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ISLAMABAD: An exhibition of Chinese comic art opened at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA)’s China Cultural Centre on Wednesday.

Cultural Counselor of the Chinese embassy You Yi, who was the chief guest, inaugurated the exhibition “Classic and Inheritance - From Traditional Chinese Lianhuanhua to Modern Comic Art” - showcasing works of 17 comic artists, including He Youzhi, Gu Bingxin, Pang Bangben, Li Zhiwu, Wang Kewei, Nie Chonrui, Lu BoNie Jun, Lu Ming, Golo Yao and two female comic artist – Zao Dao and Zhao Jia.

He was accompanied by PNCA Director General Jamal Shah, Pakistan-China Friendship Association President Atiya Qutab, Pakistan’s first woman cartoonist Nigar Nazar, famous Chinese comic artists and illustrators - Li Zhiwu, Zuo Jian, Wang Ning - and cartoonist Nei Jing Hui.

The exhibition features some of the best and representative Chinese comic art, its evolution in different ages starting from the 40s till 80s.

Addressing the audience, including students of private schools and art enthusiasts, Mr You said: “Comic as a universal art language promotes mutual understandings between various cultures.”

The exhibition aims to showcase Chinese visual art, history and modern economic achievements to outside world and promote friendship between peoples of different countries, especially our time-tested friend, Pakistan, he added.

Lianhuanhua used to be one of China’s most popular forms of mass entertainment. Society has changed since then and media have diversified but people are now exploring new ways to preserve these charming picture books, he added.

The cultural counselor also appreciated the participating Chinese artists of the exhibition which according to him will be helpful for cementing the exemplary friendship between China and Pakistan.

He also thanked the citizens and students for presenting the beautiful melodies and colorful cultural aspects of Pakistan and China.

About the comic art, Mr You said “lianhuanhua’ depicts ancient folk tales, the revolution, modern achievements, life and culture as well as famous films.”

He said Pakistani films Insaan aur Aadmi and Baghi were adapted as lianhuanhua and published in China in the 1980s. It became a unique window of cultural exchanges between China and Pakistan, he remarked.

City School Regional Director Shireen Jawaid and International Grammar School and College Islamabad campus Principal Bilquees Azam Kureshi appreciated the efforts of the China Cultural Centre for providing an opportunity to their students to perform and understand Chinese ancient history, life and culture through comic art.

The exhibition will remain open until Sept 20.

Comic art was very popular among adults as well as children and the stories were mostly taken from classic Chinese and martial arts novels. Later, they carried stories about the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Lianhuanhua describes stories and characters in continuous pictures and is a popular kind of book for all ages. This art emerged from the Song Dynasty in China around 1,000 years ago. In the 20th century, the development of lianhuanhua in China reached its peak and a number of masters and masterpieces were born.

The lianhuanhua artists such as He Youzhi and Gu Bingxin blended ancient and modern skills of painting and became world famous masters of art.

China’s most famous comic strip character, San Mao, was created in 1935, the year of first publication of The Blue Lotus, which recounts Tintin’s adventures in China.

However, lianhuanhua comic strip culture originated from an ancient tradition of telling stories in pictures, created for the ordinary people.

“Since most of the population in early 40 were illiterate and could not understand the messages of Chairman Mao, comic strip was used to create awareness about the new system,” Wang Ning, a producer, importer and exporter of comic art to the world told Dawn.

He said the art had witnessed a decline after the 1980s due to digital media.

They told a complete story with an illustration and narrative on every page and were often printed in millions of copies.

At the dawn of the 21st century, when China opened up to the world, Chinese authors found new sources of inspiration in European, American and Japanese comic strips and adopted the storyboard with dialogue in each small box.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018