Virtuous Children and Where to Find Them: Education and Representations of Young People in Chinese Sources Between Tradition and Modernity
4: Little Educators: Images of Children's Exemplary Behaviour in the Manhua 漫畫 Magazine (1950–1960)
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 322A
Charles University (Prague), Czech Republic
After the trepidations of the Xinhai revolution and multiple wars of the 1910–40s, the establishment of the PRC brought a new system of normative relations for Chinese society. The positions of the previously ‘silent’ groups changed, and among those who came to the fore of nation-building were children, whose supposed destiny was to become the successor generation. While educating this new generation was a task for pedagogues and parents, children’s active presence in the daily life of Chinese cities and villages had to become accepted by all citizens. For this to happen, the party/state had to educate not only children, but also adults. In my paper, I propose to look at one state-sanctioned medium from the PRC’s first decade, the Manhua 漫畫 magazine, an illustrated satire periodical produced between 1950 and 1960. Manhua mostly targeted adult audiences, but a noticeable share of cartoons depicted children as either central or background objects. My paper looks at the roles given to children in the publications and the messages adults were expected to find there. Through quantitative and qualitative analysis of these cartoons I conclude that, while the idealized children in Manhua set an ethical example and held moral authority over adults, becoming ‘educators’ to their own parents and even strangers in streets, on the other hand, adults struggled to accept this new normality outside cartoons and had to be educated themselves like “children” by the didactic party/state.