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Early Pictorials

A fire broke out in the "first building"


The French beating
a hasty retreat

Contrast between comfort and hardship

An uproar in the concessions

With the end of the Qing dynasty's closed-door policy, the contemporary material civilization of the West gradually found its way into China. Dian Shi Studio Pictorial introduced new instruments , machines, and techniques from abroad. The techniques included Western medicine, fire prevention and fighting, photography, life-saving at sea, trains, armored ships, submarines, hot-air balloons, Western opera and horsemanship. WuYouru and his contemporaries wer4e note for their New Year's pictures and genre pictures. As a result, the pictorial carried numerous scenes from ordinary life, scenic and historical sites, all of them popular with the masses. It also contained vivid descriptions of foreign customs and conventions, which gave Chinese readers a glimpse into the daily life and natural scenery in the West.

Social news stories occupied a larger proportion of the pictorial's space, with a host of pictures reflecting the life of townsfolk at the bottom of society. From different angles it vividly exposed the corruption and the dark side of Chinese society at that time. It also covered natural and manmade calamities, strange goings-on and eccentric behavior, and the superstitions of China and other lands. Especially worth mentioning is that the pictorial highlighted various scenes from what was termed the "ten li metropolis infested with foreign adventurers" in Shanghai. Moreover, it exposed various underworld scenes in the foreign concession areas of the city, such as gangs and roughnecks starting disturbances and fighting, bandits, brothels and streetwalkers accosting their customers, it also laid bare the foreign aggressors crimes in the International Settlement and depicted Shanghai resident's resolute resistance against slavery and oppression.

Dian Shi Studio Pictorial featured pictures with copious clearly listing details, such as the time, place , plot and characters, rather resembling those of photos in present-day newspapers. through its pictures and captions, the pictorial presented a wide range of scenes from everyday life and unique aspects of Chinese society . In his Growth of Chinese Art in the Last Century, the late author and scholar Zheng Zhenduo points out, " Wu Yongru's chief achievement are in figure and genre painting. No artist has endeavored as he did to depict all aspects of social life"; "his paintings embody a very good art history of the past century. In other words, his paintings are an epitome of the history of the early period of semi-feudal, semi-colonial China during the last hundred years or so," This is also an excellent appraisal of the achievements of Dian Shi Studio Pictorial.

Dian Shi Studio Pictorial initiated the tradition of China's new-oriented , large-size pictorials. In 1890 Wu Youru started the Fei Ying Ge Pictorial (Flying Shadow Pavilion) on his own . Three years later, in 1893, he originated the Fei Ying Ge Album. Under the influence of his three pictorials, many types of pictorials came into being in quick succession, for example, Illustrated Daily, Illustrated Oratory, Preschoolers' Pictorial, etc. In Peiping (now Beijing), there were Brief Daily News Pictorial, Capital News Pictorial,, etc. Pictorials stimulated the flourishing contemporary Chinese culture.




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