Graphic novel on Tiananmen Massacre


June 21, 2020


Graphic novel on Tiananmen Massacre

Cover of 'Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes'


Lun Zhang, was a young man in Beijing in the 1980s. According to CNN, he felt like he was taking part in a Chinese enlightenment then.

China was then undergoing leader Deng Xiaoping’s “Reform and Opening Up.”

This person Zhang writes in his new graphic novel “Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes” that in those days their thirst to read, learn and explore the outside world was insatiable.

However, this intellectual awakening came as an increasing frustration with the pace of reform in China, CNN writes.

It further writes that an apocryphal quote attributed to Deng captured the mood at this time, that ‘to get rich is glorious,’ but for many people, it was increasingly apparent that only a handful were becoming wealthy, while others were suffering due to growing corruption and the destruction of the social safety net.

There were demonstrations, though small, against graft and for political reform ballooned into what would become the Tiananmen movement in 1989.

It should be recalled that hundreds of thousands of people protested across China. The largest demonstration was held in capital Beijing led by students and workers.

Protesters, particularly pro-democratic, occupied the Tiananmen Square for months.

Zhang was then on the square when protesters put forth seven demands, including holding democratic elections, end to state censorship, among others.

He was, however, not present there when Chinese army opened fire on protesters. He was also present there when tanks rolled in.

Zhang writes in his novel that they tried to reach the square when they heard that the army had entered Beijing. They, however, could not enter.

Zhang moved to France, where he has lived ever since. He has been teaching at the Cergy-Pontoise University there.

He writes about the geopolitics and Chinese economy.

CNN quotes Zhang as saying: “I worked with Adrien Gombeaud, a French journalist, who wrote the script for the format.”

“We read some graphic novels about historical events, and together came up with the plan, for example, to imagine a theater scene to link all the parts of the story.”

The Tiananmen Square Massacre has been widely covered in the media and documentaries.  According to CNN, Zhang said the comics format provided a means of capturing the emotion of the demonstrations, in a way that does not necessarily come across in text.

After the initial script was written, CNN writes that the authors worked with French artist Ameziane to develop the comic’s visuals.

They sourced images of various characters, and referenced archival photos of era-appropriate objects like cars, clothes, and teacups from China during the 1980s.

According to CNN, Zhang spent a lot of time to discuss on arranging the scenes, to convey essential message, among others.

The artistic style is the most notable in the scenes that depicts the massacre itself. Some pages feature white backgrounds and muted colors. However, as the crackdown begins, the pages of the book turn to black. They have used heavy oranges and reds, the report said.

The illustrations become full of movement as he emphasizes the panic and chaos experienced by the characters.

According to CNN, the book is structured in several acts, with Zhang himself as the narrator.

(With inputs from CNN)

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