China's grand tradition of ink and paper have received a modern updated version: A Beijing cartoonist on a mission to fix cultural misconceptions between China and the West is finding an appreciative and growing audience for her work.
Born and raised in Beijing, Siyu emigrated abroad 10 years ago to live and travel in the USA, France, and the UK. After getting many questions about her background, Siyu decided to make the cartoons as a way to "to compare Chinese and Western culture through everyday situations."
Everything from relationships to food is explored by Siyu, who displays traits of being both a traditionalist and a modern reformer.
Some of Siyu's work use the common "four-panel" comic strip to deliver their punchlines:
Some of her comics are less about humorous punchlines and more about exposing the ignorance of Westerners:
More commonly, Siyu uses her comics to make direct comparisons between Chinese and Western culture such as beauty values and ways of conveying love:
Siyu even uses one comic to explain the seasonal phenomenon that has come to be known as the "Beijing Bikini," something she explains as "just a practical way to get cooler when you don't have air conditioning, so what's the big deal?"
But what may appear to be a simple cartoon is full of significance to Siyu. Here's one cartoon about the difference in impulsiveness between Chinese and Westerners:
For Siyu, there is a deeper meaning behind the laughter. In a caption accompanying the comic, Siyu writes:
In history, Chinese value highly reflection and past experience, but acting cautious and staying wise didn’t save the people from the arrival of the early western explorers who sailed into the unknown and took chances at the risk of their lives. China was forced to take actions in its modern history, often times too fast in exchange for development.
However astute they may be, Siyu's generalizations on Chinese and Western cultures sometimes have a habit of contradicting themselves, as with these two cartoons:
In explaining the above cartoon, Siyu says Chinese women hate to eat:
Beauty = Thin. “Gaining weight” brings absolute horror for many Chinese girls, even though most of them are already considered thin in other cultures. I’ve seen girls who eat only one apple a day and who drink special tea (which makes you go to toilet 20 times a day) in order to lose weight in a very short time. Movie stars and super models are pushing this aesthetic to its extreme through mass media. When will we be able to simple enjoy being who we are?
In explaining the above cartoon, Siyu says that China – a country that includes women – loves to eat:
Chinese people love their food, they spend lots of time savoring and enjoying their meals. Food is not just “fuel” for the body, but a pleasure, an art, and a way of socializing. If you want to make friends, go eat. If you want to close a business deal, go eat. If you want to pursue a romantic relationship, go eat. Since ancient times, food has been considered priority in Chinese culture ... food goes before ideas, and this life is more important than after life.
Or, we can learn that Chinese don't need fancy cutlery ...
... except when they do:
We also have spoons, people!
Here are some more tinyeye comics for your enjoyment:
More stories from this author here.
E-Mail: charlesliu1 (at) qq (dot) com
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