Many years ago in the Song Dynasty in China, there was a painter we know as Zhang Zeduan. He painted a massive scroll that depicted the life of a town, the Qingming Shanghe Tu, (清明上河图) “Along the River During the Qing Ming Festival.” For all intents and purposes, this scroll, painted during the 12th century, is a graphic novel, done in pantomime. There are no word balloons, no action lines, but it clearly shows the life of a town during a busy day. The original is the Palace Museum in Beijing.
Last year during the Singapore Expo, a massive transmedia program was designed to bring this painting to life. It’s…extraordinary. The water flows around rocks in the ground, people wander through town, meet, speak and part…a child runs after a pig, a woman rocks her infant. The very famous camel caravan wanders through town, passing under a gate. As a work of art, this has always been a striking piece – animated, I fell for it all over again.
For your entertainment – and some perspective on the concept of a Graphic Novel – please enjoy Zhang Zeduan’s Qingming Shanghe Tu.