Lianhuanhua (Chinese: 连环画 (Simplified) 連環畫 (Traditional); Pinyin: Liánhuánhuà or 連環圖) is a palm-size picture book of sequential drawings found in China in the early 20th century. It is considered the predecessor of manhua.
The name in Chinese essentially translates to "Linked Pictures" or "Serial Pictures". The books were called "Lianhuanhua" or "Lianhuan tuhua". People omitted the "tu", and simply coined the term "Lianhuanhua" as the standard. The official term Lianhuanhua was not used until 1927. Prior to this, Lianhuanhua were separated into different name categories depending on the region.
|Location||English Meaning||Chinese Name|
|Shanghai||Little Book||Xiao Shu (小書)|
|Shanghai||Picture Book||Tuhua Shu (圖畫書)|
|Guangzhou and Hong Kong||Doll Book||Gongzai Shu (公仔書)|
|Wuhan||Children's Book||Yaya Shu (伢伢書)|
|Northern China||Kid's Book||Xiaoren Shu (小人書)|
In the 1880s, Chinese magazines such as Dianshizhai Pictorial experimented with the potential of this art technique. In 1884, ten illustrations to accompany a Korean rebellion narrative may be the earliest example of Lianhuanhua. In 1899, Wenyi Book Company in Shanghai published the illustrated lithograph "The Story of the Three Kingdoms" drawn by Zhu Zhixuan. The format then was called "huihui tu" or chapter pictures.
In 1916 Caobao newspapers bound the pictures to attract a larger audience base of middle and lower class readers. The rise of Lianhuanhua's popularity was proportional to the rise of lithographic printing introduced to Shanghai from the West. Shanghai comics journals in the 1920s featured more artwork, typically depicting traditional stories along the lines of Chinese mythology or Chinese folklore. Small publishers in the 20s and 30s were mostly located on a street called Beigongyili in the Zhabei district. In 1935 street book stall owners and publishers established the "Shanghai Lianhuan Tuhua Promotion Society" at Taoyuanli. The illustrated stories were originally targeted to children and marginally literate readers.
The books could be rented for a small fee in street kiosks. By the 1920s, Lianhuanhuas were also found in Hong Kong. These rental stores were common even during the Japanese occupation periods in the 1940s.
In Hong Kong during the 1970s, the format had essentially disappeared as they had become materials associated with the uneducated and unsophisticated.
In China, the popularity of the format would end with the arrival of the Cultural Revolution. An attempt was made in the 1980s to revive the artform to its former heights, but a population deprived of literature and art for a decade made this impossible.
Not long ago, Renmin Meishu Chubanshe (人民美术出版社), Shanghai ren min shu chu ban she (上海人民美术出版社) and Tianjin People's Fine Arts Publishing House (天津人民美术出版社) have republished some of their popular Lianhuanhua books.
- Wong, Wendy Siuyi.  (2001) Hong Kong Comics: A History of Manhua. Princeton Architectural Press. New York. ISBN 1-56898-269-0
- Lent, John A.  (2001) Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824824717
- English Eastday. "English Eastday." Allure of illustrated booklets. Retrieved on 2007-04-03.
阿英(August 2008). 中国连环图画史话 (History of Lianhuanhua in China). 山东画报出版社. ISBN 9787807134909.