Get to Know: Feng Zikai

Born in Zhejiang, China in 1898, Feng Zikai (豐子愷) was one of the first artists to specialise in caricatures and comics. His works span a wide range of topics, from classic Chinese poetry depictions to observations of day-to-day life. Although they are informed by deep and profound concepts, his comics are idyllic, light-hearted and relatable to all types of readers.

As our 35th anniversary flagship publication, Asiapac Books will be publishing Feng Zikai’s selected comics in collaboration with Dolphin Books (China), in a set of five books titled Selected Comics of Feng Zikai.

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An embodiment of the fine balance between intellect, artistry and child-like wonder, Feng Zikai is a key inspiration for our work. Some of his artworks masterfully depict classic Chinese verses, while others muse about everyday village sightings. Regardless of their inspiration, all of them carry a sense of peacefulness and serenity, painting a blissful picture of life.

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Occasionally, Feng Zikai approaches situations with humour, keeping his drawings light-hearted and cheerful. As many of his illustrations portray everyday situations, even contemporary viewers will find them relatable. Other illustrations make more profound observations that reflect upon humanity and its inadequacies.

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Having lived through the 20th century, it is not unusual to observe external influences in Feng Zikai’s work. Sometimes, they portray non-Chinese characters. Other times, the works themselves bear English words. These illustrations juxtapose traditional living with new concepts, creating a fresh blend of cultures.

new doc 2018-06-06 15.43.11_3 copyWe hope to bring joy to a new generation of readers by sharing Feng Zikai’s timeless classics. His work is a constant reminder of the immense beauty and tenderness that still exist in our everyday lives.

Grab yourself a set of Selected Comics of Feng Zikai at our book launch happening during our 35th anniversary exhibition. We’ll be at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building from 17 November 2018 to 9 December 2018, so do hop by to say hello!

 

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Book Launch: Once Upon A Singapore… Traders

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Modern Singapore looks very different from Singapore one hundred years ago, almost as if the two are separate countries altogether! There are many people who used to do business on the streets whom we no longer see, such as the milkmen, the letter writers, the koyok men and more. This colourful graphic novel will bring you back to a time of old and show you the wonders of these trades. Follow Grandpa and Aloysius on their journey to the past and discover the interesting ways people used to make a living in 1900s Singapore. It’s a book for all to enjoy–children, parents and even grandparents!

About the author
Tina Sim Soek Tien writes and translates. She likes to write about what life used to be like in the old days—playing zero point, brushing teeth over the drain after recess, making lots of paper boats then hoping for rain… She hopes her stories capture some of the spirit—and happiness—of the old days. She enjoys translating because there is much in another’s world we can learn from, if we can only connect.

About the illustrator
Alan Bay draws comics, cartoons, and video games. He draws big monsters, pesky kids, magical dragons, and almost everything else under the sun. He hopes his art will bring you a smile and make your day a little better.

We’ll be holding a book launch for this exciting publication during the Singapore Writers Festival 2018. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet author Tina Sim and illustrator Alan Bay at The Arts House on 10 November 2018, 2pm-3pm!

Behind the Scenes: A Collection of Artwork

We won’t deny it: we’re extremely excited to turn 35 this year–just take a look at how much we’ve been shouting about our anniversary on social media! Asiapac Books has come a long way, from being a book distributor, to a book publisher of translated editions, and now a leading comic publisher in Southeast Asia. We couldn’t be prouder.

Naturally, working with a number of veteran illustrators for the past three decades, we’ve accumulated a store of raw sketches and artwork that unfortunately have been hidden away for far too long. So, we’ve decided that our year-end anniversary exhibition would be the perfect time to launch Asiapac Archives, a collection of comic artwork gathered over the years.

But… we can’t wait to give you a sneak peek! Here are a few shots of iconic pieces done by our artists that we think you’ll love. For our loyal readers, we’re sure these illustrations will look very familiar!

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Original artwork by Jeffrey Seow for The Complete Analects of Confucius comic book series

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Original artwork by Wee Tian Beng for Return of the Condor Heroes

Over the next few weeks leading up to our exhibition, we’ll be uploading more of what’s happening behind the scenes in the Asiapac office on Facebook, so be sure to keep a lookout here: https://tinyurl.com/asiapacbts

Of course, photos don’t do these masterpieces justice. You’ll need to come down to our exhibition to observe the intricate details for yourself. We’ll be at the Level 8 Promenade of the National Library Building from 17 November 2018 to 9 December 2018, and we’re really looking forward to meeting you there!

