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Shanghai Life

  • [I]Shanghai Life[/I] was the first book published by the newly-founded Shanghai Cartoonist Club (March 7, 1942). The club held its first exhibition in June of the same year, at the Shanghai Art Gallery on Nanking Road (now Nanjing Dong Lu).
  • Book
  • Shanghai Life

    Word Count: 2

  • Shanghai Cartoonist Club
  • 1943
  • 1945
  • Shanghai Art Gallery, 212 Nanking Road, International Settlement (Nanjing Don Lu, Huangpu Qu) Shanghai

  • Shanghai (CN)
  • Shanghai Life was the first book published by the newly-founded Shanghai Cartoonist Club (March 7, 1942). The club held its first exhibition in June of the same year, at the Shanghai Art Gallery on Nanking Road (now Nanjing Dong Lu).

    Word Count: 38

  • Shanghai is known for its cartoon and publishing scene fueled by the urban and political dynamics of the semi-colonial metropolis. The little book Shanghai Life, published in 1942, describes the founding and purpose of the newly-created Shanghai Cartoonist Club on the first page, in three languages (Chinese, Japanese and English): “Since the outbreak of the War of Greater East Asia, the great metropolis of Shanghai has undergone a great change, and its cultural and economic life now occupies a unique position. The cartoonists of Shanghai have formed the Shanghai Cartoonist Club, for the purpose of better co-operating and promotion of their art.”
    The "unique position" refers to the Japanese occupation and the founding of the Wang Jingwei regime – the Chinese puppet regime of the Empire of Japan, also known as the Nanjing Regime (1940–1945). A closer look at the club's members list and exhibition venue quickly reveals its complex political background. Managed by Hisami Kiyono, probably between 1940 and 1942, the Shanghai Art Gallery was a branch of Gallery Nichido located on 212 Nanking Road it. The underlying source here is a newspaper article, kindly provided and translated by the Fukuoka Art Museum, and in which Hisami Kiyono reports on the visit of the Japanese artist Kenshi Ito to the Shanghai Art Gallery. During this time Kenshi Ito exhibited in the showroom The Studio, which was run by the German architect Richard Paulick while nothing is known so far about exhibitions at the Shanghai Art Gallery, that might have seemed more plausible at first glance. But there is too little information available here to draw any conclusions.
    Among the Japanese members of the club was the Japanese Army cartoonist Miuro Yoshio/Noa (Noa). Chinese members were Chen, Xiaozuo (Ma Wu) and the movie cartoon pioneer Wan Laiming. Chen's cartooning practice has been researched in the context of Sino-Japanese collaboration and war propaganda. However, Wang is famous for his anti-Japanese cartoons. These cartoons were promoted by Jack Chen (Chen Yifan) in London to seek support for China’s "War of Resistance". These seemingly ideological contradictions reveal the complex and extremely difficult situation for all artists in wartime Shanghai under Japanese occupation. Among the Jewish-European club members were the Viennese artist Friedrich Schiff and Fred Fredden Goldberg from Berlin, a later inhabitant of the so-called Shanghai Ghetto and member of the ARTA (Association of Jewish Artists and Fine Art Lovers) and the Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) in Shanghai. Further members were Russian speaking émigrés, such as the popular cartoonist Sapajou.
    This entry is written with little information available about the continued existence of the Shanghai Cartoonist Club. It is considered a precursor of the Chinese Cartoonist Association which was founded in late 1942 and came to be known as RNG (Reorganised National Government) propaganda organ that launched its first own magazine Chinese Cartoons (Zhongguo manhua) in October 1942. The composition of the members seems astonishing divers at first. But it might very remotely reminiscent of the propagated construct of a “multi-ethnic Greater Asia" under Japanese rule, as well as simply Shanghai’s international population reality. At least the ‘supernumerary nation type’ represented by ‘white émigrés’ meaning the Russian speaking refugees in (Northern) China, can be found in ‘Manchurian’/Japanese propaganda materials. However, the members did not only vary in terms of their origins, but also in terms of the reasons that led to their stay in Shanghai, and these differed greatly.
    Correspondingly, the cartoons contained in the booklet display a stylistic and technical diversity or particularity, such as the contribution by Wan Laiming.
    The gaunt figure of his kneeling beggar is set in black ink lines, which condense into an expressive, but silent mimic of suffering on his cautiously raised face.
    The delicate and simple coloring darkens behind his back, while the bare skin of a lifeless child's body hanging belly-down over his pointed knees reflects the pale light surrounding him. Composition, Gesture, and motif may be associated to a socio-critical style attributed to left-wing artistic production, such as the woodcut movement, but the choice of material, the technique, and its execution point in a different direction. His Beggar may also refer to a traditional Chinese perceived painting practice, involving ink(lines) and brush and to a genre history of rendering beggars, peasants or 'liumin' in China.
    His image is rather difficult to reconcile with the typical definition of the term cartoon and artistically symbolises the complex mixture of art historical discourses, topics and political issues that could be addressed here.
    Others display a humorous portrayal, and at first glance do not convey a clear or controversial (political) message, while some combine both.
    The exploitation of the female body by artists and artistic propaganda means, also in the context of Sino-Japanese collaboration cartooning, is well researched and thus it is not very surprising that Shanghai Life contains various examples of sexualised, and objectified representations of a ‘depraved’ female body, displaying nationalist, racist, colonial, and imperial concepts, discourses and ‘anti-western’ sentiments at various levels. Often artistic means such as juxtaposition and exaggeration are used. Gestures, facial expressions, and attributes, such as clothes, accessories, and the urban frame function as codified amplifiers. Sometimes, and to some extend the humorous tone creates a milder perception of the political noise.
    The size of the little oblong book relates to the format of the palm-sized lian huan hua (linked serial picture storybooks) which were published in Shanghai in large quantities from the 1920s onwards and often distributed by street libraries which was captured by the photograph Sam Tata. The lian huan hua format was also used by Friedrich Schiff and Paula Eskelund for their little book Squeezing through! Shanghai Sketches 1941–1945 and for Sapajou’s Five Months of War published by North-China Daily News & Herald in 1938 as well as the Sapajou Album published for the German Information Bureau by Max Noessler & Co in 1943. In addition to its use for children's books, it seems the format was considered sustainably suitable for accessible propaganda material and as a creative space and media for art production of any kind and origin.

