Future Perfect: Ye Yonglie 葉永烈 and the Origins of Chinese Speculative Fiction

The following is based on a short talk on Chinese science fiction which I had the honor of presenting to the CHIN 40: Popular Culture in Modern Chinese Societies course at UCLA on February 16, 2017, at the invitation of Micheal Berry. I had originally planned on posting this a couple of weeks after giving the talk–it seems a little superfluous to be talking about obscure Chinese authors and artists with everything that is going on in the news at the moment. At the same time, I’m starting to wonder if the situation we find ourselves in has something to do with our inability not only to come to terms with history (particularly as a mirror for the present), but whether it stems from a more fundamental failure to think about what words really mean. Politics is about discourse, about framing ideas and making calls for action. But if we fail to interrogate that discourse, to pick apart those ideas, and question those calls for action, then we give authoritarians an open door to exploit the weak for the sake of the powerful.

Okay, so I’m going to start off on a bit of an odd note for a talk on Chinese science fiction, but I’m going to start with a nod to the Tongva people, on whose ancestral and unceded lands we find ourselves today. This is something they do up in Canada, thanking the First Nations peoples and acknowledging the enormous debt of gratitude (and almost impossible degree of contrition) that we owe to them. If you’re planning on giving a talk any time in the future, I encourage you to do the same.

I would also like to thank Professor Berry for inviting me, and thank all of you for signing up for this course! I guess we should also thank UCLA for making it possible for you guys to learn about Chinese pop culture, something that’s hardly a given these days with budget cuts and all.

Now, on the Chinese science fiction!

So, we’re going to be talking (a little) about Ye Yonglie 葉永烈, a science fiction author I’m interested in who was born in 1940. I think he’s important, because he was born at more or the less the midpoint of the history of contemporary sci-fi in China, which has just over a century and a half of history, depending on how you define what sci-fi is. For that reason, his career makes a useful frame for talking about Chinese science fiction, and what that means. In fact, I’m not going to be talking very much at all about Ye, so I encourage you to read The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction entry if you’d like to know more about Ye and the stories he wrote.

A lot has been written about Chinese science fiction in English, but one essay I recommend for covering the key points is Regina Kanyu Wang’s “A Brief Introduction to Chinese Science Fiction.” Jeffery Wasserstrom’s recent article for the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative on the same topic is also worth checking out for a shorter, and more academic take. Finally, Ou Ning has compiled a list of classic Chinese and English sci-fi novels, which echoes some of what we see in these two pieces, but with some interesting additions as well, as we will see.

But before we can start unpacking all of this, I’m afraid we’re going to have to talk about some pretty abstract concepts, and I’m not a very abstract kind of guy. So I thought we might use an old parable to help frame our discussion:

Does anybody recognize this image? If you do, don’t shout it out just yet okay?

I went ahead and edited the illustration (and the Chinese, for those of you who read Chinese), but if you look you’ll see there are five men—five blind men, to be specific.  And the five blind men are touching something:

One of them says, “The thing that we are touching is rope, it’s long and thin.”

And the one over here says, “No, no, no, it’s a pillar, it’s thick and strong.”

And this guy right here says, “You’re both wrong, it’s a wall, it’s long and flat.”

And the guy in yellow says, “You guys really are blind! It’s a definitely a metal pipe, can’t you tell?”

Finally, the guy at the end says, “Pipe? What pipe? This obviously a rubber hose!”

Now of course, it’s none of these things at all, it’s a…drum roll, please…

 

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Turtles All the Way Down: Dr. Fix-it 改造博士, Mr. Wang 王先生 and the Origins of Chinese Comics

The following is based on a lecture on Chinese comics which I had the pleasure of presenting to the Asian Art and Visual Culture working group at the Townsend Center for Humanities at UC Berkeley on February 3, 2017, at the invitation of Hannibal Taubes and Weihong Bao. I’ve edited the original text slightly to reflect the comments I received before and after my presentation.

