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Pocket comics revive childhood memories

By Sophie Wang   (Shanghai Daily)

09:40, January 18, 2013


Pocket-sized comic books (lianhuan hua) first published in the 1920s were a major source of entertainment and a means of publicizing government policies in the 1950s and 60s.

One of the masters of lianhuan hua - literally linked pictures - is 91-year-old illustrator He Youzhi, known for his pictures of childhood scenes in old Shanghai.

"My Childhood Days," an exhibition of 54 of He's works is underway through Sunday at the Xuhui Art Museum. He drew them last year when he was 90.

Lianhuan hua originally targeted children and marginally literate readers. Some featured folk legends and opera and a number of noted illustrators were involved.

The popularity of lianhuan hua ended with the start of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s the little picture books made a comeback. Many publications circulated, adapting literary works from China and overseas.

They were often rented or sold at kiosks in Shanghai.

The works of He Youzhi and other artists became collectibles because of their detail and artistry.

The 54 drawings on display depict traditional Shanghai longtang or lane games, such as cricket fighting, kicking shuttlecocks and jumping rope.

"Today you seldom find these traditional lane games," says Wang Na, a member of the organizing staff. "These drawings remind me of indelible memories of childhood when classmates and friends played in the neighborhood after school."

"At the age of 90, illustrator He still can render every small detail with superb technique," says Hu Jianjun, a professor at Shanghai University. He is the rare artist who can still paint at that age.

"He rekindles our happy memories of a life that has long been forgotten."

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