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Arrest of the Orchid (Cases of Magistrate Shi).
Shanghai: Fuji Book Company, 1949. 2 volumes.
10.2 x 13.2 x .6 cm.
The title page may be translated:
Everyone Welcomes the King of Comics
Arrest of the Orchid
Proudly distributed by Fuji Book Company
This work, by one of the four most famous cartoonists of the 1940s (along with Zhao Hongben, Qian Shaodai, and Chen Guangyi), is typical of the format, style, and content of lianhuanhua produced before establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Shen Manyun was best-known for his lianhuanhua based on traditional operatic performances, and the characters in this book are dressed like performers. The text includes labels for the characters, dialogue balloons, and short passages of text in cartouches at the bottom of the page that describe the action.
Mi Gu (1918-1986)
Erhei Gets Married (Xiao erhei jiehun)
Ink on paper
13.8 x 19.5 cm.
Text adapted by Mi Gu
This is one of the earliest "revolutionary" lianhuanhua published in Shanghai after the Communist victory. Based on propaganda plays performed for the peasants in the Communist areas of northern China during the war, this version was written and drawn by the well-known Shanghai cartoonist Mi Gu.
The lively plot is not well-served by the somewhat wooden compositions. Nevertheless, the work marks an important and self-conscious transition between the conventions of pre-1949 comics and the more realistic style of drawing developed by the early 1960s.
The story begins:
There were two "divinities" who lived in Liujialing, in northern Shaanxi province. One was known as Zhuge the Second, of the Front Village, and the other was called Xiangu the Third, of the Rear Village. Zhuge had received some education, so before he took any action, he would always consider the Yin-Yang and the Eight Trigrams, and check if the day was a lucky one or not. Xiangu the Third was wife of Yu Fu, and on the first and fifteenth of every month, she would wear a red scarf and disguise herself as a deity.
The problem soon surfaces: Erhei was Zhuge's son. He had loved Xiao Qin, daughter of Xiangu, for about three years, but their match was opposed by his father. His grounds were that "their fates did not match." Xiangu was also opposed to the match, because she herself liked Erhei. She was afraid that she would lose her opportunities to chat with him if he married her daughter. For this reason, she asked her neighbors to find a husband for Xiao Qin.
There were also two complete bastards named Jinwang and Xinwang who lived in Liujialing . They originally worked for some bandits, guiding them in their robbing and kidnapping, and then extorted money from the victims' families for return of the hostages. After the Eighth Route Army defeated the bandits, the county government appointed a village head to establish revolutionary authority. Most of the villagers were quite timid, however, and nobody dared to become an official. This gave Jinwang and Xinwang the opportunity to seize power by taking official posts, where they continued to do bad things.
One day, when Xiao Qian was home alone, Jinwang tried to harass her. Rebuffed, he held a grudge against her, and later used his power to have Erhei and Xiao Qin arrested, accusing them of free love that violated traditional morality. The head of the district finally heard about the terrible things Jinwang and Xinwang had done, and had them arrested instead. Finally, Erhei and Xiao Qin, with the support of the new government, married of their own free will.
Ding Bingzeng (b. 1927)and Han Heping (b.1932)
Railroad Guerillas (Tiedao youjidui)
1954-1962 (ten volumes)
Ink on paper
16.8 x 21.4 cm.
Based on the novel by Liu Zhijia, with text adapted by Dong Ziwei
This lianhuanhua, based on a novel by the journalist Liu Zhijia, describes events of the period 1938 to 1945. Set in southern Shandong during the Anti-Japanese War, it tells the story of coal miners and railway workers who joined forces under the direction of the Communist Party to fight a guerrilla war against the Japanese along the Lin-Zao Railway Line. According to the story, although the Japanese tried repeatedly to exterminate the guerillas, the local people supported them, and they were able to win many victories. This lianhuanhua dramatizes their exploits.
Work on this influential lianhuanhua began less than a decade after the Japanese surrendor, during the highly nationalistic first five years of the People's Republic of China. It creates heroic working-class Chinese characters, while at the same time demonizing the Japanese enemy of the occupation years. The dramatic drawing and action-filled story has been immensely popular in the decades following its first release. It has been reprinted at least 36 times and has sold almost four million copies.
Yang Qinghua (1915- )
Story of the Three Kingdoms
Ink on paper
14.4 x 21.7 cm.
