August 2010 Huang Yao's Cartoons at China Cartoon Museum in Shanghai


Address: Shanghai Animation and Comics Museum, 69 Zhangjiang Lu.  Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm.

Official Chinese Website:

"Huang Yao was born in Shanghai and was a journalist with Xinwen Bao in 1934, the same year he created Niu Bizi. He was part of the selection committee of the First National Cartoon Exhibition in 1936. There are three main periods in his life, the Cartoon Period, the Scholar Period and the Painter Period.

Niu Bizi was created to counter the notion that China was the “Sick man of Asia”. Niu Bizi is a fearless Chinese gentleman that spoke up for the common man. Huang Yao’s cartoons were so popular that the Japanese plagirized Niu Bizi during the war. 

Huang Yao made Niu Bizi very simple so that children can draw Niu Bizi. In 1937, Huang Yao was warned to leave Shanghai as the Japanese were looking for him. In 1938, he set up his own publishing company in Chongqing, with the purpose of educating people and soldiers about the war. During the war he published over 30 books and several woodblock prints. Huang Yao also did a set of cartoons of places he had lived in including Chongqing, Guiyang, Guilin and Kunming. After the war, he did cartoons for education purposes.

Huang Yao traveled extensively in and outside of China. He lived in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, and several places in Malaysia. During his Scholar Period, he researched Chinese characters and wrote a history book on the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore. In his Painter Period, he painted Chinese ink paintings.

The reoccurring themes that run through his works are the love of China, children, education, peace and the common man."

Here are some of Huang Yao's cartoons on display:

Tianxia Weisi

Tianxia Weisi, 1936, Cartoon, Granting Happiness

The title of this cartoon, the “Earth is Mine” is done by changing one character of the idiom, “Fairness for All”. Niu Bizi the character has the flexibility to portray different nationalities. Here we see that the earth is being carved up by different foreign countries, the United Sates is represented by the Niu Bizi with a hat, the Japanese are represented by the Niu Bizi dressed in kimono and the Germans are represented by the Niu Bizi with the swastika armband, all closing in on China. Different parts of China were lost to them as represented by the crying Niu Bizi without hands and legs.


Niutou Manhua, first edition, May 1, 1937, Magazine Cover. 

This is the cover of the cartoon Magazine produced by the Niu Bizi Society in Shanghai. In it, Huang Yao printed works of other cartoonists, discussed issues of the day and even had several pages to show children’s drawing of Niu Bizi that he received from children all over China.

Niu Bizi is depicted with four hands holding a brush, Buddhist beads, a golf stick and a series of small banners. There is a kite also flying in the background. His body is split in four parts, one part with a black top and a yellow star badge, the other half of his body looks like a red igloo, with a round badge, the writing on the badge has been scratched out, where Huang Yao signs off as “W. Buffoon”.

His lower left pants is in green and he is wearing a western leather shoe, while his right foot is wearing a black boot with feathers in front.

One of the genius in the construction of the drawing of Niu Bizi is the fact that the random placement of the dots of the eyes and the mouth, will result in different facial expressions from dotting in different places. As seen in this drawing, the left pupil looks upward and to the left, while the right pupil looks downward to the right and the dotted mouth is close to the nose, making Niu Bizi look rather silly. 

 “Yima Cai” (Aunty’s vegetables) - Guiyang in Cartoons, 1942

Huang Yao traveled to many places in China, from Shanghai he passed through Ningbo, Hangkou, Nanjing and then traveled upriver to Chongqing, where he spent 4 years. Then he headed to Guilin, Guiyang, Liuzhou, Luzhou and Kunming for exhibitions. 
He painted a set of 100 cartoons of Guiyang in 1942 and presented it to the city, the city wanted to give him a piece of land but he asked them to build an art center instead. The 100 paintings depict life in Guiyang, the food, the weather, the monuments and buildings and also the indigenous people.

This cartoon is called “Aunty’s Vegetables”. Aunty is a respectful and friendly way of addressing the Miao women and the vegetables they sell are called “Aunty’s vegetables”. It shows the friendly relationship between the Guiyang people and the Miao. Huang Yao did other cartoons such as “Chongqing in Cartoons”, “Guilin in Cartoons”, “Visit to the Miao Area” and “Kunming in Cartoons”. A number of these cartoons were lost in the war and have not resurfaced yet.

Military Doorgods, est. 1941, Woodblock Print

After leaving Shanghai in late 1937, Huang Yao set up his own publishing house in 1938, in Chongqing called “The People’s Pulbisher”. During the war, he published over 30 books, several woodblock prints and held numerous exhibitions in several cities in China such as Chongqing, Guiyang, Guilin, Luzhou, Liuzhou and Kunming. His books encouraged people in the wartime and then also documented life during that period in time.

“Almost everything about this pair of doorgods is unusual. Accompanied by two children, they directly face the viewers instead of being seen from the side. The two gods grasp rifles and grenades instead of the traditional spear. The color scheme is light rose, gray and pale blue, instead of the bright colors. The banners proclaim, “Defeat Japan, Revive China” and the discs held by the children state, “Those who have money should give money, those who have strength should give strength”. This is a rare example of traditional folk idiom used to convey a modern political message”. 

Professor Ellen Laing. University of MichiganAn excerpt from “Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Popular Prints”
There is no record of how many copies of these Military Door Gods were printed but it is known that 500,000 copies of another woodblock print were printed and distributed.

Other books Huang Yao did during the war include, “Chinese People in War Time”, “A Good General”, “A Good Man”, “A Good Commander”, “Chongqing in Wartime”, “The Bald Headed Guerilla”.



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