywhere else in the world. Romance, horrormystery, and sci-fi are all thriving, both on the internet and in bookstores. And even “serious literature” is thriving, too: two of the most popular novels in translation are 1984 and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

And as Maggie Greene points out in her recent post on the surprisingly warm reception her Star Wars comic received on the internet last week, there have been other, earlier periods of “thaw” in censorship, particularly during early 1960s following the Great Leap Forward, and again in the 1980s, after the Cultural Revolution. 6

I think this is a much larger issue than just 6/4, one which can be traced back to Cold War. The communist takeover of China and the polarizing figure of Chairman Mao perhaps irrevocably connected China with socialist and totalitarian politics in the American imagination. Theodore H. White’s 1967 Emmy-winning documentary, China: The Roots of Madness is emblematic of this association, and of the desire to connect the man-made tragedies of the Mao-era with earlier cultural traditions in China:7

 

While the desire to understand the madness of the Cultural Revolution is understandable, blaming the excesses of radical Maoism on 2000 years [sic] of Confucianism is a little bit like saying McCarthyism was caused by the same Puritanical-thinking which led to the Salem witch trials. And while it might seem like this kind of thinking is far behind us, consider the the widespread belief that China isn’t “ready” for democracy or that Chinese people are incapable of creativity.8

That said, there are many accounts of 6/4 which do an excellent job of placing it in a larger historical context. I personally think autobiographical comics and animations are well suited to this purpose. Memory is incredibly subjective, and photographs have a tendency to seem much more objective than they often actually are. When we look at a drawing of a memory we are forced to acknowledge that memories are created and re-created over and over, rather than being preserved like fossils waiting to be unearthed.

 

1. Wang Shuibo’s 王水泊 Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square 天安門上太陽升

The visceral sense of the betrayal Wang Shuibo experienced after 6/4, having grown up in a “New China” where Mao was treated as essentially a demi-god and the CCP were his sacred protectors is palpable in Wang’s 1998 Academy Award nominated short animated film. This is something I have seen first-hand among my Chinese friends who seem to be angrier about the fact that the government continues to lie to them about the past than they do about the massacre itself, the impact of which has faded somewhat with the passage of time:

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  1. Or in non-academese, Panda Hater or Panda Hugger. []
  2. In this this piece he wrote for the Huffington post for example, he refers to it as the “June 4th Massacre.” []
  3. The website for the excellent documentary, Gate of Heavenly Peace, has a long list of publicly available resources: http://www.tsquare.tv/links/ []
  4. Take, for example, the way the historical repression of organized labor has been pushed out of American classrooms in favor of subjects such as the Civil Rights Movement and WWII. []
  5. The interest in “forbidden fruit” is also equally true for Chinese readers, of course: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/07/19/hong-kongs-banned-book-fair-is-big-hit-with-mainland-chinese/ []
  6. And, of course, there were equivalent periods during the Republican-era and the late-Qing and other earlier dynasties, as well. []
  7. For a great take-down of this awful, awful film, see http://www.filmthreat.com/features/22523/ []
  8. Admittedly, Chinese writers themselves are often the most vocal proponents of such theories. []

Chinese Star Wars Comic (Part 1 of 6)

This is part of one of a six part post in which I plan to translate a 142 page Chinese comic book adaptation of Star Wars originally published in Guangdong, China, in the 1980s. Thanks to Maggie Greene for giving me the go ahead to re-post her scans, and Brendan O’Kane for bringing this to my attention.

Chinese_star_wars_comic_manhua_llianhuanhua(1)

Star Wars 星球大戰

Chinese_star_wars_comic_manhua_llianhuanhua(2)

Star Wars 星球大戰

Based on the original American science fiction movie

Adapted by Zhou Jinzhuo 周金灼

Illustrations by Song Feideng 宋飛等

Popular Science Press, Guangzhou Branch 科學普及出版社廣

Chinese_star_wars_comic_manhua_llianhuanhua(3)

Synopsis

This lianhuanhua is an adaptation of the American sci-fi blockbuster Star Wars. According to the story, there is Empire in a certain galaxy which cruelly oppresses all of the planets in the galaxy and therefore builds a “Death Star” to put down rebels. Princess Leia (Laia Gongzhu 來阿公主) from the planet Alderaan (Aoerdelan 奧爾德蘭), who leads the rebel resistance, falls into the hands of the enemy and is imprisoned on the “Death Star.” With the help of the Jedi knight Kenobi (Kainuobi 凱諾比) and two robots the young Luke “Skywalker” (Feitianzhe Luke 飛天者盧克) braves difficulty and danger to save Princess Leia and finally attacks and destroys the “Death Star” in a space battle.

