Cotsen Research Projects: Fear Neither Hardship nor Death: Stories of Disabled Chinese Children in the Early 1970s

Note: The Friends of the Princeton University Library offer short-term Library Research Grants, awarded via a competitive application process, to promote scholarly use of the research collections. The text and images below were kindly provided by Melissa A. Brzycki, recipient of a 2015 Library Research Grant. She conducted research work with Chinese-language materials at the Cotsen Children’s Library for her dissertation project titled “Inventing the Socialist Child, 1945-1976” in August 2015. This essay reports her investigation of children with disabilities as portrayed in publications for young Chinese readers from the early 1970s, when publishing resumed after a hiatus during the first half of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Brzycki is currently a doctoral candidate of Modern Chinese History at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Fear Neither Hardship nor Death: Stories of Disabled Chinese Children in the Early 1970s

by Melissa A. Brzycki

From 1970 to 1972, children’s magazines and storybooks in the People’s Republic of China featured stories about children with disabilities. These documents were products of a time when Chinese citizens experienced a re-establishment of order following the upheaval of the early years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The first two years of the Cultural Revolution included many student and worker uprisings, and revolutionary fervor in many cases devolved into factional infighting. These struggles brought China closer to a civil war than it had been in the nearly 20 years since the Communists and Nationalists had fought China’s civil war (1947-1949). In the early 1970s, many of the revolutionary policies of the Cultural Revolution were folded into state practices as state control and order was re-established.

Using the Cotsen Children’s Library’s extensive holdings of Little Red Guard (红小兵) magazines and children’s storybooks, I found six stories published from 1970-1972, both nonfiction and fiction, about children with disabilities. In these stories, children found ways to overcome limitations imposed by their disabilities, either through personal struggle or with the help of other children. The stories showcase many of the ideas that structured Maoist thought at the time, including the notion that through the application of Maoism, everything and everyone can advance beyond previously conceived limitations. Furthermore, the revolution depends on every individual, including every child, devoting him or herself to the masses and the revolutionary cause.

The Little Red Guards were a counterpart group to the older Red Guards. Red Guards referred to young people, mostly high school and university students, who took up Mao’s call to renew the revolution and criticize those within the Chinese Communist Party who were straying from the revolutionary path. Red Guards began organizing themselves in 1966, and soon after the state extrapolated from these extra-state (and sometimes anti-state) organizations to create a state-sanctioned junior organization called the “Little” Red Guards. The organization replaced the Youth Pioneers, or “Red Scarves,” which had been the junior organization for the Communist Youth League in the 1950s and 1960s, modeled after the Soviet organizations for children and youth. Little Red Guards were primary school students, generally between the ages of 6 and 14. They were chosen for their good character and revolutionary attitude and deeds. The Little Red Guard magazines that circulated during the Cultural Revolution told stories of Little Red Guards overcoming obstacles and doing good, revolutionary deeds.

Four of the six narratives center on Little Red Guards, and the other two are about “little heroes” (小英雄), children who committed exemplary revolutionary deeds, often risking or resulting in loss of life or limb. All of the stories describe children with physical disabilities. Mental disabilities are rarely mentioned, and only one child, a young girl in “The Three Little Companions,” is described as having mental disabilities in addition to physical ones.

Two essays, “A Disabled Body with a Resolute Will, A Young Person with a Red Heart” and “Making Bricks for the Revolution with a Disabled Body and Resolute Will,” were published only five months apart. “Making Bricks for the Revolution with a Disabled Body and Resolute Will” comes from a Little Red Guard Pictorial published in Tianjin in August 1970. “A Disabled Body with a Resolute Will” was published in January 1970 in the Jiangsu provincial Little Red Guard. Both of these stories are first-person, nonfiction narratives written by children with disabilities who learn to overcome obstacles created by their disabilities through hard work and Maoist thought.

Fifth-grade Little Red Guard Wang Dongfeng wrote a first-person account of her political development in “A Disabled Body with a Resolute Will.” Wang was born with only one arm, so she wrote that for a long time she envied other people who had two arms, and she did not think she could do the things that they could do. Eventually her parents and teachers helped her study Maoism and the examples of Communist heroes, including a Liberation Army soldier who continued all his revolutionary work despite losing one arm in battle. Wang realized her own potential to contribute to the revolution, and she began participating in the same work that others did, as well as volunteering for difficult tasks like cleaning the toilets at school. The illustration for Wang’s story shows her carrying rice plants on her back, with one arm stabilizing the bundle.

