Adapted by Kuang Rong illustrated by Wang Hongli (Foreign Languages Press Beijing)
Here’s another beautiful example of the traditional Orient’s take on graphic narrative in the form of a classical tale of love and justice. When the dipsomaniac Butcher and widower You Hulu borrows fifteen strings of cash from his sister-in-law, he jokingly tells his daughter that he has sold her when she asks where the money came from. As young girls have no discernable sense of humour, she goes to bed weeping, before deciding to run to her aunt for sanctuary. As she leaves her father, passed out on the bed, she does not realise that a neighbour will soon murder the old drunk and accuse her of theft and patricide.
How the demure Su Xujan and the kind young man, Xiong Youlan, who befriended her on the road are arrested, tried, and condemned to death for a crime that they had no idea even happened, and how eventually one conscientious court official, the Prefect Kuang, risks his career and his life to exonerate them and catch the real killer, is a whirlwind of delight that combines romance, comedy, detective yarn and political thriller, illustrated in a truly rhapsodic dry brush and fine-line pen and ink style that almost renders the text (in Mandarin, I think, and English) unnecessary. The format is the tried-and-true single frame and text block per page that comprises most traditional Chinese publications of this type.
Fifteen Strings of Cash is an absolute delight for readers of all ages, and proves that if great stories are universal, how much more so are great picture stories. The current printings should be available at any good Chinatown book or art materials supplier.
Presumably© 1982 Foreign Languages Press Beijing – my computer can’t reproduce the Mandarin symbols, I’m sure they know who they are. If anyone knows better we’ll happy correct this oversight. All Rights Reserved, I suspect.