Chinese_star_wars_comic_manhua_llianhuanhua(4)
1. In a certain vast galaxy, the entirety of which was ruled by the Galactic Republic (Yinhe Gongheguo 銀河共和國) in the past, but now this Republic has been destroyed and is now ruled by a Galactic Empire (Yinhe Diguo 銀河帝國). Not only does the Galactic Empire use despotic violence to oppress all of the planets in their galaxy, but they also are trying to rule the entire universe.

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Jin Porn Mei: Comic Book Adaptations of the Chinese Novel

The Jin Ping Mei 金瓶梅1 is a notoriously pornographic vernacular Chinese novel believed to date from the late sixteenth century. Authored during the disastrous reign of the Wanli Emperor 萬里 who posterity has come to remember as a sort of Robert Baratheon of the Ming dynasty, later commentators such as Zhang Zhupo 張竹坡 (1670-1698) have convincingly argued that the author of the Jin Ping Mei meant for his work to be interpreted as political allegory.2

Nevertheless, biting political allegory of long dead historical figures doesn’t exactly fly off the shelves these days, and for better or worse the Jin Ping Mei has come to be known mostly for the dirty bits. As part of a guest lecture for a class on the book3 I recently delved into the murky world of comic book adaptations of the great novel. Many of these are, unsurprising, porn, plain and simple, while others are “neither meat nor vegetable” 不葷不素. 4

 

Jin Ping Mei: The Children’s Book

Jin Ping Mei: The Children’s Book

This seems to be the most common illustrated version of the story available online. Although the author and publisher are not identified, although one version identifies as being “for use in schools” (学校专集).  In total there are 100 images with abbreviated text to the side in an updated lianhuanhua 連環畫5 style. Also known as 小人書 or ‘children’s books,’ lianhuanhua emerged in the 1920s as a popular form of story-based comics, defined in opposition to manhua (漫畫) or European and North American style newspaper cartoon strips.

In content, the first 85 pages are spent retelling the Wu Song 武松 chapters of the original novel, with the arrival of Li Pinger, the death of Guange, the death of Ximen Qing and the death of Pan Jinlian at the hands of Wu Song compressed into the last 15 pages. Chunmei and her postscript is also largely absent from this adaptation. Not surprisingly, most of the sex and violence in the text is alluded to but not shown in the illustrations.

 

Jin Ping Mei: The Picture Book

Jin Ping Mei: The Picture Book

Similar to the above version, this lianhuanhua style adaptation by Cao Hanmei 曹涵美 (1902-1975)6 includes 500 images with abbreviated text underneath. Originally published in Modern Sketch《时代漫画》1934-1937, it was later collected into one volume in 1942.

Interestingly, from what I have seen of this version, it seems to tell the story from the perspective of Pan Jianlian, beginning with her birth. It is also not particularly pornographic, as it seems to focus more on telling the story of the novel rather than just the juicy bits. Nudity also tends to be incidental, as in the panel above. Although Pan Jinlian’s breasts are exposed, they are just one detail in a complex composition.

Cao’s illustrations were also used in the opening credits to Li Hanxiang’s 李翰祥 1974 film adaptation of the Jin Ping Mei, Golden Lotus 金瓶雙艷, starring a very young Jackie Chan 成龍:

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  1. In the earlier Wade-Giles transliteration still preferred by many academics it is rendered ” Chin P’ing Mei.” David Roy includes the literal translation,  “Plum in the Golden Vase,” as the subtitle to his version although the accuracy of this is disputable, given that the title is generally assumed to refer to the names of three most important female characters: Pan Jinlian 潘金蓮, Li Ping‘er 李瓶兒 and Pang Chunmei 龐春梅. []
  2. Chang, Chu-p’o. “How to Read the Chin P’ing Mei.” In How to Read the Chinese Novel, edited by David Rolston, translated by David Tod Roy, 196–201. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1990. []
  3. ASIA 441B taught by the incomparable Catherine Swatek who also happens to be David Roy’s cousin. []
  4. In other words, neither fish nor fowl. []
  5. Abbreviation of lianhuatuhua 連環圖畫 or ‘linked-picture’ books []
  6. Given name Zhang Meiyu (张美宇), middle brother of the more famous cartoonists and publishers Zhang Guangyu 张光宇 (1900-1965, née Zhang Dengying 张登瀛) and Zhang Zhengyu 张正宇 (1904-1976, née Zhang Zhenyu 張振宇). []

Don’t Call it ‘Manga’: a short intro to Chinese Comics and Manhua

Chinese comics, or manhua 漫畫, as they are known in Chinese, are hard to pin down, in large part because the term ‘manhua’ is used in so many different and often contradictory contexts.

