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Friend of Tintin: “Tchang Tchong-Jen” from the Shanghai Tou-Se-We Museum
By:Zhao Chunyuan, Fu Yifei  |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2021-08-24 17:39

In Xuhui district, Shanghai, there is a museum that is the cradle of Chinese Western painting, the origin of modern Shanghai craft and the Shanghai-style culture, and also the guide for Shanghai and even China to go global.

That is the Shanghai Tou-Se-We Museum. The “Adventures of Tintin”, a popular Belgian cartoon, has a connection with the Tou-Se-We Museum. The prototype of the character “Tchang Tchong-Jen” in the cartoon is Zhang Chongren, an art master from the Shanghai Tou-Se-We Museum.

“The Adventures of Tintin”, painted by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé, is a French cultural icon. The character of Tchang Tchong-Jen has appeared in two episodes of “the Adventures of Tintin” set in China, namely “The Blue Lotus” and “Tintin in Tibet”.

In the French version of the book, the character’s full name is Tchang Tchong-Jen (Zhang Chongren), while in most of the Chinese versions, his name is translated as Zhang Zhongren.

“Tchang Tchong Jen” is Zhang Chongren from the Shanghai Tou-Se-We Museum

Tchang Tchong Jen’s father, Zhang Shaopu, was fostered in the Tou-Se-We Orphanage since childhood. He once studied carpentry and carving under friar Ge Chengliang who worked in the carpentry room, and specialized in carving patterns like flowers and characters to decorate wooden buildings. Tchang Tchong Jen’s mother, Yin Lianzi, worked in the embroidery room of Xujiahui Notre Dame. In 1907, Zhang Chongren was born and was attached the label of “The Second Generation of Tou-Se-We”, from which his growth was inseparable.

After Tchang Tchong Jen’s mother died in 1912, he and his brother were placed in the Tou-Se-We Orphanage for foster care because his father had to work and was unable to take care of the two brothers at the same time. Two years later, Tchang Tchong Jen entered Leisi primary school (now Huishi primary school).

Tchang Tchong Jen (second from left, front) was an apprentice in the photography and platemaking department of Tou-Se-We Printing House in 1921

During his study in Leisi primary school, Zhang Chongren was preferred by headmaster Tian Zhongde who came from the Tou-Se-We Painting Museum. Under the enlightenment of headmaster Tian, Zhang Chongren gradually became interested in painting. After graduating from primary school, Zhang Chongren failed to continue to study in middle school due to his family's financial constraints. His father wanted him to do some business, while Zhang Chongren set his mind on learning painting in the Tou-Se-We Painting Museum, but the museum stopped recruiting people at that time. Just when Zhang Chongren felt at a loss, he met An Jingzhai from the photography and platemaking department, who was considered to be the first person to introduce collotype technology in Tou-Se-We. An Jingzhai kindly told Zhang Chongren, “You can come and learn photography, and may also learn painting for an hour.” With the consent of his father, Zhang Chongren decided to take An Jingzhai as his teacher and study in the photography and platemaking department. Therefore, Zhang Chongren officially began his apprenticeship in Tou-Se-We.

“Zhang Zhongren” from “The Blue Lotus”

It is worth mentioning that references to Tou-Se-We abound in the story of Tchang Tchong-Jen. In the cartoon, “Tchang Tchong-Jen” is an orphan, the same as his father. Later, he was saved by Tintin and became friends with him. At the end, “Tchang Tchong-Jen” was accepted as an adopted son by Wang Renjie, leader of an anti-opium group.

“Tchang Tchong-Jen” was translated to Zhang Zhongren in the Chinese version of “The Blue Lotus”

A store sign says “Chongren” in a frame from the French version of “The Blue Lotus”

“Tchang Tchong-Jen”and Hergé

Tchang Tchong-Jen and Hergé

In fact, Tchang Tchong-Jen's help to Hergé was not limited to the content of a story in the famous comic. Tchang Tchong-Jen played a certain role in setting and changing the style of the “Adventures of Tintin”.

“The Adventures of Tintin” was created in the 1960s when Tchang Tchong-Jen lost contact with Hergé. Hergé wrote the story of Tintin looking for Tchang Tchong-Jen and imagined the ending of their reunion through Tintin's image because he missed Tchang Tchong-Jen. In 1975, Hergé finally got in touch with his friend Tchang Tchong-Jen again. In 1981, Tchang Tchong-Jen set foot on the land of Belgium again after a few decades, met Hergé and lived in his home. Hergé died two years later, but this story witnessed cross-cultural friendship between China and Belgium.

“Zhang Zhongren” is written on a stone in a frame from the Chinese version of “Tintin in Tibet”