Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 57

The Coming of Age of Chinese Comics: Manhua, “Mr. Wang,” and Shanghai Sketch Introduction It is commonly acknowledged that the term manhua, the Chinese rendition of comics and Cartoons, is a loan word borrowed from Japanese manga in 1925 when Zheng Zhenduo first used it to refer to Feng Zikai’s Cartoons in Wenxue Zhoubao (Literature Weekly).1 Some art historians (Lent, 1994: 281; Li, 1978; Bi and Huang, 1986) argue for the predated practices of manhua in grotesque drawings, serial story pictures, New Year’s pictures, and wall paintings in pre-modem Chinese art. Sarcasm and humor can be found as an integrated part in many forms of traditional Chinese arts, such as the paintings by Zhu Da (1626-1705?) and Luo Liangfeng (17331799). By the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), various terms like “fengcihua” (satirical picture), “yuyihua” (allegorical picture), “xiehua” (humorous picture), “xiaohua” (burlesque picture), or “huajihua” (farcical picture) had been in use, referring to pictures with exaggerated images and satirical or humorous connotations. However, it is a modern phenomenon that illustrated humor becomes the defining characteristic of an independent genre of art. The popularization of manhua in the forms of single-panel Cartoons, comic Strips, and comic books is only made possible with the development of the mass printing industry and, as Kuiyi Shen (2001, p. 109) has pointed out, the emergence of a “quickly rising middle-class of consumers in Shanghai.” Ye Qianyu’s (1907-2005) “Wang xiansheng” (Mr. Wang) series is China’s first and one of the longest running comic Strips with continuing characters. The creation of the images of petty urbanites2 in Shanghai showed an observable departure from the strong nationalist and political concems in earlier Chinese comic works. The appearance of this long comic strip, first serialized in Shanghai Sketch from 1928 to 1930, marked the point at which manhua had fully grown into an effective graphic narrative tool of social humor and matured as an independent genre of C