Today marks the opening of the panorama of Chinese comic strips in the Comics Art Museum in Brussels. Being the capital of comic books, it seems fitting that Brussels welcomes China in celebrating their rich history of the drawn image and the story of their designs.
The exhibition will hold some of the very best examples of Chinese comic culture, starting from the modern day and going back to its early beginnings.
The earliest evidence of illustrated books in China was in 868; almost 600 years before Europeans even began lettered production with the Gutenberg printing press. In the late 1800’s, books called Lianhuanhua began distribution in China, and these featured a story and image on each page.
However, Chinese comic culture as we know it didn’t become popular until the 20th century; with its rise largely mimicking that of Belgian comic culture.
A character named Mr Wang was the first Chinese comic strip hero to make a regular appearance, and his creation in 1929 occurred the same year as Tintin. Even more coincidental, China’s most famous comic strip character, San Mao, was created in 1935, the same year that published Tintin’s adventures in China, in The Blue Lotus.
In the 21st century, the communist government began opening China up to the world, and Chinese authors found new sources of inspiration in European, American and Japanese comic strips; even adopting their techniques of storyboards with dialogue in each small box.
As comics became popular in China, genres divided into the more tempered western style comics for the older generation and stylised manga for the children who had been raised on Japanese cartoons.
All this created a rich diversity in the canon of Chinese comics, and this will surely be demonstrated by those strips on display at the exhibition; with the very best Chinese authors’ works being selected.