READCHINA: lianhuanhua

READCHINA: lianhuanhua #

Chinese Comics in Translation #

For most of the 20th century, pocket size comic books (lianhuanhua 连环画, often literally translated as “linked images”) were an integral part of Chinese everyday reading culture, providing readers with entertainment, information and/or political instruction. Established as such throughout the 1920s and 1930s, after 1949 these comic books continued to range from adaptations of literary texts or films to hagiographies of socialist heroes like Lei Feng to stories propagating the usefulness of using fertilizer in agricultural production. Published as handy pocket-sized booklets, they were shared among children and adult readers alike to be read at street stall libraries or at work units after hours. Lianhuanhua production was massive, with an estimated 50.000 titles published since the founding of the PRC. Moreover, one in three books published in 1986 was a comic!

Lianhuanhua were indeed quite popular reading material. To provide contemporary readers and researchers with a glimpse into the vast Chinese comic culture, the READCHINA project publishes a number of exemplary comics from the Mao and early post-Mao years with English translations on this webpage. We hope that these translations will spur further interest and research into this diverse, relevant and, very often, entertaining medium.

During the Mao years, Beijing Foreign Languages Publishing House published translations of comics into various foreign languages. In addition, the 1970s saw a few translations published outside China (most notably a translation into Italian published by Gino Nebiolo et al and retranslated into English and German; and a translation of excerpts of lianhuanhua into German prepared by Wolfgang Bauer). Today, more lianhuanhua in translation can be found online, such as:

Further Reading #

For further reading on Chinese graphic narratives, including lianhuanhua but also the cartoon-like genre of manhua 漫画 and others, see for example:

Altehenger, Jennifer 2012: “Kopieren für die Revolution: Die Cartoonreproduktionskampagne in der Volksrepublik China 1950-52”, in: Henningsen, Lena, Martin Hofmann [ed.]: Tradition? Variation? Plagiat? Motive und ihre Adaption in China, (Jahrbuch der Deutschen Vereinigung für Chinastudien 6), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2012, 295-307.

Altehenger, Jennifer 2013: “A Socialist Satire: Manhua Magazine and Political Cartoon Production in the PRC, 1950–1960”, in: Frontiers of History in China, Vol.8, no.1, 77-102.

Bauer, Wolfgang [ed.] 1976: Chinesische Comics: Gespenster, Mörder, Klassenfeinde (translated by Wolfgang Bauer), Düsseldorf: Eugen Diederichs Verlag.

Bi, Keguan 毕克官 1982: History of Chinese Comics 中国漫画史话, Jinan: Shandong renmin chubanshe.

Chen, Minjie 2012: “Chinese Lian Huan Hua and Literacy: Popular Culture Meets Youth Literature” in: Cynthia B. Leung, Jiening Ruan [eds.]: Perspectices on Teaching and Learning Chinese Literacy in China, New York: Springer, 157-181.

Chen, Minjie 2015: “Linked Pictures: A Genre of Chinese Illustrated Books”, in: Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University,, June 19, 2015, last access 2021-02-10.

Crespi, John A. 2020: Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn, Oakland: University of California Press.

Farquhar, Mary Ann 1999: Children’s Literature in China: From Lu Xun to Mao Zedong, Armonk: Routledge.

Guleva, Mariia 2021: “How to Deal with a Good Child? Prescribed Normality in Images of Children and Child-Adult Relations in Manhua Magazine, 1950-1960,“in: The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, no. 30, 37-82.

Harder, Hans, Barbara Mittler [eds.] 2013: Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair, Berlin: Springer.

Lent, John A. 1994: “Comic Art”, in: Dingbo Wu, Patrick D. Murphy [eds.]: Handbook of Chinese Popular Culture, Westport: Greenwood Press, 279-306.

Lent, John A. 2010: “Manga in East Asia”, in Toni Johnson-Woods [ed.]: Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, New York, Continuum 297-314.