A Disabled Body with a Resolute Will, A Young Person with a Red Heart

Little Red Guard, “A Disabled Body with a Resolute Will, A Young Person with a Red Heart” [身残志要坚,人小心要红]. Nanjing, Jan. 1970. (Cotsen 46581)

In “Making Bricks for the Revolution with a Disabled Body and Resolute Will,” Li Ruilin also narrates his own story. Li was a Little Red Guard from Dingjiaqiao Primary School. He was paralyzed since birth, so his classmates used a little cart to help him get to school everyday. When Mao called everyone to “prepare for struggle, prepare for famine, for the people,” Li and his classmates decided to contribute by making bricks. As his classmates struggled to carry enough clay back and forth, Li realized that his cart would make the process much easier and more efficient. He hesitated to offer his cart, however, since it was the only way he could get to school everyday. After he thought through the problem with Mao’s teaching on combining learning with practice and not fearing hardship, he offered his cart for his classmates to use. Li himself molded the bricks, despite getting covered in mud and cut by stray shards of glass. In the end, he was satisfied with his decision and the discovery that he “[could] use [his] own energy to fight a struggle and make bricks” (Little Red Guard Pictorial, Tianjin: Jan. 1971.)

In two other stories, “Under the Sunlight,” from a Tianjin Little Red Guard Pictorial and “The Three Little Companions,” from a Shandong Little Red Guard, groups of Little Red Guards helped classmates with disabilities get to school. In both stories, all the primary characters are girls. In the former story, a girl named Xiaohong realized that one of her neighbors, Chen Xiaoyan, could not use her legs, so she had not been going to school. Xiaohong and her fellow Little Red Guards discussed the problem and came up with a solution: using a cart to bring Chen to school. They brought her to school everyday, as well as occasional visits to the local hospital, where – through the use of acupuncture treatments – Chen recovered use of her legs and became not only a Little Red Guard, but also a skilled performer with the Little Red Guard Literature and Art Propaganda Group.

In the latter story, three girls, all Little Red Guards, became close friends as two of them helped the third, Ji Haiyan, to school everyday. Ji had a spinal cord problem that affected her legs, so she could not walk on her own. She also had mental disabilities resulting from her condition, so her friends not only helped her get to school, but also tutored her. They are depicted as close friends, all proudly wearing red scarves.

The Three Little Companions

Little Red Guard, “The Three Little Companions” [三个小伙伴]. Shandong, Dec. 1971. (Cotsen 63947)

Children’s storybooks were also full of stories of real-life child heroes, including those who acquired a disability as a result of their good deeds. Dai Birong (戴碧蓉) is one of the more famous examples of a child hero who was disabled as a result of her heroic actions. The storybook Little Hero Dai Birong, published in Shanghai in 1971, tells her story. The book also contains other stories of child heroes, but Dai receives the most attention for her sacrifice. In 1968, when she was 12 years old, she spotted three small children playing on the train tracks as a train approached. Heeding Mao’s call to fear neither hardship nor death, she managed to save all three children but lost an arm and a leg in the process.

Two sisters from Inner Mongolia were also praised for heeding Mao’s call to fear neither hardship nor death. A 1971 version of their story, The Heroic Grasslands Sisters, explains that in 1964 11-year-old Longmei and 9 year-old Yurong risked their lives saving the commune’s sheep during a surprise winter storm. At one point, Yurong lost a boot while trying to catch an errant sheep, and was so focused on the herd that she did not notice her own boot was gone. Her foot quickly froze, and she had to crawl. The illustration of this scene is a still shot from the 1965 movie. In it, Yurong looks ahead with determination as she crawls in the snow.

Yurong raised her head, stubbornly pushing her body forward in a crawl. "I must protect the herd. I have to catch up [with them], I must catch up." She recalled the teachings of Chairman Mao, phrase by phrase: "Make a firm resolution, and don't fear sacrifice. Conquer every difficulty, as you go strive for victory." She encouraged herself to move forward.