Unearthing the Roots of Chinese Medicine

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Image: Pietro Jeng

Most of us have heard of yin and yang – the two forces that, in Chinese philosophy, power the natural world. Our understanding, however, is often limited to a vague impression of their exact roles; many don’t realise how the forces, as a fundamental part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), continue to thread through modern thinking.

TCM itself is still very much an active part of life today – a tenet of Chinese history and tradition, it is also something many Singaporeans continue to turn to when ill. Learning about TCM is thus about both the past and present, something that we recognise in our Essential Chinese Medicine series and Essence of Traditional Chinese Medicine comic book.

 

 

Essential Chinese Medicine features four titles, each covering different aspects of TCM: Health Tonics, Improving Blood CirculationRelieving Wind and Restoring Balance. The books describe the most well-known herbs used in each field, going into incredible detail about medicinal effects, purchasing and storing methods, and easy recipes – Health Tonics alone, for instance, describes 54 popular herbs! The books cover both the therapeutic and practical effects of TCM, providing a truly well-rounded look at the subject.

All four Essential Chinese Medicine books are edited by Professor Zhang Bao Chun and Professor Chen Yu Ting, postgraduate instructors at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. They draw on their wealth of knowledge to shed light on an otherwise complex topic, carefully clarifying and simplifying information for readers. The books are especially relevant for Singapore readers too, as the featured herbs are amongst the most commonly used right here on our island.

Essence of Traditional Chinese Medicine is even more accessible, employing illustrations, diagrams and comics to explain the text. It spans from ancient Chinese theories about the human body to the modernisation of TCM, proving how this branch of medicine has both survived and evolved.

Whether you are simply a curious beginner or a TCM-enthusiast, our two series are refreshing, informative takes on a truly fascinating subject. Learn about the lives of famous Chinese physicians from light-hearted comics, or try your hand at a few simple, wholesome recipes. TCM, after all, has become much more than just a matter of health, but a philosophy and spirit with far-reaching influences.

Getting to Know China

It is impossible to know everything about China and its sprawling history. A civilisation spanning thousands of years, its present day state is the result of countless political, social, artistic and scientific milestones. There will always be new facets about Chinese culture you have yet to come across – exactly why getting to know China is so exciting.

Celebrate Chinese Culture is a series (nearly) as epic as Chinese history itself. It contains six volumes, each focusing on one aspect of the culture: Chinese Literature, Chinese Science & Technology, Chinese Fine Arts, Chinese Eminent People, Chinese Folk Customs, and Chinese Auspicious Culture. Together, they provide a comprehensive insight into this incredible civilisation. Vivid photographs and illustrations throughout each book help illuminate each point, and to make Chinese culture feel more alive than ever.

 

Meet some of the greatest writers of all time in Chinese Literature, and learn how reading and writing has long formed an integral part of Chinese society – from the development of literature pre-Qin Dynasty to the last monarchy of the Qing Dynasty. Make new discoveries in Chinese Science & Technology, particularly how one of today’s most technologically advanced countries was also responsible for ground-breaking inventions like the seismograph.

 

In Chinese Fine Arts, you will be introduced to the other side of Chinese culture: calligraphy, painting, music, dance, theatre and sculpture. Even the smallest brushstroke in calligraphy is an art form, imbuing Chinese artistic mediums with both skill and passion. Meanwhile, Chinese Eminent People will have you encountering China’s most prominent leaders, celebrities, artists, musicians and scientists; while they may be noted for their public achievements, the book also delves into their personal stories of love, sorrow and joy.

 

Chinese Folk Customs takes you to the roots of Chinese society: the folk beliefs that have influenced and defined practices of birth, coming-of-age, marriage and death. Understanding these beliefs – such as the auspicious use of red and important mythological creatures – will enhance understanding of the Chinese psyche. Chinese Auspicious Culture rounds up the series with an examination of the way folk customs have evolved over time. Customs which we might now take for granted, like the making of glutinous rice dumplings and choosing of auspicious wedding dates, were actually carefully developed as a way of maximising fortune and prosperity!

Getting to know China doesn’t end with these six books, of course, but Celebrate Chinese Culture provides an easy way to begin. Grab a copy – or all six! – to learn more about the deep history powering the global power today.

Mid-Autumn Festival: The Tales Behind It

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You may know by now that the annual Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner, whether it be because you have noticed the colourful lanterns emerging around Singapore, or because you have been recently inundated with invitations to mooncake parties. One of the most important festivals in Chinese culture, Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15thday of the eighth lunar month – which falls, this year, on 24th September.

