Thursday, December 19, 2013


Artist, writer, musician, lecturer, teacher and translator, Feng Zikai (1898-1975) was basically a shy person; he knew candidness and honesty were not necessarily appreciated in the circles of politics and public speaking he reluctantly traveled in. In his art, he took pleasure in an 'informal' approach, expressing his feelings and opinions directly, without fear of being thought of as 'uncool' or overly earnest. (I feel a kinship with him in this direction.) His cartoons, appearing in periodicals and book collections, were highly popular in their day.

Zikai was a humanist, and as an educator, was deeply critical of the regimental aspects of the scholastic system, especially where children were concerned.

The fists represent 'Parents' and 'Teachers'.

Zikai welcomed China's takeover by the Communists, reasoning, as many did, that it would be an improvement over what had gone on before. But with 'liberation' came new restraints on artistic expression. Zikai was stifled; he tried to show his support even by revising his old cartoons according to the new ideology, but was nevertheless condemned as a 'bourgeois intellectual'.

Compare this cartoon with the 'new version' below.

The neighbors swap 'Liberation Daily' & 'People's Daily'.

In his 70th year, Zikai was exiled to be 'rehabilitated' through manual labor. It was essentially a slow death sentence; his health broke, and he died in disgrace.

His work refuses to die. Its 'honesty' has made it immortal.

(Thanks to author Christoph Harbsmeier and his book, THE CARTOONIST FENG ZIKAI, from which these images are taken.)

Earnestly Yours, MK

1 comment:

Milton Knight said...

From FB:

Paul Buhle: thanks!

Nicholas John Pozega: Milton when it comes to championing esoteric artists like these guys, you are a "Knight" in shining armor!