The Heroic Grasslands Sisters [草原英雄小姐妹]. Shanghai, 1970. (Cotsen 32669)

Caption: Yurong raised her head, stubbornly pushing her body forward in a crawl. “I must protect the herd. I have to catch up [with them], I must catch up.” She recalled the teachings of Chairman Mao, phrase by phrase: “Make a firm resolution, and don’t fear sacrifice. Conquer every difficulty, as you go strive for victory.” She encouraged herself to move forward.

When her older sister Longmei found her, she wrapped up Yurong’s foot, and carried her the rest of the way. Eventually both were saved after a day and a night in the blizzard. Both sisters had sustained extreme frostbite, which necessitated amputations. Longmei lost a toe, and Yurong lost both her feet.1 Though both sisters were permanently disabled, the ending of the storybook emphasizes that they emerged from the storm healthy, rather than disabled. Just as the other stories emphasized the ability of disabled children to participate fully in educational and revolutionary activities, so do the endings of these stories emphasize the abilities of the sisters. While it is true that neither sister lost the ability to walk, Yurong needed prosthetics and could not engage in physical activities in the same way she could before losing her feet.

Immobilized Yurong, stubbornly and heroically crawling forward, much like the disabled children featured in other articles and stories, demonstrates the ideal revolutionary hero, who struggles for the revolution and the masses, fearing neither injury nor death. In these stories, children are raised up as revolutionary models, showing that children, just like adults, were important social and political actors.


[1]. 崔玉娟, “玉荣: 有些事留给时间去验证,” 中国青年报, (Jan. 13, 2015): 7,

Linked Pictures: A Genre of Chinese Illustrated Books


Before she catches sight of a waistcoated, watch-wearing rabbit popping down a hole, a drowsy Alice famously questions, “What is the use of a book…without pictures or conversations?” Mr. Lloyd E. Cotsen apparently agreed with Alice’s wisdom. Cotsen, a 1950 Princeton alumnus whose family library for his own kids seeded the Cotsen Children’s Library, made illustrated works the focus of this special collection of international and historical children’s materials.

“Linked Pictures” for All Ages

Among Chinese materials, which make up the largest non-English language collection at Cotsen, are more than 1400 heavily illustrated story books. The Chinese term for such books, particularly those with images on nearly every page, is lian huan hua (LHH, 连环画), literarily meaning “linked pictures.” LHH books were not born as children’s literature, but were intended to entertain all ages when the format took shape in Shanghai in the 1920s. China’s population was poorly educated during much of the twentieth century. Semi-literate adults relied upon visuals to comprehend stories and avidly consumed LHH, just as children did. When Italian journalist Gino Nebiolo travelled on a night train in China during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), he noticed that every passenger received a copy of LHH along with hot tea from the stewardess, and that workers, petty officials, and peasants were “all completely absorbed in their reading” (Nebiolo viii). (The modern urge to seek entertainment and distraction from handheld touch screens during any idle moment is not an invention by Apple, after all.) It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the “one-format-fits-all” model of print-entertainment began to disintegrate, owing to the steadily rising Chinese literacy rate, access to broadcast media, and the influence of Western- and Japanese-style “linked pictures” such as comic books and picture books.


The World Turned Upside Down (天翻地覆). 上海: 东亚书局, [19–] 13 x 15 cm. (Cotsen 31152) An early LHH work from the Republic of China.

Dated between the 1920s and 1940s, The World Turned Upside Down is one of the earliest LHH works held at the Cotsen Children’s Library. It is an illustrated story based on a Chinese creation myth. The publisher cleverly uses the cover to advertise its other LHH titles, which include Chinese mythology and folktales, kung fu stories, romance, and historical fiction, typical for early LHH works. Pre-1950 LHH copies are rare today, partly due to the ephemeral nature of flimsy paperbacks produced for the mass market, and partly due to recurring censorship campaigns launched by the Communist regime after 1950.


Little Passengers (小旅客) / adapted by Wang Tao; illustrated by Xu Ping (徐屏) and Lin Yixiang (林亦香). 浙江人民出版社, 1974. 60 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 74914)

One panel from LHH Little Passengers offers a close illustration of Nebiolo’s report. Dressed in then-fashionable military uniform, a fifth-grader reads an LHH story about the soldier Lei Feng to a little boy he meets on the train. LHH was arguably the most popular and accessible reading format for Chinese children until the mid-1980s and was frequently referenced in the text and images of children’s books.