Taken from episodes in the classic novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this tale recounts how Liu Bei sought the strategic assistance of Kong Ming, personally visiting him three times at his retreat on Sleeping Dragon Ridge. In this lianhuanhua, Kong Ming agreed finally to go with Liu Bei to the capital because the common people were suffering from the chaos of the world. In the battle of Bowang, Kong Ming used troops for the first time, burning and defeating tens of thousands of Cao Cao's troops. The novel from which this lianhuanhua is taken is based on historical events from the third century that had subsequently passed into the oral literary tradition and mythology of China.
Zhao Hongben (b. 1915)and Qian Xiaodai (1912-1964)
Monkey Beats the White-boned Demon (San da bai gu jing)
Ink on paper (5-45)
33.4 x 24.4 cm (5-45); 29.3 x 23 cm(reproductions).
Based on the novel Journey to the West, with text adapted by Wang Xinbei.
These drawings from Monkey Beats the White-boned Demon tells part of the longer tale, Journey to the West. In this version, Monkey (Sun Wukong) protects a Buddhist monk on his pilgrimage from the court of the Tang dynasty emperor across the Central Asian mountains to India, where he hopes to acquire precious Buddhist sutras. In the lianhuanhua, Monkey vanquishes the man-eating White-boned Demon, a task made more difficult by the White-boned Demon's talent at transformation. She tricks the Tang monk three times by her disguises, but Monkey is able in each case to recognize the demon's ruse. The Tang monk, fooled by demon magic, is unable to tell true from false, and puts himself in mortal danger by confusing the demon with real people. Monkey, as the story's hero, is particularly courageous and acute. The characters include the Tang monk, his disciples Monkey and Pigsy (Zhubajie), the Sha Monk, and the White-boned Demon, who appears here in three of her various manifestations.
The story, although distantly based upon real historical events of the late seventh century, has passed into Chinese mythology and popular culture. A much longer seventeenth century version of the Journey to the West, in one hundred chapters, has been translated into English by Anthony Yu.
He Youzhi (b. 1922)
Great Change in a Mountain Village (Shanxiang jubian)
Ink on paper
16.7 x 23.7 cm
Based on the novel by Zhou Libo
This lianhuanhua is adapted from a heavily propagandistic novel of the same title. The story takes place in an isolated village in the southern province of Hunan in 1955, during the height of China's movement to collectivize agriculture. It recounts the experiences of its peasant characters in the midst of the tidal wave of change required by the movement, and portrays the results as a great success. The Communist Party swept into every aspect of life, transforming not only the foundations of the rural economy, but also social customs, family life, attitudes toward romantic love, relationships between people, and the very nature of the village itself.
The text itself is somewhat turgid, but this lianhuanhua owes its high reputation in the Chinese art world to the five hundred poignant drawings that more than compensate for the weakness of the story's language and plot. The psychological insights the artist He Youzhi has conveyed by the appearances and interactions of his characters make completely plausible the struggles undergone by people required to suddenly change their entire way of life.
The characters represented in these drawings include party activists Pretty Plum and Li Yuehui; a calculating farmer known as Dummy Ting; and a young couple, Guizhen and Yusheng.
Ink on paper
15.7 x 24.8 cm.
Based on the film, with text adapted by Lu Zhongjian
This is a feminist story about the life and changing relationship of a young peasant couple in the period following the communization of the countryside. The wife, Li Shuangshuang, is hard-working, bold, and opinionated. Her husband, Sun Xiwang, is depicted as clever in small ways, but short-sighted. When Li Shuangshuang becomes active in party affairs, spending time helping improve her village, her husband first quarrels with her and then leaves her and their small daughter. In the end, he sees the error of his ways and returns.
As in Great Change in a Mountain Village, He Youzhi's brilliant characterizations make up for the rigidly propagandistic text. A well-known film depicting the same story appeared shortly before He Youzhi began this set of drawings.
Hua Sanchuan (b. 1930)
White Haired Girl
Ink on paper
15.8 x 22.3 cm.
Based on the film script of the same title, with text adapted by Da Lu.
This tale is based upon a real story that took place in the 1940s. Performed as a play at the Communist base in Yan'an, and many times thereafter, the story was adapted as a movie in the early 1960s. This lianhuanhua was based upon the film script. Later, during the Cultural Revolution, the story was made into one of the eight model operas.
The heroine is a young woman named Xi'er, the motherless daughter of a poor man. Raised by a loving father, she became a great beauty, and fell in love with a young man named Dachun. Unfortunately, she caught the eye of a wealthy landlord who desired her as a concubine. Xi'er's father refused all approaches by the landlord, which led the rich man to foreclose an outstanding loan and demand Xi'er as his payment. The kind father's finger print was applied to her purchase contract by fraud, leading him to commit suicide. Xi'er was then seized by the landlord's men, and her true love Dachun was unable to save her. He then left their village to join the Communist Eighth Route Army.
