Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Envisioning Inter-species Everyday Life: Representations of Sentient Beings in Feng Zikai’s Essays and Comics (manhua), 1925-1949

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

This paper aims to examine how a vision of everyday life across species boundaries was embodied in the formation of the new visual-verbal medium of manhua (usually translated as comics or cartoons) in China in the first half of the twentieth century by specifically looking at the works of Feng Zikai, known as a writer, a Buddhist layman (jushi), and a key figure in the emergence of modern manhua in China. Situating Feng Zikai’s works in the context of the modern transformation of Chinese Buddhism and the development of printing and publishing industries in the city of Shanghai, the paper looks at how Feng fashioned the religious cultural practices of releasing life (fangsheng) with the new pictorial form of manhua in Shanghai’s dailies, magazines, and Buddhist journals. It proposes that unlike most comics and cartoons of his contemporaries that took animals as metaphors of evolutionism and nationalism, Feng’s works probed into the interspecies intimacies in everyday space where Buddhist ideas of compassion, hygienic discourses, and the violence of modern warfare all came into play. The paper looks at three kinds of sentient beings (youqing) in Feng’s works: 1) household pets and outdoor species who share joy and pleasure with humans; 2) “vermin beings”, such as mosquitoes, flies, and rats, which have been categorized as pests, or hai chong (harmful animals) in modern hygienic discourses; 3) refuge animals that accompanied with Feng in his exile during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Civil War in 1938-1949. 

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3 - Envisioning Inter-species Everyday Life: Representations of Sentient Beings in Feng Zikai’s Essays and Comics (manhua), 1925-1949



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