Layout and Art Styles

The Cotsen collection offers plenty of examples to help us appreciate the diverse visual styles, text-image relationships, subject matter, and intended audiences of Chinese “linked-picture” books. The prevailing layout of LHH includes one image on every page, horizontally oriented, accompanied by a short text along one side of the panel. Because most LHH art comprises black line drawings, it is tempting to equate Chinese LHH with comic books. Unlike in Western comics and Japanese manga, though, conversation balloons are not a persistent component of Chinese LHH. In fact, the 1970s saw a tendency to do away with speech balloons, which were thought to ruin the integrity of the pictures (Fei 474). Compared with comic books familiar to the West and Japan, most Chinese LHH from the twentieth century rely more on text than on sequential art for storytelling. This particular style of “linked pictures” would eventually give way to comic books, characterized by a tighter complementary relation between the text and visuals, and color picture books, which are better suited for beginning readers.


The General Line for Socialist Construction: An Illustrated Libretto (总路线图画唱本). 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1958. 31 pages; 10 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 72229) An LHH booklet on an adult palm.

Although the page size of LHH books varies widely, those produced during the heyday of the format are typically palm-sized, measuring in the neighborhood of four by five inches. Miniature-size LHH works, defined as under 10 centimeters tall, were clearly designed with young readers’ small hands in mind. As shown in another post "Fresh from China," some miniature books were thoughtfully constructed accordion style on thick paper to accommodate children’s limited motor skills.

Although LHH is most often associated with black line drawings printed on horizontal booklets, the umbrella term is inclusive of a wide array of visual and storytelling styles. Let’s showcase some examples.


A Little Iron Boy (小铁汉) / adapted by Lu Yuan; illustrated by Hu Zhenxiang. 上海: 春秋书社, 1953. 26 pages; 18 cm. (Cotsen 66253)

Part of a “Children’s Linked-Picture Story”(儿童连环图画故事) series, this title from early People’s Republic of China very much resembles beginning reader books found in today’s market. The brief text is thoughtfully printed in large font and with generous line spacing. Set in Tiên Lãng, Vietnam in the midst of the Indochina War, A Little Iron Boy is presented as a true biographical story of a ten-year-old Vietnamese boy who would rather endure torture than reveal the hiding place of three Viet Minh cadres to the French military.

One subgroup of LHH is movie spin-offs akin to what would be called “photonovels” in English. The format consists of film stills with captions, making it a most satisfactory proxy for moviegoing long before video tape players entered Chinese homes in the 1990s.


Lei Feng (雷锋) / adapted by Wen Piao. 北京: 中国电影出版社, 1965. 177 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 32682)

The booklet is based on a black-and-white 1963 movie by the same title. Lei Feng is the soldier hero whom the two boys are reading about during their train ride in the aforementioned Little Passengers. He has been featured in numerous LHH editions as a self-sacrificial role model.


After School (放学以后) / 上海电影制片厂《放学以后》摄制组编画. 上海: 上海人民出版社, 1972. 39 pages; 13 x 15 cm. (Cotsen 154541)

After School is a spin-off of a 1972 anime movie directed by Yan Dingxian (严定宪). In this bright-colored anime story, children battle against an old candy man’s evil attempt to corrupt the politically upbeat message of their jump-rope rhymes. Numerous children’s stories from the 1950s to the end of the Cultural Revolution pit politically precocious children against regressive adults. Quick to embrace new and revolutionary ideas, children in fiction and nonfiction accounts accomplish feats beyond their tender age: a breakthrough in agricultural experiments that have been dismissed by older peasants; detecting a former land-owner’s sabotage of the collective property of the commune; or facilitating the arrest of an anti-revolutionist who might even be an authority figure in the child’s own family.


The Old Bean’s Birthday Party (老豆儿过生日) / written by Wang Yaoying (王耀英); illustrated by Chen Qingzhi (陈清之). 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1961. 21 unnumbered pages; 15 x 19 cm. (Cotsen 67992)

The Old Bean’s Birthday Party is a picture book that introduces the versatile industrial uses of soybeans. An elderly soybean is celebrating his birthday. His “offspring” (i.e., various soybean products) show up in all shapes, colors, and states of matter. From the left to right are: soybean oil, the elderly bean, a baby soybean, a soybean-based tire, soy sauce, soy milk, soy paint, and a bar of soap—an adorable and playful one at that. Imaginative and endearing anthropomorphic color images, text with pinyin phonetic guide, and relatively large page size make this book a friendlier offering for beginning readers than most LHH works.