Context 1. Manhua which are exclusive to China

Manhua by Yao Feila

“Take Love to the Limit” by Yao Feila // 《將愛情進行到底》 姚非拉

Generally whenever the term is used in English, it refers to Sinophone1 comics, or what are generally called guochan manhua 國產漫畫, or ‘domestic comics’2 within the PRC.3 In English the term ‘manhua’ is often used highlight the differences between Chinese comics and Japanese manga, similar to the way in which the term ‘manhwa’ is used to describe Korean comics. All the same, these comics tend to be very similar in appearance to Japanese comics. One notable exception are wuxia 武俠 (martial chivalry) comics from Hong Kong which were developed by Tony Wong Yuk-long 黃玉郎  during kung fu craze the 1970s, which seem to have more in common with hyper-muscular American superhero comics.

Context 2. Manhua as inclusive global medium

Manhua by Yan Cong

“Narcissism” by Yan Cong // 《自戀》 煙囪

In Chinese, manhua is a general term which refers to the global comics medium and therefore includes Japanese, Korean and American comics.4 One of the most interesting ways in which manhua is being created in this context today is the dixia manhua 地下漫畫, or ‘underground comics’ movement which is being spearheaded by artists such as Yan Cong 煙囪 and Chi Hoi 智海, who have helped organized the groups secret comics (aka SC 漫畫) in Beijing and Springrolllll in Hong Kong.

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  1. Belonging the Chinese script, language and/or cultural context. []
  2. Domestic being used in the economic sense here, as in ‘gross domestic product.’ []
  3. This is often abbreviated to guoman 國漫. Manhua from Hong Kong and Taiwan seem to use more neutral terms such as bendi manhua 本地漫畫 (local comics) or bentu manhua 本土漫畫 (native comics) for Taiwanese comics in particular. []
  4. Nowadays, it’s also less commonly used than the term dongman 動漫, a portmanteau of the Chinese words for animation, donghua 動畫, and manhua, similar to how someone might say that they like anime to describe an interest in both Japanese animation and also manga. Dongman also carries connotations of video games, as fans of one tend to be fans of the other. []

Only Ten Percent of Ma Wing-shing’s Epic Chinese Manhua _Chinese Hero_ Has Been Translated Into English

I recently found out that one of the first and only manhua to be translated into English and published in North America was edited to remove anti-Caucasian racism. In the first issue of the original version of Chinese Hero 中 華英雄, created by Ma Wing-shing (馬榮成) which was published in the early 1980s in  《金報》 [Golden Daily?] , the protagonist’s parents are killed by ‘foreign devils‘ 洋鬼子:

chinese hero 2

chinese hero 1

According to the publisher of the 2006 English translation, DrMaster, however “[a]s a child, Hero’s1 family was attacked and killed by a practitioner of Northern Mantis kung fu.”2 Rather than going back and re-drawing the comic, though, DrMaster skipped the first [undetermined number of issues of] Chinese Hero comics and jumped ahead to the birth of Hero’s son. The publisher also had the art re-colored and re-touched.

The murder of Hero’s parents by foreign devils is not the only plot point that Anglophone readers of Chinese Hero are missing out on. The original series ran for 159 issues with Ma Wing-shing at the helm before being passed on to Cheung Ma Yau (張萬有) in 1989, with each issue averaging around 130 pages. The eight translated volumes published by DrMaster average around 270 pages, meaning they each contain two issues of the original run. This means only  about 10% of Ma’s Chinese Hero have been translated into English.3

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  1. The protagonist of Chinese Hero is named Hua Yingxiong [Wah Ying-hung] (华英雄), literally ‘Chinese Hero’. []
  2. DGN Production/DrMaster Publications: Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword vol 1 []
  3. And that’s not even counting the more than 250 issues that were done by Cheung and other artists though the 90s and 00s! []