Interesting historical survey of Contemporary Chinese Literature and Art by Richard J. Smith.
Like woodblock printing, to which it bears a close relationship, comic art can be traced back for many hundreds of years in China. The tradition of telling stories with cartoon-like illustrations dates from the Han period, if not earlier, and for centuries Chinese children have read strip picture books of famous Ming and Qing novels. During the Qing period, even prominent painters sometimes produced what may be described as political cartoons. The legendary eccentric, Zhu Da, for instance, once depicted local government officials as ugly peacocks standing on an unstable, egg-shaped rock, waiting awkwardly for the emperor to pass by.
In the late nineteenth century, Western-style newspapers in the Chinese language began to appear in treaty port areas. A number of these publications incorporated cartoons and other caricatures, contributing to their overall popularity. By the beginning of the twentieth century, and particularly during the New Culture Movement and its aftermatch, cartoons and comic strips had become staples of the Chinese popular press. By 1937, Chinese cartoonists had succeeded in establishing their own national association, and during the anti-Japanese War of 1937-1945, cartoons proved to be a potent propaganda weapon.