Regretfully, many exquisitely illustrated picture books seem to have eluded critical attention and are little known today. Here are two examples.


Porridge for the Eighth Day of the Twelfth Moon (腊八粥) / by Wu Zhongxiong (吴仲熊). 成都: 四川人民出版社, 1980. 1 volume; 15 cm. (Cotsen 68245)

A folktale that explains how the Chinese custom of preparing a ceremonial congee dish on the eighth day of the twelfth moon originated.


The Legend of Sun Moon Lake (日月潭的传说) / text by Zeng Dehou; illustrated by Li Bangyao (李邦耀) and Cao Xiaoqiang (曹小强). 湖北人民出版社, 1981. 33 pages; 15 cm. (Cotsen 68250)

An adaptation of an aboriginal Taiwanese folktale that explains the origin of the famous Sun Moon Lake in Central Taiwan.


Where is My Inkstone (砚台呢) / text by Ji Hong (嵇鸿); illustrated by Chen Liping (陈力萍). 上海: 少年儿童出版社, 1957. 1 volume; 13 cm. (Cotsen 72188)

Where is My Inkstone is a humorous wordless picture book that portrays a sloppy boy’s frantic search for his inkstone, without which he cannot do his homework. By relying solely on visuals to narrate the plot, wordless picture books are the quintessential manifestation of “linked pictures” or “sequential art.”

Western-style comic books and strips make up a small portion of domestic LHH works.

Tibet Back to the Big Family of the Homeland (回到祖国大家庭的西藏) / illustrated by Rui Guangting. 北京: 北京书店, 1952. 4th ed. 28 pages; 19 cm. (Cotsen)

A cross between Chinese-style LHH and Western comics, this edition of Tibet Back to the Big Family of the Homeland is dated about one year after the People’s Liberation Army entered Lhasa on October 26, 1951. This informational book covers the geography, history, social life and customs, religion, politics, and current affairs of Tibet. It presents a warm and collaborative relationship between the new People’s Republic of China and religious leaders of Tibet. The 1959 Tibetan Uprising, which led to the fourteenth Dalai Lama’s exile to India, was still years away. Unlike the treacherous dissident he would later be portrayed as in Chinese official media, this Dalai Lama (upper-right panel) is simply introduced as Tibet’s religious and political leader, at an impressively young age of eighteen sui (meaning seventeen years old).

The Adventure of the King of Grossness (邋遢大王奇遇记) / text by Ling Shu (凌纾); illustrated by Yan Shanchun (阎善春), etc. 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1986. 102 pages; 19 cm. (Cotsen 154540)

Notice how dirty-looking the book cover of our copy appears? Well, the protagonist of this comic book is a boy nicknamed “the King of Grossness” for his shameless neglect of personal hygiene. We shudder to think what type of young readers this copy has attracted! The book is the basis of an immensely popular thirteen-episode anime show by the same title released in 1987.

For Instruction and Entertainment

In his classic Understanding Comics Scott McCloud (20) points out that comics have been recognized as an excellent communication tool. The following examples show how the format of “linked pictures” has been utilized for literacy education, political socialization, and information dissemination among the general Chinese population and among specialized audiences.


The Radio (收音机) / adapted by Wang Huanwen and Da Wei; illustrated by Fan Zhiquan. 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1958. 45 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 32681)

The Radio is part of a Become Educated LHH series, which, according to an advertisement page at the end, uses simple language to help illiterate and semi-literate readers learn Chinese characters and advance literacy skills.

The General Line for Socialist Construction: An Illustrated Libretto (总路线图画唱本). 上海: 上海人民美术出版社, 1958. 31 pages; 10 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 72229)

A preoccupation with the literacy and education of the Chinese population is reflected in another title, also dated 1958. General Line paints a utopian picture of a prosperous China in the near future, promised by the “General Line for Socialist Construction” adopted by the Chinese Communist Party in May 1958. One page shows each member of a three-generation family being engaged in reading, music, art, and science. Notably, the grandma, who is dressed no differently than an elderly peasant woman, is playing the piano. In reality, the General Line policy heralded the reckless Great Leap Forward campaign and the massive famine of 1959-1961. To what degree should rosy pictures like these be held accountable for fanning people’s frenzy over what turned out to be a disastrous campaign?

