Feng Zikai (1898-1975) is one of the most gifted figures to emerge in China of the 1920s and 1930s. An era of political and social instability, a time when the future and destiny of China was blurry and uncertain.
A native of Tongxiang, Zhejiang, Fang Zikai began his studies at the Zhejiang First Normal School, he was highly influenced by the famous Japanese-trained educator Li Shutong who was a devout Buddhist and eventually became a monk. Feng followed his teachers steps and became a practicing Buddhist himself, this may explain his stress on the close observation of nature in his art. After graduating, he studied music and art in Japan before returning to China in 1922 to teach in Shanghai. In this cosmopolitan and culturally vibrant city, artists and intellectuals inspired a cultural movement that revolutionized Chinese main stream culture and had far reaching influence over the development of Chinese modern esthetics.
Feng was a painter, writer, music educator, translator, calligrapher and art theorist. He was considered to be the founder of modern Chinese cartoon art. His essays and cartoons are still popular among the Chinese public today. It was in Shanghai working as a publisher in the Kai Ming Press that Feng's art, art criticism and essays were published and enjoyed wide public exposure. This period of intellectual and artistic flux brought many intellectuals, scholars and artists to cooperate in shaping Chinese modern culture. Although a Buddhist, Feng Zikai did not detach himself from secular affairs. He often identified himself with the politically involved intelligentsia. Although his art was subtle and delicate it often carried strong social and cultural messages. "New Interpretation of Classic Poems" is one of the many series of works that Feng Zikai did during the Anti-Japanese War period (1937-1945). In this work his unique cartoons draw new meanings from old classical verses. This dialogue with the traditional past of China gave his casual style a new dimension and characteristics.
Feng Zikai is one of those figures at the first half of the 20th century that helped future generations shape and re-define a concept of China in the modern age. At a time of social and cultural chaos it was due to people like him that a clearer picture and sense of cultural orientation emerged.