A colourful affair centred around the moon, Mid-Autumn Festival is popular with adults and kids alike: revellers get to tote brightly lit lanterns and feast on deliciously sweet mooncakes. The Festival in Singapore has inevitably evolved over the years, with electrical lanterns shaped as popular cartoon characters rivalling the more traditional paper versions, and more and more places offering modern takes on mooncakes – think ice cream mooncakes and flavours like durian and coffee!

But how much do you really know about the origins behind these traditions? Our Origins of Chinese Festivals takes readers back to the very beginning, retelling two central myths in comic form: The Story of Chang-e and The Story of Mooncakes.

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Image: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi via Wikimedia Commons

Chang-e was a heavenly being who was banished to earth with her husband, the archer Hou Yi. Buoyed by the admiration and worship of the humans, Hou Yi grew greedy and obtained the elixir of life from the Queen Mother of the West, planning to share it with Chang-e so that they could both dominate the human realm forever. Horrified by his vanity and pride, Chang-e drank the elixir by herself and gained the ability to fly to heaven.

Now alone – Hou Yi was soon slain by his treacherous disciple Feng Meng – Chang-e then flew to the moon with her pet rabbit to wallow in sorrow. To this day, kids try to find the shapes of Chang-e and her rabbit during Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is traditionally thought to be the brightest.

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Image: Mk2010 via Wikimedia Commons

The second tale in Origins of Chinese Festivals is of how mooncakes came to be. The end of the Song Dynasty saw the Mongols ruling China, and stationing a soldier in each local household to control the people. In retaliation, the locals baked secret messages inciting rebellion inside round cakes, which were then passed around the households and cut open. The messages organised a collective uprising one night, and the locals successfully regained their freedom.

The eating of these cakes became a tradition during the Mid-Autumn Festival, and eventually evolved to become the mooncakes of today. The sweet pastries are round to symbolise completeness and reunion, and are eaten by families in the spirit of sweet harmony.

Today, Mid-Autumn Festival has moved far from its origins to become a modernised affair. Gardens by the Bay, for instance, is staging a fantastical lantern display this year, while a Festive Bazaar can be found in Chinatown and a Moonfest at the Esplanade. Nevertheless, as families and friends come together every year in celebration, we see the values of harmony and reunion captured by Origins of Chinese Festivals continue to underlie the festivities.

A Gateway to Singapore

Singapore’s multicultural nature is one of our strongest points – we get to share knowledge, traditions and practices between a diverse range of people, making this a vibrant and dynamic place to live.

Our Culture Gateway series delves deeper into this, exploring the history and customs behind Singapore’s various communities. While individual books focus on a specific community, a good place to start is Gateway to Singapore Culture, which provides an overview of our country’s rich cultural tapestry.

The colourfully illustrated book devotes a section to each of the five main cultures in Singapore: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan. Find out more about yourself and your friends, from the origins and cuisine of each community, to their beliefs and famous individuals. There is so much history behind all of us who make up Singapore, and no better introduction to it than Gateway to Singapore Culture.

Living in a multicultural society is extremely rewarding, but we should also be aware of the ways that different people negotiate such an experience. At the root of racial concord is a deep appreciation and understanding of our different communities, and it is thus important that the book touches upon its subject. It is, ultimately, a celebration of friendship, peace and harmony.

To learn more about other cultures is to engage with them, and Gateway to Singapore Culture does so in a fun and accessible way. Simply pick up a copy of it to find out about the rich history that underlies Singapore today, and deepen your understanding of what it means to be a diverse community!

Six Tips for Submissions

Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a>

Submitting a book proposal or manuscript can seem daunting – we know how scary or confusing the process can be, but there’s really nothing to worry about! At Asiapac, we publish comics, fiction and non-fiction books on a wide range of subjects, and are always looking for new works and talent to bring to the public. To help you better understand the submission process and what we look out for, here are several tips on how to submit a proposal to a publisher:

Be original – Publishers are always looking for ideas that are unique and exciting, and there is nothing that will make your proposal stand out more than a completely fresh angle. While we all take inspiration from the world around us, try to think of original and unique ways to express your ideas.

It’s in the details – A proposal may only be a sample of your entire work, but it is important to still include a certain amount of detail. Taking the time to flesh out story ideas and characters is something publishers appreciate, and will also give a better idea of the proposal’s potential. A well-written proposal is one thing, but demonstrating the heart of a story is another!