Mistreated at the landlord's house, Xi'er ran away to the mountains, where she hid for many years in a cave and subsisted on wild plants. She emerged only at night, and sometimes went into small shrines to eat the offerings to the gods. Her hair turned completely white, and when the local people saw her, they believed that she was a spirit.
Dachun returned as a commander in the Eighth Route Army and arrested the evil landlord. Later, when he heard stories of the white-haired female spirit, he decided to investigate the cause of the superstition. He tracked her to her cave, and when he confronted the so-called divinity, she recognized him. He then took her back to her village.
Shi Dawei (b. 1950), Luo Xixian, Wang Yiqiu, Xu Youwu, and Cui Junpei
Qing Troops Enter the Pass (Qingbing rusai)
Shanghai People's Art Press, 1978
Ink on paper
15.6 x 22.1 cm.
Text adapted by Yang Zhaolin.
This lianhuanhua is based upon the historical novel Li Zicheng, which tells of peasant uprisings that led to the collapse of the Ming empire in the mid-seventeenth century and the establishment of the Manchu Qing dynasty. These drawings come from volume one of the lianhuanhua, in which the pro-war and pacifist factions within the Ming government vie for power. The novel portrays the pacifists as traitors, and the pro-war Lu Xiangsheng, who was killed in a futile effort at military resistance to the Qing regime, as a heroic martyr.
Fifteen Strings of Cash (Shiwu guan)
Ink on paper
14.4 x 23 cm
Text adapted by Wang Zhaoqi
This lianhuanhua, based upon a southern-style (Kunqu)opera, was inspired by a seventeenth century text, Shuang Xiong Meng, by Zhu Suchen. This traditional opera's revival in the People's Republic of China is due to public praise by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in 1956, part of a movement to select for preservation certain elements of traditional culture. It emphasizes the virtue of an honest official.
Although antique in subject matter, dress, and setting, there are few classical references in the drawing style. The transition from the leadership of Mao Zedong to that of Deng Xiaoping, which occurred at the end of the 1970s, was marked by many optimistic works of art that celebrated clean government.
Huang Quanchang (b. 1937)
Hai Rui Leaves Office (Hai Rui ba guan)
Ink on paper
15.7 cm x 22.2 cm.
Text adapted by Li Dafa.
Hai Rui, an official of the Ming dynasty, was very famous for his honesty. He was upright by nature and lived a simple and incorruptible life. The story here represents Hai Rui during his tenure as imperial commissioner, when he engaged in a seven month struggle with the retired prime minister Xu Jie and other powerful men.
Xu Jie's son, Xu Ying, taking advantage of his father's power, and in league with corrupt local officials, committed all manner of evil deeds, forcibly occupying the land of the peasants and seizing unwilling women. After Hai Rui investigated the case of the woman Hong Alan, he redressed the grievance by sentencing Xu Ying to death. In order to save his son's life, Xu Jie bribed high officials and eunuchs at the court. They threatened Hai Rui in an effort to force him to change his decision. Hai Rui, however, remained unmoved. He put Xu Ying to death, then resigned from office and retired to his hometown.
Lu Fusheng (b.1949)
The Phoenix Hairpin (Chatou Feng)
1983 (published 1984)
Ink and color on silk
18 x 16.2 cm
Text by Zheng Shifeng
Phoenix Hairpin) is a tragic story based on the relationship of Lu You (1125-1210), the great Southern Song dynasty poet,and his first wife, his cousin Tang Wan. The couple loved each other deeply but were forced to separate by Lu You's mother, who disliked her daughter-in-law. Tang Wan later remarried Zhao Shicheng, a member of the imperial family, and Lu You remarried a woman ne Wang.
Ten years later, the poet encountered his first wife at the Shen Garden, outside the city, and both of them felt extremely sad. Lu You then composed a famous poem in the song-lyric (ci) format expressing his feelings about their love and inscribed it on the garden wall. Tang Wan wrote a poem bearing the same title and soon died of a broken heart.
Ye Xiong (b. 1950)
Ink on paper
14 x 22.9 cm.
Based on a novel by Mao Dun, text adapted by Da Lu.
These drawings are from two volume lianhuanhua based upon Mao Dun's famous novel of the same title. The story is set in Shanghai in late spring and early summer of 1930.