中华人民共和国惩治反革命条例: 图解通俗本(1951)
Regulations of the People’s Republic of China for Punishment of Counter-Revolutionaries: A Popular Illustrated Edition (中华人民共和国惩治反革命条例: 图解通俗本). 上海: 华东人民出版社, 1951. 56 pages; 11 x 13 cm. (Cotsen 71295)

This title exemplifies perhaps the most sobering use of comic art. Published within three months of the enactment of “Regulations of the People’s Republic of China for Punishment of Counter-Revolutionaries,” it reprints all twenty-one articles of the ordinance, offers paraphrases in plain language and definitions of legal terms, and supplies visuals characteristic of political cartoons. The image above illustrates Article 3, which metes out death penalties or life imprisonment to those who “collaborate with imperialism and commit treason.” The colophon page indicates a staggering print run of 1.5 million copies. An LHH rendition of the first marriage law passed by the PRC in 1950 was also available by the same publisher.

防原子, 防化学, 防细菌常识(1971)

Basic Knowledge on Defense Against Atomic Bombs, Chemical Warfare, and Germ Warfare (防原子、防化学、防细菌常识) / 沈阳部队 “三防”宣传组编绘. 1971. 85 pages; 13 x 19 cm. (Cotsen 71509)

On a no less serious note, this LHH has been published by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to teach basic defense knowledge against atomic, chemical, and biological weaponry attacks. Its title page indicates the book as “training material for internal distribution,” meaning it should not be made publicly available. It is always a question how widely such semi-classified “internal publications” actually circulated. Bibliographical records suggest that the Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence, Ministry of National Defense in Taiwan managed to procure another LHH that trains militia on defending against the same types of attacks. In 1972, when the Chinese and Taiwanese governments remained in a state of war, the latter’s intelligence office made a facsimile of that book but labelled a derogatory "Communist bandits’" to the beginning of the title (Guo fang bu).

A Cartoon Collection (高举毛泽东思想伟大红旗, 彻底批判 “十万个为什么”漫画集) / 少年儿童出版社批判文艺黑线联络站. [not before 1966] 29 pages; 13 x 19 cm. (Cotsen 70172)

This LHH is a collection of satirical cartoons that criticize One Hundred Thousand Whys, a wildly successful children’s popular science series published by the Shanghai-based Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House in the early 1960s. Mathematician Zhang Yitang, who was born in 1955 in Shanghai, mentions the series as his favorite reading from childhood in an interview (“Mei” 1). The best-selling series came under harsh condemnation and was banned during the Cultural Revolution for allegedly sending feudal, capitalist, and subversive messages to youth. The LHH allows us to witness how, even in the case of lively children’s books on science (a seemingly neutral political zone), there was no escape from the snare of power struggles and ideological wars.

“Linked Pictures” for Speakers of Other Tongues

Chinese LHH have been released in multiple languages to reach an international audience and ethnic minority groups. During the Maoist era, the aim was not to maximize profit, but to spread Communist and revolutionary gospels to the non-Chinese world.

Sister Double Happiness = 双喜嫂(1977)

Sister Double Happiness = 双喜嫂 / written by Kiangsu People’s Publishing House; drawings by Ku Tseng-ping (顾曾平). Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1977. 95 pages; 18 cm. (Cotsen 99597; photo curtesy of the RBSC Photoduplication Unit)

An English translation of a Chinese LHH story set during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).

Un Campesino y Su Caballo = 老乡的马(1962)

Un Campesino y Su Caballo = 老乡的马 / text by Lu Bing (鲁兵); illustrated by Liu Siung (刘熊). Pekín: Ediciones en Lenguas Extranjeras, 1962. 2a. ed. 18 pages; 19 cm. (Cotsen unprocessed)

A Spanish translation of a Chinese LHH story, which is also available in an English edition titled The Peasant and His Horse.

