Representations of Tibetans in China’s ‘Illustrated Story Books’ (lianhuanhua)

In Tibet and the Cultural Revolution, I compiled a series of images capturing events from the most turbulent period of history in modern Tibet. One of the images that you might remember from the collection was Pan Chashao (1973), a lianhuanhua (连环画), or illustrated story books, about a Tibetan woman’s role in border patrol.

Lianhuanhua emerged in early 20th century Shanghai (though it is sometimes argued that they can be traced back as far as the Song Dynasty), and provided a relatively cheap form of entertainment for literate urbanites. Focusing on popular culture, they provided picture-book adaptions of various novels, folk stories, movies and plays.

During the Mao era these pocket-sized picture-books assumed a very different role, becoming an important propaganda channel for disseminating socialist ideals to semi-literate farming communities across rural China as well as the educated masses in the cities.

I was curious about the presence and representation of Tibet and Tibetans in lianhuanhua, and decided to see what I could come across. Below are the images that I have found so far.

1. Ziquhepan, Tibetan Militia Girl Chases Counter-Revolutionary Fugitives (紫曲河畔:藏族女民兵追反革命逃犯), 1972. Gansu People’s Publishing House.

2. Danzeng (丹增), 1972. People’s Fine Arts Publishing House.

3. Pan Chashao (盘查哨), 1973. Zhejiang People’s Publishing House.

4. Red Light on a Snowy Night: Tibetan Amah Helps Lost People’s Liberation Army Soldiers (雪夜红灯:藏族阿妈帮助迷路的解放军), 1973. Sichuan People’s Publishing House.

5. Four days and Nights on the Snowy Mountains, Icy Peaks (雪山冰峰四昼夜), 1974. Xinjiang People’s Publishing House.

6. The Red Flower of the Grassland: The Little Sister Heroines of the Grasslands  (the puppet version) (草原红花:草原英雄小姐妹的木偶版), 1975. People’s Fine Arts Publishing House.

7. Tali (塔丽), 1978. Shandong People’s Publishing House.

8. Glittering Stones: A Tibetan Teen Leads the Geology Team Sent By Chairman Mao to the Treasure Mine (闪光的石头:藏族少年给毛主席派来的地质队找到宝矿点), 1979. Anhui People’s Publishing House.


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