The Shanghai Manhua Society
 Chapter 4: Come Together29 min read

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]

1926 was a period of growing ties between the members of the Manhua Society. In February, Lu Shaofei was hired as a set designer for Minxin Film Studio民新影片公司, later recruiting Huang Wennong to work as the art director on the studio’s film magazine, Minxin Special Edition民新特刊. [6] In March, Ji Xiaobo, riding high on his success of his Feng Zikai inspired manhua “I always feel that life is so unreal!” in the inaugural issue of Young Companion published in February, oversaw the printing of 20,000 copies of the first issue of the Three Friends Co. publication Light of the Triangle三角之光.[7] Featuring his own artwork on the theme “Sparrows in the Spring” 春天的燕子, Light of the Triangle not only showed his continued debt of inspiration to his former teacher, but also provide Ji with the clout to be included on the roster of cartoonists for the new pictorial The Shanghai Life (Illustrated) 上海生活, co-edited by journalist Zhao Junhao 趙君豪 (1900-?), Lu Shaofei, and Huang Wennong.[8]  Mostly forgotten today, thanks perhaps to the appearance of an unrelated magazine with an identical name, published 1937-41, other familiar contributors to The Shanghai Life (Illustrated), include Zhang Guangyu, Ye Qianyu, and Zhang Zhengyu. A notice offering 50 yuan and a free subscription in exchange for a logo design appeared in the Shenbao in early May, noting that the magazine would “…specialize in describing life in society, solving the three problems of clothing, food, and shelter.” 專描寫社會生活、解决衣食住三大問題 [9] A second notice appeared later in the month requesting submissions noted that Shanghai was the cultural center of China, but that unlike London, New York, or Paris it still lacked a magazine devoted to the life and times of the city.[10]  

Even given this relative level of success and name recognition, the future members of the Manhua Society were still struggling to fund their various projects. The first issue of The Shanghai Life (Illustrated), for example, appeared on newsstands until July 7, just under two months after the first announcement in the Shenbao, while the second issue appeared nearly four months later on November, 17. [11] Although the third issue was published on time, one month later, the fourth and final issue didn’t appear until June, 1927, citing a strike at the printer.[12] Zhang Guangyu meanwhile, quit his job at Nanyang Brothers Tobacco in 1926, after launching China Camera News, and went to work as a designer for the Shanghai Mofan Factory上海模範工廠.[13] Founded in 1922, this large rubber factory in Jiangwanzhen was owned by the noted philanthropist Xu Qianlin 徐乾麟 (1863-1952). While there, Zhang designed advertisements for Mofan’s trademark Double-Ten rickshaw tires, in addition to rubber toys, soles for leather shoes, and other rubber products.[14] Thanks perhaps to Zhang’s salary first at Nanyang Brothers Tobacco and later at Shanghai Mofan Factory, China Camera News managed to put out over 100 issues by early June, 1926, with an omnibus collection going on sale July 15.[15] In March, 1927, a notice in the Shenbao carried the following announcement, titled “Relaunch of China Camera News” 三日畫報之刷新:

Recently China Camera News has been undergoing a series of improvements. We are increasing the number of copperplates, selecting more precious photographs, drawn material, with a publishing date set for the first day of the second month of the lunar calendar [March 14]. Moreover we are preparing photographs of celebrities and collections of drawings by famous artists as gifts for our readers.


An Unexpected Party

In an interview conducted in the mid-1990s, Lu Shaofei recalls that he joined the Manhua Society entirely on accident: having just gotten back from a trip (perhaps scouting locations for a new Minxin film), Lu decided to pay a visit to his friend, Zhang Guangyu, at his house in Hengqing Alley恆慶里, just off of Rue Admiral Bayle貝勒路[17]. When he arrived, however, Zhang’s wife[18] told him that Zhang and his brother, Zhang, were both at Ding Song’s house, just across the street in Tianxiang Alley天祥里. Walking into the doorway of the house just as the Manhua Society was preparing to take a photograph for their inaugural meeting, Lu recalls that Zhang laughed and said, “It’s better to show up when the time is right, than to show up right on time” 来得早不如来得巧.[19]

