Author: Yi E (Director of Research Department, Research Librarian, National Art Museum of China)
2023 coincides with Feng Zikai’s 125th birthday. To commemorate this pioneer of modern Chinese comics, “Stars in the Sky – Feng Zikai Comic Art Exhibition” will be held at Huzhou Art Museum in Zhejiang Province.
Feng Zikai is not only a pioneer of modern Chinese comic art, he is also a writer, educator, translator and binding artist known for his versatility. He has created countless popular cartoons throughout his life, nurturing and enlightening generations of Chinese people. In China, the use of the term “caricature” began with Feng Zikai. Everyone has loved his comics since birth. Today, Feng Zikai’s comics are well known to everyone, and people often read them often. The most important reason, probably, is the poetic and philosophical thoughts in his works.
Spring Tour Apricot Blossoms Blowing Over Your Head (Comic) Feng Zikai
“Integration of poetry and painting” is one of the characteristics of Chinese art. It can even be said that the essence of Chinese painting is the essence of poetry. Su Dongpo said on Wang Wei: “When you taste Mojie’s poems, there are paintings in the poems; when you look at Mojie’s paintings, there are poems in the paintings”; Feng Zikai’s artistic language breaks through the outdated schema of traditional literati paintings. The poetic flavor of his paintings is a good legacy of the poetic core of traditional Chinese painting.
Feng Zikai is essentially a literati with a poetic heart. He uses poetry to paint, and his paintings are full of poetry and blend with poetry and painting. He loved classical Chinese poetry all his life, and knew many classical lines by heart, not only explaining them to his children and grandchildren, but also creating poems himself. His comic works not only vividly explain classical poetry, but also express real life poetically. Poetry is not only Feng Zikai’s creative material, but also her artistic essence.
Feng Zikai is good at replacing the artistic concept of classical poetry to real life, and at the same time infuses the fresh breath of the times. In the early 20th century, the style of imitating the ancestors was common in Chinese painting circles, Feng Zikai broke through the vicious circle of the ancients in one fell swoop with his poetic expression of human emotions. “Poetry” comes from his good heritage of traditional culture, and “newness” comes from his deep understanding of the true meaning of art.
Lang Riding a Bamboo Horse (Comic) Feng Zikai
In Feng Zikai’s comics, no matter how rich the poetic flavor is, it is born from the beautiful emotions in the world such as family, friendship and love. He described and praised the true feelings in the world with a very concise brushwork, expressing his love for life. “A Hook at the New Moon and the Sky Like Water” created by him in 1924 is his earliest published comic work. The bamboo curtain is gently rolled, and the crescent moon is like a smile. With just a few strokes, it expresses the joy and comfort after gathering with close friends. In “The Old Swallows Before Wang Xietang”, two spring swallows flutter in the air and fly into the small yard with red peaches, green willows, yellow walls and black tiles. Next to the house, a mother is drying clothes, followed by her child, and the warmth and tranquility of ordinary life floods the screen. The beauty of love is the same in ancient and modern times. “The Willow Head on the Moon” shows the scene of a girl waiting for her lover. The distant mountains faint, the green waves ripple, the willow branches flock, the full moon rises, the two rabbits near the ground, and the black cat looks up, This scene is intoxicating .
Feng Zikai’s cartoons inherit the poetic tradition of ancient literati paintings with simple brush strokes and ink.
If the poetry of Feng Zikai’s cartoons makes people feel the artistic concept of beauty, then the philosophical thought contained in them can inspire people to realize the meaning of life. He depicts everything in the world, not only to record the state of the world, but also to express his deep understanding of nature and life. He once wrote “Husheng Painting Collection” to persuade people to cherish life and cultivate a heart of kindness. Love is not only the foundation of Feng Zikai’s life, but also the main keynote of his art.
Wang Xietang Qianyan in Ancient Times (Comic) Feng Zikai
Feng Zikai calls himself an “admirer of children”, and often praises the innocence and purity of children with passionate brushes. In fact, not only Feng Zikai’s way of being a man, but also his way of being an artist. Feng Zikai expresses childlike innocence with a pure heart, and the children in his paintings are all so innocent and innocent. The irritable child who dragged his grandmother out in “The Sound of Gongs and Drums”, the naive little son in his father’s clothes in “Dad Is Back”, the gluttonous baby crying on his back in “Unsatisfied Peanuts”, “Desire” The naive child in “Going to the Blue Sky and the Bright Moon” stretches his little hands out of the window to catch the moon, the one in “Poer” who considers the saliva on En Ge’s face as marks beak, the one in “Zhan Zhan’s Car” that uses the cattail fan as Zhan Zhan’s bicycle…Feng Zikai is so fond of children’s subjects, in fact, he looks at the children’s world with the eyes of a philosopher .
The poetry and philosophy of Feng Zikai’s cartoons all stem from his great love for all living beings and his deep affection for the world. It is this expansive love and this sincere affection that creates the eternal beauty of Feng Zikai’s art. In June 2020, the Asteroid Nomination Committee of the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid discovered by Chinese astronomers “Feng Zikai”. The day the asteroid was discovered was November 9, 1998, the centenary of Feng Zikai’s birth. Feng Zikai often said that four things lived in his heart: gods and stars in the sky, art and children in the world. This great artist, like a star in the sky, will always shine in our hearts.
“Guangming Daily” (version 09, June 4, 2023)