Ley Fengneng Balaleⱪ Xaƣe = 雷锋的少年时代(1974)

Ley Fengneng Balaleⱪ Xaƣe = 雷锋的少年时代 / adapted by Liw Hanzhen (刘含真); illustrated by Qian Guysun (钱贵荪). 民族出版社, 1974. 55 pages; 12 cm. (Cotsen unprocessed)

A Kazakh translation of a biographical story about the childhood and adolescence of the aforementioned hero Lei Feng. The Latin alphabet used in the book has become obsolete and been replaced by the Arabic script currently used by the Kazakhs in China.

Hameleon = 变色龙 (1980)

Hameleon = 变色龙 / by Chen Zunsan (陈尊三). 民族出版社, 1980. 30 pages; 13 cm. (Cotsen unprocessed)

A Uyghur edition of Anton Chekhov’s short story “A Chameleon” in color LHH. The Uyghurs are among the top five largest Chinese ethnic minority groups. Likewise, the Latin alphabet used in the book is now obsolete. The Uyghurs in China have also adopted the Arabic script for their writing system.

Access and Reading of LHH

Travelling Children's Library (1949)
Travelling Children’s Library / photographed by Sam Tata in Shanghai, 1949. (Image source:

This photo shows an open-air rental stall for LHH, where readers could hire the booklets at a cheap price. The renting business model was highly successful in maximizing the accessibility of LHH for the poorest consumers. Upon close examination, the title “Travelling Children’s Library” is a misnomer for the photo. Engrossed in their reading are a little girl, an adolescent boy, and an adult, plus a curious toddler who is likely tagging along with his big sister, getting a healthy dose of interest in reading for fun.

三毛流浪记Adventures of Sanmao the Orphan (三毛流浪記. 1) / 張樂平作. 上海: 上海大公報館, 1949. 3rd edition. 18 x 19 cm. (Cotsen)

In his nearly wordless comic strips Adventures of Sanmao the Orphan (三毛流浪记) first serialized in 1947, Zhang Leping depicted a LHH rental shop just like the one captured by Tata’s keen lens. The comic version does afford more spacious shelfing so that the artist could show us (his made-up) titles of the booklets–they all send a sensational vibe of kung fu chivalries, murders, supernatural experiences, and even erotica. Here Zhang was echoing a widespread concern over child readers’ exposure to age-inappropriate stories that flooded the LHH market. In the six panels titled "A Lesson Learned," Sanmao’s friend decides to sit down at a LHH stall for a joyful read while Sanmao leaves to fetch allowance to pay for the rental fee. He promptly runs into a boy who has apparently been practicing flying from a tree. The source of his stupidity, Sanmao concludes after spotting the booklet that has fallen off the boy’s hand, must be the seductive story, which is about a flying kung fu man. Sanmao immediately doubles back and snatches away the book his pal is reading (one about pursuing magic Taoist power), lest the boy, too, should fall to its bewitching influence.

The modern multiplication of publication formats, broadcast media, and digital communication tools means that the Chinese will not return to a time when linked-picture booklets served as the prevailing platform to inform and entertain the general populace. Given their immense popularity and wide influence, LHH open a vivid window into the literature and art, childhood, social life, and political dynamics of twentieth-century China. Cotsen’s LHH collection has not been systematically reorganized, but the bibliographical records of most titles can be located by keyword searches for “comic books” or “lian huan hua,” with a limit by language to Chinese.


Fei, Shengfu费声福. “谈谈连环画的图文并茂.” 中国连环画艺术文集. Eds. 林敏 & 赵素行. 太原: 山西人民出版社, 1982/1987. 470-475.

Guo fang bu Qing bao can mou ci chang shi國防部 情報參謀次長室. 共匪民兵 “三打” “三防”知識畫冊. 臺北市: 情報參謀次長室, 1972.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. 1st HarperPerennial ed. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994.

“Mei li xin ling美丽心灵: 访数学家张益唐.” 小枇杷 3.3 (May 2015): 1.

Nebiolo, Gino. “Introduction.” The People’s Comic Book: Red Women’s Detachment, Hot on the Trail and Other Chinese Comics. Tran. Frances Frenaye. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1973. vii-xvi.

Further Reading:

A historical overview of Chinese “linked pictures” during the twentieth century can be found in–

Chen, Minjie. “Chinese Lian Huan Hua and Literacy: Popular Culture Meets Youth Literature.” Perspectives on Teaching and Learning Chinese Literacy in China. Eds. Cynthia B. Leung and Jiening Ruan. Springer, 2012.

(Edited by Miranda Marraccini)