Most second hand accounts provide a few names of the most well-known cartoonists, followed by the Chinese for ‘etc.’ 等, according to Ye Qianyu, the Manhua Society had seven founding members: himself, Lu Shaofei, Zhang Guangyu, Zhang Zhengyu, Huang Wennong, Wang Dunqing, and Ding Song. According to Lu Shaofei, however, there were four additional founding members: Ji Xiaobo, Zhang Meisun, Cai Shudan 蔡輸丹 (n.d.), and Wang Yisan 王益三 (n.d.). Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin largely agree with Lu Shaofei, although they substitute Hu Xuguang胡旭光 (1901-1960) for Wang Yisan.[20]

Relying on information provided by Wang Dunqing in May, 1938, Jack Chen, records that the original Manhua Society had ten members, but neglects to mention them by name.[21] Given the lack of agreement who the Manhua Society was founded by, Chen’s decision to omit this information was probably not accidental.

There is also another major discrepancy between these four accounts, regarding the date the date that the Manhua Society was founded.  According to Ye Qianyu, the group was founded shortly after Ye, Wang Dunqing, and Huang Wennong’s failed broadsheet, Shanghai Sketch 上海漫畫 (hereafter Shanghai Sketch I), was relaunched by Zhang Guangyu as a monthly under the same name, Shanghai Sketch (hereafter, Shanghai Sketch II). Since the first issue of Shanghai Sketch II was published April 21, 1928, this would mean the summer or fall of that year. In support of Lu’s claim for the fall of 1927, his interviewer, Bao Limin, points out that Huang Wennong’s Collected Satirical Drawings 文農諷刺畫集, which was published in 1927, features the words “The first collection of the Manhua Society” 漫画会丛书第一种, concluding that Ye’s memory must have failed him. This theory largely holds up: although several accounts record that Huang Wennong’s Collected Satirical Drawings was published in the fall 1927 (that the group must have been formed several months prior), in fact the cover features the emblem of the Manhua Society (See Fig. 4.1), which was not carved by Zhang Meisun until November, 1927, meaning that the group could very well have been formed in the fall of 1927.

manhua society emblem

Figure 4.1 Zhang Meisun “Emblem for the Manhua Association” 漫畫會會徽 November, 1927.

The emblem to be carved by Zhang Meisun depicts a tightly coiled dragon, facing the viewer head-on. Although it has little to remind one, immediately at least, of cartoons, Gan Xianfeng describes the emblem in stirring terms:

Because the term ‘manhua’ was unknown to most people… [therefore] the artistry of the emblem was drawn from the special qualities of ancient Chinese brick engravings in roof tile end caps and pictographic seals, using a boldly exaggerated brushwork to create a ‘holy dragon of Chinese manhua.’ This suggests that the sleeping dragon of China was waking up, just as the dragon of manhua was also waking up.

由於”漫畫”這一名稱不為人知…[因此]會徽的藝術處理,吸取了中國古代磚刻瓦當和肖形印藝術特色,以渾厚、樸茂、誇張的造型筆法塑造了一頭中國漫畫神龍,寓意是中國這條睡龍正在覺醒,漫畫這條龍也正在覺醒. [22]

Whether, indeed the term manhua was unknown to most people is a matter of debate, considering the apparent popularity of Feng Zikai’s work from as early as May, 1925, however Gan makes a good argument for the connection between the image of China as a sleeping dragon, and Chinese cartoonists as the agitators who saw themselves working to stir the dragon from its slumber.[23]

Gan finally found the smoking gun that reveals the actual founding date of the Manhua Society. Overlooked or perhaps forgotten by Lu Shaofei, Ye Qianyu, Wang Dunqing, etc, the following notice was posted in the Shenbao on December 7, 1926:


A number of artists with rich imaginations from Shanghai have formed a drawing club, for which they have chosen the name the “Manhua Society.” Regarding the nature of the club, it differs greatly from other drawing clubs. In the next few days a manifesto will be published. The members are (by stroke count in the character of the family name):  Ding Song, Wang Dunqing, Hu Xuguang, Zhang Guangyu, Zhang Zhenyu, Huang Wennong, Ye Qianyu, [and] Lu Shaofei. The club address is Zhejiang Rd, Ningbo Rd, No. 65, Floor 3, No. 40.



