Liao Bingxiong and Fang Cheng

Some interesting sections quoted from the article linked below.

TIMELESS HUMOR
Liao Bingxiong and Fang Cheng, masters of a fading Chinese cartoon tradition
by John A. Lent and Xu Ying

But in China today, cartooning has strayed from providing a public service or serving as a political watchdog; it has become, for the most part, strictly a commercial venture. Brush and ink techniques have been virtually abandoned, as have literature, folklore, and poetry as content sources. Facial and other features of cartoon characters are now likely to be rendered in the Japanese manga style. All of this has occurred since China accelerated its opening to the West in the 1990s.

Eighty-seven-year-old Liao, whose career spans seventy years, quit drawing cartoons in 1995, disgusted with the “unhealthy, meaningless” nature of modern cartooning and what he referred to as the senseless imitation of Japanese manga.

I guess we can infer that Liao Bingxiong doesn’t like manga?

Liao Bingxiong: A Typical Lackey (1936)

Beginning with his first published cartoon—in Shanghai’s Time Cartoon magazine in 1932—Liao’s work has been hard hitting and bold. Never the lackey serving his head on a platter to a master, as he depicted in a 1936 cartoon (entitled “A Typical Lackey”), Liao tried to be his own man.

*image at left -j*

For some reason, Bingxiong’s “A Typical Lackey” reminds me so much of some Italian Futurist paintings. I think I’m just seeing things differently today after having spent too much time doing illustrations all night long.

Fang Cheng, another of the few surviving masters of cartooning, also laments the changed cartooning scene in China, stating that the field is filling up with amateurs who do not have drawing skills, do not understand humor as a language, and seldom spend time in intellectual pursuits such as reading. Although many cartoonists in the past did not have formal art training, they were familiar with folk art and literary classics, from which they drew inspiration.

Fang is extremely productive, putting in long hours seven days a week, not only drawing cartoons, but also painting, doing calligraphy, publishing collections of his cartoons (ten so far), and writing theoretical books on cartooning. The latter he considers very important—”to find new ways of drawing” and to pass on his theory of humor and cartoons. Fang says his theory is based on history and on practice, and one of his strongest premises is that humor is the art of language and is characterized by the implied, not direct, approach. By way of example, he said that a sentence such as “When I eat to the full, no one in my family is hungry” implies that the speaker is not married. He prescribed that a cartoonist “must get familiar with somethingand then find the smartest way to say it.”

This is really an amazing look at two “elder statemen” of the mainland Chinese comics/cartooning world. If you didn’t notice the link I posted before, please check out the International Comic Arts Festival website, as Fang Cheng will be one of the speakers at this year’s festival. I would love to see some collected editions of his work.

Related Articles:

Cartoon Evolution on Show at Exhibition

A retrospective exhibition of Chinese cartoons produced in the past 30 years opens at the National Art Museum of China today.

Chinese Cartoons Prove Unpopular

Typical Chinese animation uses real life for inspiration, then exaggerates and satirizes it. This “historical and cultural” display is the first of its kind in a cartoon exhibition… And it may be the last. So what is the future for Chinese cartoons? Should they stick to their traditional styles? Or should they try and move with the times and become more commercialized? It’s a question Chinese cartoonists will surely be pondering.

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6 thoughts on “Liao Bingxiong and Fang Cheng

  1. >Oh my GOD! Thanks so much for putting up this article! Talking about the cartooning scene in China horrifies me, not least because of the same reason Liao seems to hate. I’m Liao doesn’t hate manga. He just hates young Chinese cartoonists aping the style and not doing anything original. This is indeed an increble problem with Chinese cartooning today – it is still amazingly underdeveloped, but I think Liao pointed out an incredibly important thing. Young people don’t read much. BAD BAD BAD. So many people don’t realise that being a comic artist is just like being a writer – you must READ as much as possible for your good ideas! I’ve seen so many Chinese “manga” that are drawn beautifully, but with god-awful stories and panelling. But it seems that no one cares as long as the art is nice.No wonder people are so horrified by the current state of comics in China.

  2. >No problem Queenie. Yeah, I wasn’t reading too clearly that night–Liao and Fang seem to hate the aping of manga alot of the younger generation seem to be doing. This article pretty much sums up some of the other things I’ve read about (mainland) Chinese comics.There’s so little (at least in English) written about creators like Yao Ting and Bao Wei (and obviously Liao Bingxiong and Fang Cheng) that seem to have a voice that’s distinct from the mangaesque inspired comics in China that it can be easy to simply talk about manga as a hegemonic genre in Asia.The differences seem to be so slight between manga and manhua or manhwa and manga that’s it’s not too surprising that no one wants to take the time to even bother mentioning them.I’m glad I found this article, and am really intrigue by the history of Chinese comics now.

  3. >Aha–thanks for the link Queenie–now I have to wait for my slow-ass net connection to load the images.I’m very intrigued by the history of Chinese cartooning/comics/manga–I think I’ll probably do alot bloggin bout the subject.

  4. >You know–maybe it’s just me, but the first thing I thought when the thumbnails finally loaded was that it looked so Chinese. Maybe I’ve spent too much time studying Chinese brush paintings and techniques, but that was my first impression. It barely looks like manga to me.

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