So, starting off, I’d like first thank the Asian Art and Visual Culture working group, and Hannibal Taubes and Professor Weihong Bao for inviting me to be here today, and Andrew Jones for taking the time to meet with me before this talk. It’s really an honor for me to be able to be here to not only share my research, but also have the opportunity to learn more about the projects you guys are all working on in your own fields. It’s always amazing to me to see the ways people studying things I had no idea about can inspire me to think about my own work in different ways.

I’d also like to take a moment to acknowledge the Chochenyo band (today Muwekma) of the Ohlone People on whose ancestral and unceded territory we are holding this event today.

Just now, Professor Jones and I were talking about this, and I said, “I know it seems a little hokey…” But Professor Jones, to his credit, said that he didn’t think it was hokey at all. And then he told me a story, one that I hadn’t heard before.

Just to preface, I’m from Portland, so we were talking about Ursula K. Le Guin, who has lived in Portland for most of her adult life with her husband, Charles Le Guin, a historian who taught at Portland State University (my alma mater).

What I didn’t know about Ursula K. Le Guin, is that she was originally from Berkeley, and her father, Alfred Kroeber, taught at the university. (That’s where the K in her name comes from.) Kroeber was an anthropologist, one the earliest students of Franz Boas at Columbia, and Le Guin’s mother, Theodora Kroeber, was also an anthropologist, having written Ishi in Two Worlds: a biography of the last wild Indian in North America in 1961. Ishi was said to be the last surviving member of the Yahi tribe, of the Yana people from Northern California, and he just appeared all of a sudden in 1911, after most of his tribe had been killed in the Three Knolls Massacre of 1865. The part of this story that I think is really relevant to my talk today, is that in her book, Theodora Kroeber describes how Ishi never actually told anyone his true name–just like Ged and the wizards in a Tale of Earthsea.

So we have these threads, the power of names, and the way ideas and traditions move through generations.

I’m going to try and avoid talking about politics here, because I know—or at least I think if you’re here for this talk today, it’s probably at least in part because you want to think about something else for a little while. But avoiding politics is itself political, and we are at Berkeley, which is in the national news for the protests here just two nights ago, for protests which ended in the university cancelling a talk by the white supremacist / internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos.

I would like to say that even though things look pretty dire right now, the struggle for equality and freedom from oppression is something that’s been ongoing for a long time now. I’d like to think that his Orangeness in Chief, and Brexit, and the crackdown on NGOs and lawyers and free speech in China…I’d like to think all of those things are just temporary setbacks.

I do think the tide of history is against them, in the same way that the First Nations peoples of North America, and indigenous peoples around the world are finally starting to gain some recognition for the injustices that were done to them in the past, and new policies are being put into place to address the ongoing legacies of those injustices.

And I want to thank the community here at Berkeley for standing up to the people who would have us the go the other direction, by having us betray the fundamental values of American democracy.

Okay! So, now, on the really pressing matter of the day: Chinese comics!

Statue of three stacked turtles in a public square in front of a curios shop.Statue of three stacked turtles in a public square in front of a curios shop.

So, the title of this talk is ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ and I guess that’s a little confusing for some people, because what do turtles have to do with China or comics?

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The Shanghai Manhua Society
 Chapter 6: The Legacy

This is the sixth 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.

Over the years which followed its founding in 1926, the Manhua Society would come to be seen as forming an important part of the history of cartooning in China. Writing in the English language magazine ASIA Monthly some eight months after the outbreak of the second Sino-Japanese War in May, 1938, Jack Chen described the fate of the Manhua Society in vivid language:

Since this was not a fair weather art, it did not attract those in search of fame or fortune. On the contrary, it offered poverty and hard knocks. The history of the first group of cartoonists is typical. Out of ten members, one died with enough money to pay for his funeral; one joined the government and secured a job that kept him from doing embarrassing cartoons, one disappeared after publishing a particularly pointed anti-Kuomintang cartoon, six managed to hold together, to be joined by a seventh who had been in hiding for four years during the bitterest persecution of Leftists: after the fall of the Wuhan government in 1927 and the split of the united front between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang. Their survivors met [in 1934] at the home of their dead friend, whither that all unknowingly come on the same mission–to give him a regular funeral. Of the seven, three had steady jobs that paid fifty dollars gold a month, and they earned perhaps fifty more by extra work. These are the best paid cartoonists in China. The rest scrape along as best they can, editing, teaching, doing odd jobs. And yet–making cartoon history.[1]

While it is easy to identify the first Manhua Society member mentioned as Huang Wennong, who died of ruptured stomach ulcer on June 21, 1934, the others are less obvious. Clearly, Ji Xiaobo is the most likely candidate for having joined the government, and the six who held together most likely refers to Ye Qianyu, Zhang Guangyu, Zhang Zhengyu, Lu Shaofei, Ding Song, and Hu Xuguang or Zhang Meisun. Huang Wang seems to have been the only out-and-out leftist in the group, although the dates for going into hiding seem wrong, since he was active throughout 1927 and early 1928, and again in 1930, with a four year period of inactivity from 1931 to 1934. This corresponds with the crackdown against the League of Left-Wing writers, of which he was a member, in February, 1931. The author of the pointed anti-KMT cartoon is more difficult to identify, but it may have been a younger member of the staff at Shanghai Sketch II, such as Xuan Wenjie, or someone less directly connected, such as Huang Shiying.

Birth of the Modern

Riding high on their success, on October 10, 1929, Shanghai Sketch Press 上海漫畫社, Zhang Zhengyu convinced his older brother to rename their press the China Fine Arts Periodical Press 中國美術刋行社and launch a second periodical, the monthly pictorial Modern Miscellany 時代畫報, to be co-edited by Zhang, and the modernist writer, Ye Lingfeng 葉靈鳳 (1905-1975).[2]  Designed to compete with the wildly successful pictorial Young Companion 良友畫報, the inspiration for Modern Miscellany came after the Singaporean distributer for both Shanghai Sketch and Young Companion lost distribution rights to the latter. The distributor’s representative in Shanghai, Wang Shuyang (who had met Ye in 1925, when he interviewed him for the job at Three Friends Co.), approached Ye Qianyu and Zhang Zhengyu with this business opportunity, and Zhang managed to convince his older brother against of the urgings of their three partners. Shortly thereafter, Lang Jingshan, Hu Boxiang, and Zhang Zhenhou withdrew from the partnership in protest, forcing them to move their office from the church to an alley near the intersection of Nanjing Road and Zhejiang Road, just minutes from the Bund.[3]

As a result, the second issue of Modern Miscellany was delayed until late February of the next year, and the third issue was not published until May. To solve their cash flow problems, Zhang Guangyu and company announced in the June 7, 1930, issue of Shanghai Sketch that the publication would be merging with Modern Miscellany and the publication schedule changed to bimonthly.[4] On June 16, 1930, the first merged issue of Shanghai Sketch and Modern Miscellany was published, with the title shortened to Modern  時代.[5]

Meanwhile, in 1930 Ji Xiaobo and Ye Qianyu seem to have made steps toward burying the hatchet when Ji Xiaobo convinced the owner of Chenbao 晨報 [Morning Post] to launch a pictorial supplement which would serialize Ye Qianyu’s popular cartoon, Mr. Wang. Despite already working full-time as an editor at the bimonthly Modern Miscellany, Ye agreed, receiving 100 yuan per month for his strips, and two pin-up advertisements which the publisher requested in exchange for publishing the cartoon.[6]  Despite Jack Chen’s sarcastic comment in late 1938 that “[Ji Xiaobo] joined the government and secured a job that kept him from doing embarrassing cartoons,” then, it seems possible that Manhua Society parted amicably, having served its purpose of launching the careers of its members.