This date is also supported by a short essay by Huang Wennong, published in the third issue of The Shanghai Life (Illustrated), dated December 1, 1926, in which Huang mentions an informal meeting of the Manhua Society with Wang Dunqing, Ye Qianyu, and Zhang Zhengyu earlier that month:

We drove out to Caojiadu, in the Western part of Shanghai, that colony of many square-miles in area north of the [Huangpu] River. [25] The way they live there is really different from us Shanghai folk. We spent the better part of a day talking to them and after we got back home we elected Wang Dunqing to pick a topic to remember the day by, [while] I happily provided three casual illustrations, which we put up in the biggest Western-style restaurant in town. We also discussed some of the affairs of the ‘Manhua Society,’ It’s too bad our comrades weren’t there—Ding Song, Zhang, Hu, Lu, Ji—otherwise I would have a great deal of interesting news to report to our readers.

我們…坐了汽車到滬西的曹家渡, 那處數方里的江北殖民地, 他們生活, 絕對不和上海人同化, 我們費了半天的光陰, 和他們交際, 回來公推王敦慶選一篇記事, 我很高興, 隨意繪了三方插畫, 並且在鎮上一家規模最宏大的番菜館裏, 議論一些「漫畫會」的事情, 可惜尚有五位同志— 丁松, 光宇, 旭光, 少飛, 小波. —沒有同去. 否則還有許多有趣味消息報告讀者呢.[26]

From this account, and the notice posted in the Shenbao, it seems clear that the driving forces behind the Manhua Society were Huang Wennong, Wang Dunqing, and Ye Qianyu, with the support of Ding Song, Zhang Guangyu, Hu Xuguang, Lu Shaofei, and Ji Xiaobo.  This impression is further strengthened by the manifesto, published as promised, 14 days later on December 21, 1926:


On Saturday, in Shanghai, the Manhua Society convened an ad hoc meeting at their headquarters. On this day they discussed and passed the following resolutions, one by one: [1] within the year, this society should organize a formal founding meeting, and we recommend that Ding Song and Zhang Guangyu handle this matter [2] the manifesto drafted by Huang Wennong and Wang Dunqing has also already been approved by the entire body of the society, and is included herein:

Recently, drawing clubs have been established like flower buds in the spring, like the surging tides in autumn. Does this mean that the future of art is bright? Or is it a case of making use of unity to cultivate a grand reputation for a given group? Nobody can say for sure, but in the case of our little group at least, we’ve come together purely out of mutual interests and ambitions. Each and every one of us must find a balance between our innate abilities, intelligence and experience. In our artwork, we must express our romanticism, for the sake of advancing the human mind. In other words, we want to make this human society of ours into new soil for the tiller. Whether or not the products of our hearts and blood will able to be thought of as a labor of art, and whether or not it will measure up to our ideal goal is not a question that can be answered objectively.  Although it is something which cannot be measured at present, it is our hope—and our pledge—is to work together to plant good seeds in this time of artistic immaturity. In the future, when it comes time to reap the fruits of our labors, probably not a single member of our group will be willing to go forth and enjoy them.



From this overtly apolitical manifesto (authored by the most political members of the society, Huang Wennong and Wang Dungqing), and in light of what we know about the Manhua Society members, it is fun to imagine an early gathering of the group: Ye Qianyu singing opera stanzas for the Zhang brothers and Ding Song, while Wang Dunqing and Ji Xiaobo, both dressed in equally bad suits, argue politics off in a corner. A small group of young children play on boxes of the latest issue of China Camera News piling in the corner, while their mothers stand close by, making small talk. At the table, Huang Wennong sits busily sketching away, oblivious to the food prepared by Tang Suzhen, Zhang Guangyu’s pretty young wife, and her mother. Meanwhile, the awkward Lu Shaofei introduces himself in Shanghai dialect to Hu Xuguang, who responds in the same. Later, Zhang Meisun and Ding Song reminiscence about their art classes at the the Tushanwan orphanage, and Ji jokes with Ye, saying, “Looks like the kid from Tonglu is all grown up now.” Ye rolls his eyes and looks at Huang Wennong, who just shrugs.

The Northern Expedition

The arrival of the Northern Expedition in Shanghai on March 22, 1927, fundamentally changed the lives of the Manhua Society members. As Ye writes in his autobiography, his own opinion of the Northern Expedition was largely colored by the rising political awareness which followed the May 30 Movement

Even though I didn’t directly participate in the “May 30” Movement, I experienced the anti-imperialist sentiment that it stirred up first hand. The lesson in patriotism and democracy that I learned really shook me to my core, and inspired my utmost support for the grand revolution of the Northern Expedition that was launched by the United Front [between the KMT and the Communist Party].

