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Early Pictorials

Lantern Festival

When banks closed down

The French beating
a hasty retreat

Forced to toil as a punishment

Seizing the
cemetery by force

After the opening of the port of Shanghai, its rich pictorial magazine industry was first launched. The 1870's witnessed the emergence of Shanghai's early pictorials. In 1875 an American Christian missionary edited and published a pictorial, Children's Monthly, designed specially for children with a large number of exquisite and beautiful pictures. In 1877 the Shen Bao (Shanghai News) office printed the short-lived Huangying(Wide sea) Pictorial on an irregular basis, each issue consisting of eight ten pictures. Because its contents were mostly outdated tidbits and anecdotes selected from back numbers of foreign pictorials, it did not have a great appeal and was discontinued quietly after five issues. In 1880 the Shanghai Bible Society complied and published New Illustrated Newspaper, a heavily illustrated comprehensive periodical providing not only maps landscapes, famous men's portraits, etc. , but scientific information in such field as astronomy and geography.

By then the Shen Bao had gradually developed into a major Chinese language newspaper. In 1884 , Shen Bao expanded its influence: its subordinate Dian Shi Studio Lithographic Press initiated the Dian Shi Studio Pictorial, which represented a great effort to set up the first regular and stable pictorial in China. It engaged the famous genre Wu Youru as its editor-in-chief. During the Qing dynasty emperor Daoguang's reign, Wu Youru studied art at an early age. He was adept at painting and his works covered a wide spectrum of themes from figures, court ladies and landscapes, to flowers and plants, birds and animals, and insects and fish. He created New Year's pictures for art stores on Shantang Street and at Tao Hua Wu at the foot of Tiger Hill in Suzhou. He also traveled north and south of the Changjiang River and broadened his horizons by observing the different customs and manners. Among his colleagues were such painters as Jin Chanxiang, Zhang Zhiying , Zhou Muqiao, He Yuanjun, Tian Zilin, Fu Genxin, Zhu Ruxian, Ma Ziming and Wu Zimei.

Dian Shi Studio Pictorial was formally inaugurated as a quarterly on May 8, 1884. Lithographed on a kind of fine, flimsy Chinese paper, each issue contained eight bound pages with nine pictures. From its beginning to its termination in 1898, altogether more than 4,000 pictures.

Like Shen bao, Dian Shi Studio Pictorial had dissemination of news as its man objective. It specialized in current event and social news as well as presenting interesting items from the West, Chinese and foreign customs, and information on cultural relics, historical sites and scenic spots. The artists' realistic styles, with their detailed and precise portrayals, lent vitality to the pictures. The Dian Shi Studio Pictorial witnessed foreign powers' step-by-step invasion of China, the Qing Court's loss of its sovereignty, and the escalation of the national crises. That same year the Sino-French War broke out. The Pictorial presented graphic reports on the situation of the war and the actual hostilities. At the same time, it also dealt with political affairs of the Qing court, such as grand ceremonies, high officials' inspection tours, exchange of envoys, and achievements of important ministers.




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