Publication problems with Modern continued to persist, but as luck would have it, China Fine Arts Periodical Press had attracted the attention of the wealthy socialite and erstwhile poet, Shao Xunmei 邵洵美 (1906-1968), who was looking for an investment to change the declining fortunes of his large and profligate family.[7]  In November, 1930 he officially joined the editorial staff of Modern, providing the necessary capital to have the magazine printed on the latest rotogravure presses rather than relying on the outdated copperplate etching that they had been using before.[8] A notice in Modern Issue 12 (Vol 1) announced

Improvement in Printing and Picture Plates

Starting with Issue 1, Vol. 2, we will begin using photogravure, plus two-color plates, three-color plates, seven-color plates, etc. The paper we use will also be changed to specially produced foreign-made photogravure paper, in what could be called a pioneering step in China.

印刷及圖版之改良

從二卷一期起改用影寫版印行並添加 雙色版、三色版、七色版等, 紙張亦改用特向外洋定造之影寫版專用紙, 可稱國內獨步[9]

As promised, the next issue of Modern, published on November 16, 1930, featured a large number of photographs, with much better contrast and fine detail. Over the next year however, due to the limited number of rotogravure presses in Shanghai at the time, Modern continued to suffer from delays, and quality declined as well. Finally, in the summer of 1931, Shao Xunmei managed to buy his own German-made rotogravure press for $50,000 US dollars, which was to be the foundation of his new venture, the Modern Press 時代印刷公司, and in the sixth issue (Vol. 2) of Modern, China Fine Arts Periodical Press announced that they would be taking a two month hiatus to set up their new press.[10] Renting a factory on Pingliang Road 平涼路in Yangpu district, between the Japanese controlled Hongkou district and the Huangpu River, Shao soon found himself cut off from his investment when this part of the International Settlement was occupied by Japanese troops arriving via gunboat in January, 1932.[11]

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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 5 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 5 of this 6 part translation, having taken over the opera from the actor playing him, Monkey has the his furry subjects learn various trades so that they can become farmers, merchants, builders, artists, and poets, eventually transforming the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit into a modern metropolis, complete with high rises and smoke stacks. An idle month passes in the Epang Palace before the pilgrims realize that they are getting no closer to their goal of retrieving the Celestial Tome from the Western Paradise, so they decide to leave the comforts of the palace and continue on their quest. The mayor warns them of the dangers they will face travelling through the neighboring kingdom of “False” Qin. This kingdom of monsters is said to be ruled by the “Japanese Dwarves” 倭秦with assistance from defectors from Ey-qin. For their protection, the mayor offers to send an escort of air balloons to take them over False Qin. The pilgrims agree, but as they are passing over False Qin, Monkey spies artillery being set up to attack the fleet…

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41. 于是改编的“水廉洞”新剧出现在台上,果然情形不同,表现众猴子个个在勤俭进行工作中。

When the new version of “Water Curtain” was performed on stage, the situation was indeed quite different, showing all the little monkeys hard at work.

 

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42. 最后一幕表演建设新乐园成功,狂欢之曲高奏,一座花果山居然现代化了。

The final scene portrayed the successful construction of a new paradise, in a crazed crescendo of music revealing the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit modernized.

 

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43. 却说三藏等留阿房宫中,不知不觉已过了月余时光,有一天想起往西天取书的任务,他们聚议决计结束山间逍遥享乐生活,一同到市长那里去辞别,市长听了连说:“走不得!走不得!”说着,指壁上所挂的地图,他又说道:

Our story continues: without realizing it, Tripitaka and the others stayed in Epang Palace for over a month, until one day they remembered their task of going to the Western Heaven to retrieve the Celestial Tome. After discussing the matter, they decided to end their floating life of leisure in the mountains. When they went to the mayor to announce their intention to take their leave, the mayor replied, “You can’t leave! You can’t leave!” He then pointed to a map on the wall, saying…

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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. []

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!

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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