“五 卅”運動我雖未直接參加,可是由此引起的反帝革命情緒,我卻親身感受到。這真是一次驚心動魄的愛國家、愛民族的教育,我由此而對國共合作興師北伐的大革命產生了極大的同情。[28]

In Ye’s account, there is a palpable sense of not wanting to be left out of this once in a lifetime chance to become a part of history. Born too late to be May 4th radical, and too scared, perhaps to take part in the May 30th riots, the Northern Expedition was just the sort of opportunity an ambitious young man like Ye Qianyu would have been looking for to make his mark on the world as a cartoonist.

Launched in June, 1926, just over a year after the events of May 30, 1925, the Northern Expedition was the culmination of Sun Yat-sen’s dream of re-unifying China under a single government. Backed by the Soviets, in mid-1926 the KMT found itself split into three rival factions:  the left, led by Wang Jingwei 汪精衛 (1883-1944) who favored collaboration with the communists; the right, led by Lin Sen林森 (1868-1943) and Hu Hanmin 胡漢民 (1879-1936), who advocated rather the opposite; and Chiang Kai-shek in the middle, in control of Whampoa Academy and the NRA.  Although divided ideologically, they were united in their goal to take back China from the warlords and foreign powers.

Rather than attacking Sun Chuanfang directly, the KMT had first gone north into Hubei via Hunan, attacking the forces of Chuanfang’s Zhili ally Wu Peifu in Wuhan. After the fall of Wuhan to the Northern Expedition Army in September, 1926, Chiang sent his troops south, to Nanchang, where they attacked and subdued the forces of Sun Chuanfang, taking the city on September 19. Managing to hold the city for only four days, they retreated north, into Hubei, and south, into Jiangxi. After arriving at the front in early October, Chiang led his forces into the city a second time on October 20, holding the city only briefly before retreating again. Finally, in early November Chiang managed to defeat Sun, taking Nanchang for the third and final time on November 8, 1926.[29]

Meanwhile, back in Wuhan, Wang Jingwei had been busy building a coalition government between the leadership of the KMT and that of the CCP, declaring Wuhan the new capital of the ROC on January 1, 1927.  Initially, Chiang ignored the provocation, maintaining an outwardly neutral position between Jingwei on the left, and by Lin Sen and Hu Hanmin on the right. Working with undercover agents who enlisted the help of both the Green Gang and the CCP, Chiang and the United Front planned their takeover of Shanghai, with the city finally falling on March 22 following a series of general strikes and fierce fighting with holdouts of the Zhili clique. Shortly afterwards, under the scrutiny of the foreign powers, Chiang Kai-shek set up a rival capital with the support of the KMT’s right-wing faction in Nanjing.

After Shanghai fell to the KMT in late March, Chiang wasted no time establishing a police force to govern the Chinese controlled portions of the city in cooperation with the Green Gang and the CCP. Taking their name from Wusong 吳淞, a strategically important port at the confluence of the Huangpu and the Yangtze, and the traditional abbreviation for Shanghai, Hu 滬, the Songhu Police Department 淞滬警察廳政治部, set up their headquarters in Yeshiyuan 也是園 [Also a Garden], a famous literati garden in the Chinese walled city just south of the International Settlement.

Thanks no doubt to his fame as a political cartoonist for The Crystal and The Eastern Miscellany, Huang Wennong managed to obtain a position as head of the Art Department 藝術股長 in the propaganda department of the new KMT office, inviting the much younger Ye Qianyu, whom he had met one year earlier through Zhang Guangyu’s Camera News, to join him. [30] Shortly thereafter, Ji Xiaobo, relying perhaps on his connections with former Tongmenghui member turned anti-warlord publisher, Zhu Xilang, also took a position in the same department.[31]

After only three days in Yeshiyuan, Huang told Ye that he was planning to transfer to the political office of the Navy海軍政治部 and that he wanted Ye to come with him. Ye recalls asking Huang if they should tell Ji Xiaobo and the others that they were leaving, but that for whatever reason, Huang told him to keep their transfer a secret. After transferring, they both received promotions, with Huang becoming a captain 上尉 and Ye becoming a lieutenant 中尉, something which may have rankled Ji Xiaobo.[32] In the Navy they met Cai Shudan, another artist who had been assigned to their department.

