ESTABLISHED in 2011, Shanghai Comic Center has become a platform for promoting Chinese comics (lian huan hua 连环画).
With more and more Chinese youngsters lost in manga from South Korea and Japan, Chinese comics seem to be fading away.
In fact, Chinese comics enjoys a long history, from woodblock prints in imperial times to anti-Japanese aggression cartoons, to drawings used to teach the illiterate masses after Liberation and satire criticizing the social darkness and unfairness in modern times. In other words, "comics culture" was once a part of life for ordinary people. The comic columns in several local newspapers are still favored by elderly people.
However, traditional sketching style and sometimes serious topics are not appealing to today's young people, who are more attracted to such subject matters as martial arts, teenage love and science fiction.
"That's why we hope this center could attract young people, as they might 'taste' the different flavor of Chinese comics," says Liu Jun, director of Shanghai Comic Center, "A good Chinese comic really evokes something deep, something philosophical and something witty."
Usually Chinese comics are simple sketches or drawings, perhaps such form is easily approachable for ordinary readers. "In Chinese comics, idea weighs a lot more than the technique," Liu says. "But such idea is based on profound observation of the surroundings, or to be exact, of what is happening around us and what people are thinking about, otherwise the comics won't ring a bell in the heart of the readers."
Shanghai is the center that has witnessed the vicissitudes of Chinese comics. In the 1920s, palm-sized picture books were popular in Shanghai. In 1928, the first Chinese comics magazine was also published here.
"So it is meaningful to have this center here in Shanghai," Liu says. "Chinese comics have a long history and shouldn't be ignored in China's modern art history."
There are several famous Chinese comic painters' studios in the center where they can continue to draw and publish them into books.
"We also have cooperation with local art academies to train young students in the area of Chinese comics," Liu adds.
So far, the comic center has published 50 Chinese comic books in different media, such as oil and ink-wash painting.
The center will hold exhibitions on a regular basis.