Lent, John A. 2021: “Women and Asian Comic Art: Gendered Genres, Female Portrayals, and the Creative Industries”, in: Benjamin Woo, Jeremy Stoll [eds.]: The Comics World: Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Their Publics, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 32-50.

Lent, John A., Xu Ying 2017: Comics Art in China, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Mandzunowski, Damian 2019: “Caricatures Criticizing the Gang of Four: Contributors and Publications”, in: The Maoist Legacy,, 1 February 2019, last access February 4, 2022.

Mandzunowski, Damian 2018: “Wang, Zhang, Jiang, and Yao in Caricatures: A Close-Up View”, in: The Maoist Legacy, 1 November 2018,, last access February 4, 2022.

Mandzunowski, Damian 2018: “The Visual Language of the Caricatures Criticizing the Gang of Four”, in: The Maoist Legacy, 1 September 2018,, last access February 4, 2022.

Mandzunowski, Damian 2018: “Caricatures Criticizing the Gang of Four,” in: The Maoist Legacy, 1 June 2018,, last access February 4, 2022.

Nebiolo, Gino, Jean Chesneaux, Umberto Eco [eds.] 1971: I Fumetti di Mao, Bari: Laterza & Figli.

Nebiolo, Gino 1972: Das Mädchen aus der Volkskommune (translated from Italian by Arno Widman, with an introduction by Gino Nebiolo and commentaries by Jean. Chesneaux and Umberto Eco): Reinbek: Rowohlt.

Nebiolo, Gino, Jean Chesneaux, Umberto Eco [eds.] 1972: The People's Comic Book: Red Women's Detachment, Hot on the Trail and Other Chinese Comics (translated from Italian by Endymion Wilkinson and Frances Frenaye, with an introduction by Gino Nebiolo), New York: Anchor Press.

Rea, Christopher G. 2013: “‘He’ll Roast All Subjects that may need the Roasting’: Puck and Mr. Punch in Nineteenth-Century China”, in: Hans Harder, Barbara Mittler [eds.]: Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair, Berlin: Springer, 389-422.

Seifert, Andreas 2008: Bildergeschichten für Chinas Massen: Comic und Comicproduktion im 20. Jahrhundert, Köln: Böhlau Verlag.

Seifert, Andreas 2015: “Aufstieg und Fall der Lianhuanhua”, in: Reddition: Zeitschrift für Graphische Literatur, Vol.32, no.63, 4-29.

Stember, Nick 2014: “Don’t Call it ‘Manga’: A Short Intro to Chinese Comics and Manga”, in: Nick Stember, March 19, 2014,, last access February 22, 2022.

Tan, Xiyuan, 2019: “Guoxue Comics: Visualising Philosophical Concepts and Cultural Values through Sequential Narratives”, in: The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 9:1, 11. doi: 10.16995/cg.149.

Wu, I-Wei 2013: “Participating in Global Affairs: The Chinese Cartoon Monthly Shanghai Puck”, in: Hans Harder, Barbara Mittler [eds.]: Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair, Berlin: Springer, 365-388.

Acknowledgements #

The translations published here were produced in joint translation projects by students at the Institute of Chinese Studies, University of Freiburg, supervised by Lena Henningsen. The webpage was set up by Duncan Paterson. We acknowledge the support of the ERC-funded project “The Politics of Reading in the People’s Republic of China” (READCHINA, Grant agreement No. 757365/SH5: 2018-2023).

Special thanks go to our colleagues Matthias Arnold and Hanno Lecher from the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS), Heidelberg University, for providing us with high resolution scans of the comics which are part of the Seifert collection.

We have taken much effort to contact the publishers of the respective comics in order to acquire permission by the copyright holder to publish the pages online. We regret that we have not received responses to our inquiries. If you believe that copyrights are not being respected, please send an email message to: readchina"at" We will respond as soon as possible and will work with you to either accredit the material correctly or remove it entirely.