Meanwhile, on the basis of his experience working for the Minxin Film Company, Lu Shaofei had also secured employment in the KMT’s propaganda apparatus, finding a position the Political Office of Central Command 總司令部政治部 in Nanjing following the arrival of Chiang Kai-shek’s National Revolutionary Army on March 23, 1927.[33] Looting and anti-imperialists riots (likely supported by the posters of Lu Shaofei) followed shortly thereafter, but were quickly suppressed by British and American gunships.

Less than a month after the NRA arrived in Shanghai, however, Chiang launched a bloody counter-offensive against the left-wing of the KMT and the CCP, with the help of Du Yuesheng and the Green Gang, whose predatory labor system of “bosses” and “disciples” was in direct competition with the communist labor unions. Dubbed the “April 12 Shanghai Massacre” by the CCP, some 5,000 to 10,000 communists and suspected communists were killed in Shanghai. At the time the city had a population of about 3 million, of which roughly 400,000 are estimated to have been factory workers.[34]

It is unclear when Lu Shaofei, Huang Wennong, Ye Qianyu, and Ji Xiaobo left the National Revolutionary Army. Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin indicate that all but Ji Xiaobo either resigned or were forced out directly after the Shanghai Massacre of April 12, 1927.[35] This is directly contradicted by Ye Qianyu, who recalls that the Shanghai branch of the Political Office of the Navy was disbanded in August, 1927, due to Chiang Kai-shek’s concerns that it had been infiltrated by communists.[36] Ye’s testimony is backed up by the historical record, with an April 22, 1927, announcement in the Shenbao noting that Huang Wennong and Ye Qianyu had joined the staff of the newly formed political office of the Songhu Police Station.[37] Furthermore, meeting notes from the seventh meeting of the Manhua Society held June 7, 1927, note that Ye Qianyu was absent having been mobilized to join the 17th Army 十七軍 of the NRA in Fujian. [38]

The closing of the political office in August would have spelled the end of Ye and Huang’s careers, but not Lu’s in Nanjing, or Ji, who was still working in the Songhu Police Department based in Yeshiyuan, and seems to have continued to work for the government, eventually joining the Department of Education as a censor in 1929.[39] According to Ye, meanwhile, after the political office of the Navy disbanded, Huang transferred to the Political Office of Central Command in Nanjing to work with Lu, before both men returned to Shanghai in late 1927.[40] Bi and Huang probably knew this, but included the erroneous information to protect the reputations of the Manhua Society members. For his part, Ye Qianyu obliquely dismisses his critics saying, “For guys like us, who only had a head for art and not politics, when we read the news in the newspaper and heard things on the grapevine, all that we could conclude was that revolution wasn’t as simple as we had thought.”  我們這些只懂藝術不懂政治的頭腦, 看了聽了報上的河流傳的消息, 只覺得革命沒那麼簡單.[41] While claims like this sound reasonable enough, they also suggest that Ye was practiced at making light of his association with the KMT after many years of living in politically dangerous climate of the PRC.

Whatever bad blood existed between Ji Xiaobo and Ye Qianyu from their days as master and student seems not to have affected Ji’s willingness to publish the work of Ye’s friend and benefactor, Huang Wennong. According to Lu Shaofei, it was Ji’s connections at Glorify China Press 光華書店 that made it possible for the Manhua Society to publish their first publication, Huang Wennong’s Collected Satirical Cartoons.[42] Lu’s account is supported by the meeting notes for the seventh meeting of the Manhua Society, held June 7, 1927, which mentions that two new members of the Manhua Society, Ji Xiaobo’s coworkers at the Songhu Police Station, Zhang Meisun and Cai Shudan, were said to be arranging the publication of Huang Wennong’s Collected Satirical Drawings.[43]

Although some sources report that this book was published in the fall of 1927, it doesn’t appear to have been published until December of 1927, since the cover features the Manhua Society emblem of a curled dragon (See Fig. 4.1), designed by Zhang Meisun in late November of that year, and the words “the first publication of the Manhua Society.” [44]

