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Yellow Kid

Posted By Alan Baumler On 1/29/2013 @ 8:00 pm In English | Comments Disabled

So, there I was, looking for pictures of Li Hongzhang, and I found this Apparently Li met the Yellow Kid.

chang

For those of our readers who may be American, Li Hongzhang was perhaps the most important Chinese statesman of the 19th century, and did in fact visit the U.S. For those of our readers who may be Chinese, the Yellow Kid was America’s first comic strip character, and he and his street urchin buddies were very big in the 1890′s.

I found a few things interesting about this. The calligraphy in Li’s name is actually quite good, which surprises me a lot. Even much later Chinese writing might be gobbledegook or just badly written. This is pretty good. The Yellow Kid usually had humorous ads in the background, and in this case they are for Li Hongzhang corsets. Maybe a reference to footbinding and ways of controlling female bodies? Of course one should not think the artist R.F. Outcault was too modern in his thinking. The main gag is that the Kid and Li are both Yellow. Later he would describe the Kid as

this same infantile terror who falls of tenement roofs, plays with matches, chases Chinamen, gets nearly drowned twice a day, breaks windows, keeps his mother’s heart beating like a trip-hammer, and generally makes so much trouble and excitement that we wonder how there can be any left for us other mortals.1

So maybe not a real modern view, but a pretty interesting view of the Chinese in American popular culture.

  1. Outcault, Richard Felton. R.F. Outcault’s the Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics. First Edition. Kitchen Sink Pr (Nrt), 1995. p.146 []

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