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Tintin and Snowy meet up with Chang Choug-chen,
By A Customer
This review is from: Blue Lotus (The Adventures of Tintin) (Hardcover)
"The Blue Lotus" begins where "Cigars of the Pharaoh" left off, with Tintin and Snowy in India as the guests of the Maharaja of Gaipajama. The evil gang of international drug smugglers had been smashed and all of them are now behind bars except for the mysterious leader, who disappeared over a cliff. A visitor from Shanghai is hit with a dart dipped in Rajaijah juice, the poison of madness, which is enough to send our intrepid hero to the Chinese city where his rickshaw runs into Gibson, an occidental who is not looking where he is going and starts beating the rickshaw driver for daring to barge into a white man. Tintin intervenes, calling the man's conduct disgraceful and Gibson vows revenge. The next thing we know Tintin is being shot at every time he turns around. Things become even more mysterious when another bystander is hit with a Rajaijah dart and Tintin embarks on a ship for Bombay only to wake up in the home of Wang Chen-yee, who begins to unravel the mystery for our hero.
This Tintin adventure was first published in Belgium in 1934-35, although the story is actually set in 1931, which was when Japanese troops were first occupying parts of China. Shanghai, the great northern seaport on the Yangtze river, had an International Settlement that served as a trading base for Western nations. Hergé incoprorates several actual events in this narrative, including the blowing-up of the South Manchurian railway, which served as an excuse for further Japanese incursions into China, and led to Japan walking out on the League of Nations.
Of course, it is the Japanese invaders who are after Tintin, who is pretty much on his own for most of this adventure until the Thom(p)sons show up with orders to arrest him (of course the duo don native dress, wanting to avoid causing a scene by walking around dressed in European clothes). The title of the story comes form an opium den that figures prominently in the resoltuion of the tale. "The Blue Lotus" finds Hergé fully committed to providing accurate cultural details in is stories, although this story has the added virtue of being the most "realistic" in terms of portraying current events in a world poised on the brink of war. His drawings of Asian figures can certainly be considered caricatures, but then this is pretty much true of the way he draws everybody in these stories, with the simplistic look of Tintin being the exception that proves the rule.
"The Blue Lotus" is also the adventure in which Tintin meets Chang Choug-chen, a young orphaned Chinese boy our hero saves from drowning. Chang is surprised a white devil would bother to save his life and Tintin haas to explain how not all white men are wicked. The character of Chang is based on Chang Chong-Chen, a young Chinese student who became Hergé's friend in 1934, as is the case with Chang and Tintin. When the Communists took over China the two friends lost touch. Decades later Tintin would race across half the earth to help rescue his friend in "Tintin in Tibet" in 1960. Even though he does not appear in the interim, Hergé makes it clear that Chang is a very special friend to Tintin. "The Blue Lotus" is a first rate Tintin adventure, made all the more special because once World War II began Hergé made a concerted effort to distance his stories from the horrors of the real world. After the war Hergé would deal with East-West tensions on a completely fictional level, making this early adventure of more than passing interest in Hergé's career.
Oh, and in 1981, Georges Remi (a.k.a. Hergé) and Chang Chong-Chen were reunited.