Although Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin refer to Lu Shaofei’s Cartoon Travels in the North as the second publication of the Manhua Society, in fact this book of sketches (many of which had been the featured at the Fourth Annual Aurora Art Club Exhibition in August, 1925) was not published until May 15, 1928.[45] The last official meeting of the Manhua Society for which we have records, meanwhile, was held November 6, 1927:


The day before yesterday (the 6th), the Manhua Society held their fourteenth regular meeting at their club headquarters on Rue Admiral Bayle. Present at this meeting were Zhang Meisun, Ji Xiaobo, Lu Shaofei, Ding Song, Zhang Guangyu, Ye Qianyu, Wang Dunqing, Zhang [Zhang], Huang Wennong. Aside from auxiliary member Cai Shudan being in Ningbo, and Hu Xuguang taking an absence due to illness, all members arrived on time. First, chairperson Ding Song announced that he would be stepping down. After reporting the motions of the previous meeting, members began discussing various matters, regarding the development of the Manhua Society, with all members participating in a productive discussion. Zhang Meisun was encouraged to carve a club emblem and Wang Dunqing was appointed chairperson for the next meeting. Various members shared their latest work, of which there was relatively more than last time, and at around 5pm the meeting was concluded.



Two final notices appear in late December, 1927, announcing at the forthcoming January 1, 1928 publication of Shanghai Sketch by “Manhua Society members” Wang Dunqing, Huang Wennong, and Ye Qianyu, with assistance from Ding Song and Zhang Guangyu. To my knowledge, no further Manhua Society notices were published, leading me to conclude that although individual members of the Manhua Society continued to work together on various publications, the organization itself informally disbanded shortly thereafter, in the spring of 1928.

Continued in Chapter 5…

[1] “Shanghai Huabao Zengsong Ming Jian” 上海畫報贈送名箋 [Shanghai Pictorial to Hand Out Free Name Brand Stationary], Shenbao 申報, October 6, 1925, 18.

[2] Sun Shusong 孫樹松 and Lin Ren 林人, eds., “Shanghai Huabao” 上海畫報 [Shanghai Pictorial], Modern Chinese Compilation Studies Dictionary 中國現代編輯學辭典 (Heilongjiang People’s Press 黑龍江人民出版社, 1991), 279.

[3] According to the literature scholar Zhang Yongjiu, Bi Zhenda is said to have died from sexual exhaustion after spending two days and two nights with a prostitute. Pictorial Shanghai survived his death, however, with the last issue coming out in December 1932, having published over 500 issues by the end of its run. See Zhang Yongjiu 張永久, 鴛鴦蝴蝶派文人 [Literati of the Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies Clique] (ShowWe Press 秀威出版, 2011), 13 and Sun Shusong and Lin Ren, “Shanghai Huabao.”

[4] “Sanri Huabao Di Yi Qi Chuban” 三日畫報第一期出版 [China Camera News Publishes the First Issue], Shenbao 申報, August 4, 1925, 17.

[5] “Chenguang Meishu Hui Di Si Jie Zhanlanhui Yuzhi” 晨光美術會第四屆展覽會預誌 [Preview of the Fourth Annual Aurora Art Club Exhibition], Shenbao 申報 (Shanghai, July 30, 1925), 17.

[6] Minxin Special Edition published seven issues between July 1, 1926 and September 1, 1927. Bi Keguan and Huan Yuanlin write that Lu Shaofei worked at Xinmin Film Studio 新民影片公司. This is almost certainly a mistake for Minxin Film Studio.

[7] “Sanjiao zhi Guang Ding Qi Chuban” 三角之光定期出版 [Light of the Triangle to Be Published Regularly], Shenbao 申報, March 29, 1926, 18.

[8] “Shanghai Shenghuo Xuanshang Zhengqiu Shangbiao” 上海生活懸賞徵求商標 [Shanghai Life Offers Reward for Logo Design], Shenbao 申報, May 8, 1926, 25. Later notices mention that the printer for the Shanghai Life (Illustrated) was the Lianyi Trading Co., who Lu Shaofei had worked with in February, 1926. See “Shanghai Shenghuo Di Si Qi Chuban” “上海生活”第四期出版 [“The Shanghai Life” Issue Four Published], Shenbao 申報, June 6, 1927, 11.

