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”.
When I got home and did a bit of research I discovered the books are actually 連環畫/连环画 , 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.
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 上 ‘first half’ and 下 ‘second half’ on the cover.
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.
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.
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.