Three generations of Chinese children have grown up reading the adventures of Sanmao, the country's most popular comic book hero, who turned 70 today.
"Sanmao is perhaps the oldest Chinese cartoon character still alive today," said Zhang Rongrong, son of the famous late painter Zhang Leping (1910-92) who created the character. "Many of his contemporaries, such as 'Mr Wang' and 'Miss Bee,' are no longer remembered, but Sanmao remains many people's favorite."
Sanmao, which means "three locks of hair" in Chinese, is a popular traditional nickname for children, especially around the Yangtze Delta.
He is a resilient, innocent boy who always insists on having a child's perspective when dealing with the adult world.
The cartoon strips have been translated into many foreign languages and introduced to other countries.
The renowned late Taiwanese writer Chen Ping (1943-91) even chose "San Mao" as her pen name out of her deep fondness and sympathy for the lonely, homeless boy.
Today, in his birthplace, a launch ceremony for two books on Sanmao and his "father" Zhang Leping will be held at the Shanghai Library.
"For many people, Sanmao is still the poor orphan wandering the streets, whose image reminds them of tribulations of old," Zhang Rongrong said. "Although always staying the same small size, Sanmao is growing up with the times. He is no longer a hungry, homeless boy but a healthy, smart student in the 21st century.
"There are many, many more plans for Sanmao - people will have to wait and see."
(Shanghai Daily July 28, 2005)