[9] “Shanghai Shenghuo Xuanshang Zhengqiu Shangbiao.”

[10] “Shanghai Shenghuo Hanqing Wenyi Jie Zhuangao” 上海生活函請文藝界撰稿 [Shanghai Life Requests Mailed In Submissions from  the World of Art and Literature], Shenbao 申報, May 14, 1926, 21.

[11] “Shanghai Shenghuo Jiang Chuban Dingqi Qi Yue Qi Ri” “上海生活”將出版  定期七月七日 [“The Shanghai Life” To Be Published: Date is Set for July 7], Shenbao 申報, July 1, 1926; “Shanghai Shenghuo Di Er Qi Chuban You Qi Shiqi Ri Chuban” 上海生活第二期出版有期 十七日出版 [Shanghai Life Issue Two to Be Published: Date is Set for 17th], Shenbao 申報, November 15, 1926.

[12] “Chuban Jie Xiaoxi” 出版界消息 [News in the World of Publishing], Shenbao 申報, December 28, 1926, 18; “Shanghai Shenghuo Di Si Qi Chuban.”

[13] Tang Wei 唐薇, “Zhang Guangyu Yishu Zuopin” 張光宇藝術作品 [Zhang Guangyu’s Art], Zhuangshi 裝飾 no. 01 (2007): 50.

[14] Xie Lingling 謝玲玲, “Woguo jinxiandai zhuming cishanjia Xu Qianlin” 我國近現代著名慈善家徐乾麟 [Famous Modern Chinese Philanthropist Xu Qianlin], May 16, 2014, (accessed February 24, 2015).

[15] “Huabao Xiaoxi” 畫報消息 [Pictorial News], Shenbao 申報, June 29, 1926; “Sanri Huabao Bai Qi Huiji Fashou” 三日畫報百期彙集發售 [China Camera News 100 Issue Collection Goes on Sale], Shenbao 申報, July 15, 1926, 22.

[16] “Chuban Jie Xiaoxi” 出版界消息 [News in the World of Publishing], Shenbao 申報, March 2, 1927, 18.

[17] A minor street running north to south through the French Concession, it was originally given the name Rue Omnichan when it was built in 1901. It was renamed in 1906 after the French Commander-in-Chief of French Forces in the Far East, Admiral Charles-Jesse Bayle (1842-1918), while the section extending into the International Settlement to the north was known by the decidedly less prestigious name Mohawk Road. The two sections have since been renamed Huangpi Road South黄陂南路 and Huangpi Road North 黄陂北路. See Paul French, The Old Shanghai A-Z (Hong Kong University Press, 2010).

[18] Tang Suzhen湯素貞 (1904-2002), married 1920. See Tang Wei, “Zhang Guangyu Yishu Zuopin,” 50.

[19] Bao Limin, “Ye Qianyu yu Lu Shaofei (shang).”

[20] Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin, Zhongguo Manhua Shi, 83. Bao Limin also notices this discrepancy. See “Ye Qianyu yu Lu Shaofei (shang),” 23.

[21] Jack Chen, “China’s Militant Cartoonists,” ASIA Magazine, May 1938.

[22] Zhongguo manhua shi 中國漫畫史 [A History of Chinese Comics] (Shandong Huabao Chubanshe 山東畫報出版社, 2008), 109–10.

[23] In personal communication, Timothy Cheek has compared this analogy to the work of historian John Fitzgerald, who argues that Chinese politics, and Sun Yat-sen and the KMT, “awoke” in a similar way during the 1920s. Cheek suggests that the Manhua Society might be seen as early example of mass mobilization, albeit in the world of commerce rather than politics, connected (as argued by Fitzgerald) through the League of Leftwing Writers. See John Fitzgerald, Awakening China: Politics, Culture, and Class in the Nationalist Revolution (Stanford University Press, 1998).

[24] “Manhuahui zhi chengli” 漫畫繪製成立 [Manhua Society Founded], Shenbao 申報, December 7, 1926.

[25] Caojiadu (literally, ‘Cao Family Ferry’) was famous for having a large number of older Western villas mixed in with newer industrial infrastructure. It was also close to St. John’s campus, located just north of Jessfield Park (today’s Zhongshan Park), on the banks of the Wusong River, and so would have been a familiar haunt for Wang Dunqing. See Lu Hanchao, Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Century (University of California Press, 1999), 279.