Look out for submission calls – We often call for manuscripts in certain categories on the Asiapac website’s Submissions page. This might be a good place to start if you are looking for a prompt, or if you want to know how well your own work might fit into our style.

Follow submission guidelines – This may seem obvious, but always check what a publisher requires be included in a proposal or manuscript submission! Requirements like excerpt and synopsis lengths may vary across publishers, and you don’t want your submission to be rejected because of such an oversight.

Consider non-profit or government funding – We often recommend that Singaporean writers and artists have a look at funding schemes available from the National Arts Council (NAC) and other non-profit or government-linked organisations. NAC offers several grants for individuals and organisations developing artistic works, and can be a useful source of help when kick-starting a project.

Patience is a virtue – Last, but definitely not least, is the importance of patience and persistence. Submitting a proposal or manuscript is often a waiting game, but you should never feel disheartened. Publishers can take a while to respond to submissions and have to reject many good manuscripts due to budget and time constraints. Even if you encounter rejection, you should never give up your ambitions. Be confident in your work, and never stop trying out new ideas!

Reintroducing the Classics

We here at Asiapac are always trying to bring the classics to new audiences. While Journey to the WestRomance of the Three Kingdoms and Hua Mulan might already be familiar to many, our graphic novel versions will bring these tales to life in a whole new way. No one knows the power of comics more than us, and the visual element is put into full effect in these books’ retelling of history.

Our latest release Journey to the West is a re-coloured and edited version of our bestselling book by Chang Boon Kiat, so you will be able to enjoy an even more vivid telling of the epic tale. The monk Xuanzang embarks on a quest for the Buddhist sutras, alongside his disciples Sun Wukong, Sandy and Pigsy. The tale is rendered in stunning illustrations and dialogue, which perfectly capture the ambitious and lively spirit of the story itself.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a historical novel by Ming Dynasty writer Luo Guanzhong, and is based on the power struggle between the states of Wei, Shu and Wu after the decline of the Han dynasty. Together, the ten-volumes in the series unfold the exciting but turbulent period of Chinese history, with each volume dedicated to a specific battle or event.

Seasoned artist Li Chengli and writer Luo Guanzhong are at their most brilliant in this collaborative effort, with vivid dialogue perfectly complementing the action-filled illustrations. Characters will seem even more alive, and the conflict even more intense – you’re bound to find yourself swept along on this visual, historical adventure!

A classic tale is similarly reinvigorated in Hua Mulan: Legendary Woman Warrior. The story of the female warrior who disguised herself as a man to fight for family and country has long become familiar to us – we’re looking at you, Disney – but you’ll still find new thrills and sides to it in this graphic novel. Creators Xu Deyuan and Jiang Wei have reimagined Mulan’s story in their painstakingly written and illustrated book, so follow Mulan from her victories and feats in the army, to her eventual identity reveal at the end of the war.

We believe that the richness of Chinese classics deserves to be told again and again, and to be appreciated by every new generation that comes along. So regardless of whether you have never heard these stories before or if you are already well-versed in them, our graphic interpretations of Chinese classics should be next on your reading list!

Our Origins series

Our Origins series has long delighted and educated readers with its fun approach to Chinese history. Comprised of 16 titles in English and Mandarin, the series uses gorgeous illustrations and light-hearted comics to illuminate Chinese traditions, arts and sciences.

Origins of Chinese Festivals guides readers through some of the highlights of 5,000 years of Chinese history. Learn about how familiar festivals like Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival actually originated, and of the colourful myths and stories that lie behind their origins. Be captivated by age-old tales, like The Cowherd and the Weaving Girl, and The Story of Chang-e, which have been given new life in comic form.

You may know that the Chinese have long played an important role in the scientific and technological world, but did you know that the Chinese began making paper nearly two thousand years ago? Or that the first seismograph was invented in China in the second century?  What about how no nails are needed in Chinese architecture?

Origins of Chinese Science and Technology is another title in the series that explores the history behind some of today’s most familiar objects, and of the stunning span and breadth of Chinese history. If you were surprised by these questions, you’ll find much more in the book that will intrigue and excite.

 

These are just two examples of our iconic Origins series, with other topics ranging from Opera and Literature, to Sports and Music. Whilst ambitious and vastly informative, the books always seek to educate in a fun and accessible way – Chinese history and culture will never have felt more easy to understand and appreciate.

Pick up a title the next chance you get, and with your newfound knowledge, you’ll learn to see that delicious mooncake or dumpling as more than just a tasty snack!