May 27 1956: Cartoon Talks


Cartoonist Huang Yao’s speeches
Notes by Yang Wenyan

 There are meanings contained in cartoons, some are social and some are romantic in nature. In Chinese, the characters that make up “cartoon” that is, “man” (free and easy) and the character, “hua” (painting), when read by people of the older generation, the description was not too agreeable; and so they do not take cartoons seriously.

The two Chinese characters “manhua” for cartoon was originally created by the Japanese. These paintings emerged in their minds and they then drew them out, but as they were unable to name them, they were known as "manga".

Manhua in other countries is known as "cartoon", just as the "Mickey Mouse" movie is known as a "cartoon" movie.

I have been in the cartoon industry for more than twenty years, almost for three decades. I feel that the elements of a good cartoon should include that the content be educational, societal and constructive. They are able to drive social progress.

At the beginning stage of drawing cartoons, it does not matter whether it was well drawn or not, or whether it resembles the original object or not. As long as when you see an image in your mind, do your best and use your imagination to draw it out; gradually, the thoughts can become a good cartoon.

The composition of a cartoon is nothing more than three factors:

  • First, the theme - cartoon themes are everywhere, but the author must use his/her own imagination on how to apply these themes to the painting so that whatever the result is, it can help the world and help the community. 
    The cartoon is not for destruction or to create trouble, on the contrary, it is constructive and educational and through the author's brains, drawn to assist the community, help the families and even humanity.
  • Second, the technique – Everyone who is studying painting, engaged in sketching what one sees, whether it is wood engraving, line drawing, photography, black and white, the basic skill and techniques must be there.
  • Third, the art - how should we express the theme after finding it? This requires honing ones skill. In terms of the expression of cartoon’s conception, exaggeration is allowed. It is through the author's observations, conceptual abilities and then expression. For instance, when painting Churchill, his baldness, fat face and always carrying a cigar, all of these fully represent his traits and characteristics.

Speaking of themes, I now have two pieces of cartoons to introduce to you. Everybody please put yourselves at ease; there is no need to be so serious as if you are listening to an academic lecture. Treat this as a discussion, take it as if it is a conversation, will be fine.

A good piece of cartoon, its ability to help humanity is great. Germany lost in both World Wars, the use of cartoons as propaganda had generated a lot of publicity. During World War I, German Emperor Wilhelm II was allegedly very afraid of one thing and he would shudder upon seeing it. These were cartoons.

In some sport grounds or poster advertisements, we often see some cartoons painted with a hand having a finger coming and pointing directly at you? It’s meaning is asking: "Have you joined the army"? Or "Are you going to be with the troops"? These are to express the irresistible forces of justice.

There is another cartoon, where there is a drawing of the doors of two trains compartments. This is a freight train and not the first class carriage; it is the third-class passenger carriage, there is a lot of blood flowing out from the door, thickly coagulating. The title was: "Save the wounded soldiers!" This cartoon makes people remember that many other people that are suffering, have hardships and calamities to defend their Homeland; many wounded soldiers are lying in the train's compartments, groaning in pain. Although we cannot see them in the image, but from the pool of blood, they can make you feel deep pain. Thus, we can see from a good cartoon, how that sense of forces of justice can help people and help the community too!

Since we are at the Chinese YMCA, it reminds me that "saviour" is the direct interpretation of the word (or the two Chinese characters of) "Christ". He is the master of the world; I am not an evangelist, so let's not talk about them now. I just wish to talk about the little connection between Jesus and cartoons.

There is a story in the Holy Bible, that is, the Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 8. At the beginning of the chapter, it stated that Jesus was a righteous man, but there were a lot of people jealous of him, and there were even some people who often deliberately find fault in Jesus to embarrass him. At one point, they caught and brought him a woman who had committed adultery.

According to the local law, the people can tie her at the city gate and stone her to death, just like the story line in the movie, "The Robe"; they then asked Jesus whether they should kill that woman. If Jesus says: “yes", then the responsibility would fall on Jesus and they can accuse him, as his reputation is to rescue people, in that way, wouldn't that violate his longstanding stance? 

Suppose Jesus says: "no", but if she obviously did a dishonorable act and let loose without punishment, doesn't that make Jesus look worse? Therefore, this question was intentionally asked to embarrass Jesus. However Jesus was silent, he then squatted on the floor and bending forward, with his finger on the ground, he kept drawing circles. The people repeatedly pressed Jesus over and over, but he remained silent.

Finally, Jesus said coldly: "If among you, there is anyone who has never done anything wrong, then you can start to stone her". This sentence is not only powerful but also very grim. Let us think about this, who has never done anything wrong? Later on, the older people had a change of heart after much thinking, they realized that they had also done wrong before and so they quietly went away. Eventually some of the remaining people also asked themselves and left one after another.

This is because among these people, some of them are just blind followers and when they saw others disbanding; they also went off one by one. At that time, Jesus was still drawing circles on the ground. It was only when the woman spoke to Jesus that he realized they were the only people left. The woman asked Jesus how he wanted to punish her? Jesus replied: "Who doesn't make mistakes, just sin no more in the future."

These were simple words of Jesus, just like a few strokes of lines in a piece of cartoon that has a hint of sarcasm; after seeing them, everybody will run away.

Currently in the newspapers, magazines and journals published in Singapore, we often see many of cartoons in them. Whether these paintings are good or bad, as long as we make a comparison, it will be known. It is not only those who drew the cartoons that carry a responsibility, even those who have read them have to bear some responsibility. A piece of cartoon could be harmful but it could also save lives. I hope everybody from today onwards will start to pen cartoons. I hope not too long later, you can gather the works together to have a cartoon exhibition.

(Note: This script was the speech of cartoonist, Huang Yao, given at a lecture on the afternoon of the 27th of May 1956, as invited by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Youth Art Research Association. After some editing and without being proof read by Mr. Huang. If there are any mistakes or errors, the author will be held solely responsible).

[newspaper source unknown] 


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