    Word Count: 1008

  • Shanghai Cartoonist Club, Shanghai Life, fist page, 1942.
  • L. M. Wann (Wan Laiming), Beggar, detail, Shanghai Life, 1942.
    Mawoo (Ma Wu/Chen Xiazuo), Twilight comes to Fochow Road,detail, Shanghai Life, 1942. Fochow Road (now Fuzhou Lu) was in the International Settlement, running in East-West direction south and parallel to Nanking Road (now Nanjing Dong Lu), Still today the street is known for its book and calligraphy shops.
    Minosuke (Kato Minosuke), Nationalist & Internationalist, detail, Shanghai Life, 1942. This cartoon also uses the means of juxtaposition and makes use of the differently connoted variants within one form of dress which is the qipao here. Attributes, body posture and gestures differ accordingly.
    Noa (Miura Noa), Encounter in Shanghai, detail, Shanghai Life, 1942. The cartoon juxtaposes Japanese and Chinese clothing styles with different connotations. The cartoon juxtaposes Japanese and Chinese clothing styles with different connotations. The gestures and postures of the two figures differ. A concealed and covered body meets an openly posed and uncovered body.
    Schiff (Friedrich Schiff), Rain, detail, Shanghai Life, 1942. This cartoon shows a highly stylised version of a tall and underweight ‘modern Shanghai girl’ wearing a fashionable very fitted and very high slit qipao. Her body parts are extremely exposed and flaunted by her gesture. She carries small shopping parcels, wears high heels and bright red lipstick instead of clothing appropriate to the climatic conditions.
  • Bevan, Paul. A Modern Miscellany: Shanghai Cartoon Artist, Shao Xunmei’s Circle and the Travels of Jack Chen 1926–1938. Brill, 2016.
    Ikeda, Asato. “Twentieth Century Japanese Art and Wartime State. Reassessing the Art of Ogawara Shū and Fujita Tsuguharu.” The Asien Pacific Journal, vol. 8, no. 43, no. 2 October 25, 2010.
    Lee, Leo Ou-fan. Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930–1945. Harvard University Press, 1999.
    Lent, John A. and Xu Ying. Comics Art in China. University Press of Mississippi, 2017.
    Pekar, Thomas. editor. Flucht und Rettung. Exil im Japanischen Herrschaftsbereich (1933–1945).“ Dokumente, Texte, Materialien. vol. 81, Metropol, 2011.
    Taylor, Jeremy E. “Collaboration in Wartime China: The Mobilization of Chinese Cartoonists under Japanese Occupation.” Modern China, vol. 41, no.4, pp. 406–435.
    Zhuang, Muyang. “A Literature review on Manhua Studies.” Association for Chinese Manhua Studies, Research Centre, Short Essays, 29 January 2021. Accessed 2 February 2021.

    Word Count: 136

  • Österreichisches Institut für China- und Südostasienforschung, Wien, Estate of Friedrich Schiff.

    Word Count: 13

  • Mareike Hetschold
  • Shanghai
  • No
  • Mareike Hetschold. "Shanghai Life." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 22-06-2021.
  • David Ludwig Bloch

    David Ludwig Bloch is known for his paintings and watercolours revolving around the Holocaust and his exile. With the woodcuts from his time in exile in Shanghai, Bloch created an artistic account of everyday life in the city, while harvesting the simplicity of form and colour of the medium.

    Word Count: 49

    Friedrich Hermann Schiff

    Friedrich Schiff was an Austrian-born artist who went to Shanghai in 1930. He became known for his humorous cartoons, which were enjoyed by the colonial bourgeoisie.
    Due to his Jewish origins, he was unable to return to Austria after Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938. He left Shanghai for Buenos Aires in 1947.

    Word Count: 51

    Association of Jewish Artists and Fine Art Lovers (ARTA)

    Seven Jewish artists living in the so-called Shanghai Ghetto joined together to form an art association in 1943. The founding members were: David Ludwig Bloch, Paul Fischer, Fred Fredden Goldberg, Ernst Handl, Max Heimann, Hans Jacoby and Alfred Mark.

    Word Count: 38

    Richard Paulick

    After studying with Hans Poelzig, Richard Paulick worked in Walter Gropius’s office and frequented the Bauhaus in Dessau before emigrating to Shanghai in 1933. After his return, he became an influential planner and architect in the GDR, from 1950 until his retirement

    Word Count: 41