Young comic artist loses cancer battle

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 19, 2012
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Family members, as well as hundreds of friends and fans, say their final goodbyes to comic artist Xiang Yao at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing, Nov. 18, 2012. [] 

Young Chinese comic artist Xiang Yao died last Friday after losing her battle with cancer. She was only 30.

Xiang was born in Zhejiang Province and became famous throughout the country since her condition was revealed in the media earlier this year. But she chose to fight her illness in her own particular way-by creating a comic chronicling her life and treatment. reporter was there to witness her family members, as well as hundreds of friends and fans, saying their final goodbyes to her at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing on Sunday afternoon.

Yang Peng, a close personal friend of Xiang, spoke of how Xiang kept fighting the cancer to the very last minute, but died too suddenly to speak any last words. Even doctors were surprised that she held out until Friday when they expected her to die at any given moment the Monday before. Her strong will to live kept her hanging on.

The day before she died, she posted her last message on Weibo, playing jokes on her closest friend Amy, the one she wanted to "thank most," as she said in an exclusive interview with in June. But when she tweeted about Amy, at a point where she had trouble breathing but was still in good spirit, she did so for the simple reason of not wanting her friends to worry. She explained that if she didn’t write anything for a while, they might be concerned.

A self-portrait of Xiang Yao [] 

At her funeral, a tearful lawyer read a written statement on behalf of her family remembering her life, causing hundreds of mourners to break down in tears. In the last part of the statement, Xiang asked to donate part of her royalties and all the left-over social funds once collected for her to the charities and those who need it most – following suit with the humanitarian cause of her favorite recording artist Michael Jackson.

Xiang is known online by her pseudonym "Bearton," which she said came from the popular story about an apple falling on Isaac Newton's head. "Once upon a time I was in the office and I drew a small bear, but there was too much blank space on the paper, so I added an apple," she explained to us in June. "Then I thought of Newton story, so I called myself 'Bearton!'"

Xiang graduated in 2001 and worked as a fashion designer in Shanghai for some time. Moving to Beijing in 2010, she worked as an art designer in a company. Bearton created several moderately successful comic books in the past, mainly about teenage love, weight-loss and living the single life. Many of her storylines were based on her own life experiences.

She fell ill in August, 2011, suffering for weeks before finally collapsing next to her bed on August 21. After starting hospital treatment, she decided to chronicle these darkest hours of her life in a much lighter and amusing way. So she created the comic series entitled "F*** Off, Mr. Tumor!"

The comic creation gave her strength. After she published the delightful stories on Feb. 2, 2012, on popular online message board and several other social networking sites, they went viral. Millions read Xiang's posts, catapulting her to instant fame. China's Internet users and many other cancer patients said Xiang had given them laughter through their tears, as well as hope and inspiration.

Final goodbyes to Xiang Yao []

A collection of her creations was later published. The book already is a bestseller and is set to sell even more copies after her death., a big Chinese online book retailer, said they have been selling more than 3,000 copies a day recently. The publisher said yesterday they would need to print more to meet readers' demands.

"This comic is basically a recording of my life," Xiang once told "I hope my drawings can entertain people as well as bring positive energy to me and to others. I am happy and delighted that they can enjoy it."

"I'm inspired by the amount of attention and care from my family, friends and fans," she said to us. "I feel like I appreciate the people around me more, and I will have a much more tolerant and grateful attitude for the rest of my life."

"When I recover, the first thing I would like to do is travel. I've been in the hospital far too long," Xiang continued. Sadly however, this wish will now never come true.

Xiang Yao was cremated on Sunday afternoon. Her ashes will be taken back to her hometown by her parents on Monday, but her legacy will live on and continue to inspire more people. As she once said, "I will help you cast away the world's gloom with a smile."

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