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Tintin's Creator and His Chinese Friend

Hergé (1907-1983) was the Belgian creator of the world famous comic-book character Tintin. In his celebrated book, The Blue Lotus, he tells of the friendship between Tintin and his Chinese friend, Chang. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hergé's death and the event evoked many Belgians' memories of the story.

Hergé, whose real name was Georges Rémi, was born into a working class family in Brussels, May 22, 1907. Rémi was known to be brilliant and obsessed with painting from a young age. Upon his graduation from middle school, Rémi became an employee with the newspaper, Le Vingtième Siècle. In 1926, he began to draw his first popular work The Adventures of Totor and adopted the penname Hergé. From January 1929, the story of the journalist Tintin, the best-known comic-book character he created, was serialized weekly on double pages of the newspaper. Hergé's fame grew as Tintin gained popularity near and afar.

In 1934, to prepare for the story of Tintin's journey to the Far East, Hergé met and made friends with a young Chinese student, Chang Chong-Chen (1905-1998), who was studying in the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. The two artists, of nearly the same age, later spent over one year together. His friendship with Chang helped Hergé to remold his opinions of the Chinese people and he felt strongly that he was obliged to help other Europeans eliminate their discrimination against China.

"Chang" is the only real-life person in the Tintin adventure series. Hergé represented his immense interests and compassion of China in the series, for the first time enabling numerous westerners to acquaint themselves with the Orient country. Critics say The Blue Lotus is Hergé's most realistic and courageous work and therefore his most successful creation. Chang had returned to China before The Blue Lotus was published and lost contact with Hergé after that.

During WWII, Hergé continued his career working for the newspaper Le Soir. He had to curtail his work to avoid sensitive political issues of the period.

Hergé embraced his hay day of creative work and he, and Tintin, became world celebrities after the war had ended. Again, to evade post-war press censorship, Hergé brought Tintin to the moon and some imaginary lands, in a way actually adding truthfulness to his work and winning more readers including adults as well as children.

In 1979, the retired Hergé said that he was always happy because his interests in telling stories through drawing pictures remained. He also said he only discovered very late that Tintin was autobiographical and that he had placed all his heroic dreams on the character.

In 1981 Hergé and Chang Chong-Chen, already a successful artist and sculptor by then, were reunited in Brussels after 46 years. On March 25, 1981, Belgian national TV broadcast the happy scene of Hergé and Chang meeting again. The program was rebroadcast on March 15 this year in Belgium.

On March 3, 1983, Hergé died. Fifteen years later, Chang Chong-Chen died. However, their everlasting friendship still lives on in the hearts of billions of readers of Hergé's work, translated now into 58 languages around the world.

Some Danish directors are currently shooting a film on Hergé and Chang's friendship in Brussels.

(Guangming Daily, August 25, 2003, translated by Chen Chao for china.org.cn, September 4, 2003)

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