A cartoon book titled Memories of the City topped Xinhua Bookstore's bestseller list from March to June in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. Depicting old things like suspension bamboo cottages, high chimneys and the Yangtze River Cableway, it brings back memories of the city several decades ago.
Cartoonist Hu Fei (COURTESY OF HU FEI)
The things that are pictured in the book have disappeared without a trace or been preserved only as symbols of the city. Either way, they are carriers of Chongqing's history and an integral part of local memory. "It was the real-life scenes that inspired me to create the book and made it so popular," author Hu Fei told Beijing Review.
The 26-year-old native of Chongqing was born to be a cartoonist. His talents manifested themselves at the age of 5, when Hu spontaneously drew cartoon figures he had seen on TV. As he grew older, he liked to portray his family members in humorous ways. Studying at the Sichuan University of Fine Arts finally trained him to be a professional cartoonist.
After graduation, Hu started to publish on the Web his cartoons depicting normal life, such as ordinary love stories and college graduates' first work experiences. His works soon gained enormous popularity because they are true to life. Among them, Memories of the City became a bestseller when published as a book. In it, Hu depicts his hometown's appearance and local life before 2000 with drawings that are funny, vivid and a little nostalgic.
Memory I: Gas-bag buses
The gas-bag bus (COURTESY OF HU FEI)
The gas-bag bus was the major vehicle in Chongqing before the 1980s. It had a black rubber bag full of natural gas tied to it on the top. The bag was as large as the bus itself and needed refilling after each round trip. There was also a high-pressure tube connecting it to the engine.
Taking the bus was indeed an exciting "battle" due to lack of transportation back then. Tactics were needed to vie for one bus with a large crowd.