[26] Huang Wennong 黃文農, “Fa hua gao yihou” 發畫稿以後 [A Sketch After Submission], Shanghai Shenghuo 上海生活, December 1, 1926, 1.

[27] In addition to being printed in Shenbao on December 21, 1926, the Manhua Society Manifesto was also reprinted in Issue #157 of China Camera News on December 25, 1926. See “Manhuahui fabiao xuanyan” 漫畫會發表宣言 [Manhua Society Publishes Manifesto], Shenbao 申報, December 21, 1926.

[28] Ye Qianyu, Ye Qianyu zizhuan: Xixu cangsang ji liunian, 59.

[29] According to Soviet accounts of the siege, Sun relied heavily on Soviet adviser, Vasily Blyukher (1889-1938) to help orchestrate the final assault on Nanchang. At one point, Sun was said to have been so distraught that he was threatening to kill himself. See Vera Vladimirovna Vishni͡akova-Akimova, Two Years in Revolutionary China, 1925-1927 (Harvard Univ Asia Center, 1971), 250–52.

[30] “Songhu Jingting Zhengzhibu Zhiyuanwei Ding” 淞滬警廳政治部職員委定 [Songhu Police Station Political Office Staff Set], Shenbao 申報, April 22, 1927.

[31] Ye Qianyu, Ye Qianyu zizhuan: Xixu cangsang ji liunian, 60.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Some sources erroneously record that Lu joined the Guominjun 國民軍 (Nationalist Army) and not the Guomingjun 國命軍 (National Revolutionary Army). While the Guominjun had in fact arrived in Nanjing at one point, it was in January, 1925, as part of the Guominjun Anhui-Fengtian Expedition under the leadership of Zhang Zongchang, driving out the warlord Qi Xieyuan, Lu was still in Shenyang at this time. Qi Xieyuan had captured Jiangsu province from Lu Yongxiang following the Jiangsu-Zhejiang War of late 1924, the same conflict which had trapped Ye Qianyu and his friends in Xiamen. By the fall of 1925 Sun Chuanfang had forced Zhang Zongchang and the Guominjun out of Shanghai and Nanjing. See Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin, Zhongguo Manhua Shi, 113.

[34] Brian G. Martin, The Shanghai Green Gang: Politics and Organized Crime, 1919-1937 (University of California Press, 1996), 82–85.

[35] Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin, Zhongguo Manhua Shi, 77, 114, 117.

[36] Ye Qianyu, Ye Qianyu zizhuan: Xixu cangsang ji liunian, 60.

[37] “Songhu Jingting Zhengzhibu Zhiyuanwei Ding.”

[38] “Ge tuanti xiaoxi.”

[39] Bu Wuchen, “Gaoshou manhuajia Ji Xiaobo.”

[40] Ye Qianyu, Ye Qianyu zizhuan: Xixu cangsang ji liunian, 97.

[41] Ibid., 60.

[42] Bao Limin, “Ye Qianyu yu Lu Shaofei (shang),” 22.

[43] “Ge tuanti xiaoxi.”

[44] See Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin, Zhongguo Manhua Shi, Picture Appendix, 61, and Ding Xi 丁西, ed., “Wennong Fengci Huaji” 文農諷刺畫集 [Huang Wennong’s Collected Satirical Drawings], Meishu Cilin 美術辭林, Manhua Yishu Juan 漫畫藝術卷 (Shanxi Renmin Meishu Chubanshe 陝西人民美術出版社, November 2000), 651–52.

[45] Bi and Huang also include a second collection of Huang Wennong’s work A Collection of Drawings for the New Year 初一之畫集 (1929, publisher unknown) as having been published by the Manhua Society. See Bi Keguan and Huang Yuanlin, Zhongguo Manhua Shi, 82, 85.

[46] “Manhua hui chang hui ji” 漫畫會常會紀 [Regular Meeting Notes for the Manhua Society], Shenbao 申報, November 9, 1927, 15.

Nick Stember
Nick Stember is a translator and historian of Chinese comics and science fiction, currently working on his PhD in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. In 2016 he completed his Master of Arts in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia with his (very readable and not at all obscure) thesis on the formation of the Shanghai Manhua Society in the mid-1920s.