Feng Zikai’s (1898-1975) Manhua on the Theme of Children

To Pui Yee Perry 杜培義
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan

In China, the term manhua is usually associated with Feng Zikai (1898-1975). It is through Feng Zikai that the term manhua became commonly used in China and unified the various terms used for this type of work.

Feng Zikai appeared in the art and cultural scene in the early 1920s when China was in turmoil, humiliated, and experiencing great transformations. Feng’s contribution to the field of manhua is undeniable. He had written numerous articles introducing the concept of manhua to China from Japan. Throughout his life, he had created a lot of manhua which encompass different subjects and aspects of life. However, it is surprising for me to discover how little has been done in the research of Feng’s manhua in an art historical context. Many of the articles written are journalistic in nature. They could undeniably provide valuable historical data and ideas, however a comprehensive study of Feng’s manhua is lacking. It is out of this consideration that I started my research on Feng’ s manhua.

Among the vast categories of his works, “children” is one of the most important categories, especially in his early years. Feng had done a lot of works about children, either in the form of manhua or suibi. Even though Feng Zikai interpreted his children manhua as a criticism against the adult society, it is questionable that it was conceived as such in the beginning. Feng’s Buddhist belief prevented him to create really aggressive and satirical manhua in criticizing the adult society. Instead, Feng used the direct portrayal of children to contrast with the perverted world. Feng combined calligraphic brushwork and contemporary subject matters to produce works that are both Chinese and modern.

It is the main purpose of this thesis to investigate Feng’s manhua on the theme of children, trying to find out why children is an important and recurrent theme in his works, the meaning behind his works, its relationship with other works and the circumstances, and its own development.

This thesis contains four chapters. As Feng Zikai’s manhua are associated with his life and are projections of his own character and beliefs, the first chapter is an investigation of Feng’s character and its transformation throughout his entire career, with an emphasis on the people that had left their imprints on him. The second chapter is an overview of the relationship between Feng and children, his opinion of children, and the significance and meaning of children to him. The third chapter is an investigation of Feng’s children manhua, their relationship with Feng’s other manhua, and their transformation in terms of content and style throughout his career. The last chapter is dealing with the aesthetics of Feng and issues about the interpretation of his children manhua.