Chinese Pulp Comics

Beautifully retro Chinese Lianhuanhua from the 1980s

While at a flea market in Kaohsiung last weekend I came across a big box of booklets. It was the covers the drew me in, some of them reminiscent of pulp novels. While I was flicking through the bundles the stall owner kept emphasising to me “是沒有電視時代看的 They’re from before we had TV”.

The illustrations take up about 3/4 of the page and are accompanied by the story text
The illustrations take up about 3/4 of the page and are accompanied by the story text

When I got home and did a bit of research I discovered the books are actually 連環畫/连环画 Lián huán huà, meaning ‘linked pictures’. They actually had an interesting role in Chinese history during the last century.

According to Wikipedia the illustrated novels were originally used for propaganda purposes and, after break during the cultural revolution, saw a resurgence in the 70s and 80s. Four of the books I have are dated in the 80s, and the newest is from 1990.

I love the style of the cover art
I love the style of the cover art

Each book is about 127mm x 90mm and anywhere from 70 to 100 or so pages. Some stories are split across books which can be seen from the ‘first half’ and ‘second half’ on the cover.

The quality of illustrations differ from book to book
The quality of illustrations differ from book to book

The quality of illustrations varies a lot, and the print quality in some is not very good. I love the cover art, though, and given the price it’s definitely worth collecting a few of these if you can find them.

Of the books I bought two were traditional kung-fu style Chinese stories, and the other three were Western.

Some of the covers are really reminiscent of pulp novels
Some of the covers are really reminiscent of pulp novels

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One of the books was Star Wars. I looked for the accompanying first book but unfortunately couldn’t find it. I may go back soon for a second look.

Chinese Star Wars comic
Due to the uninspired cover I almost passed this one over, then I saw the title

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A great piece of Chinese culture and I’m happy to have found them. I’m sure I’ll go back to find more and then maybe frame them together.