Long-ago friendship focus of Tintin store opening in China

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - Flagship store set up in Shanghai shows ties with Belgium.

After a two-month soft opening, the country’s first flagship shop based on the classic Belgian cartoon character Tintin celebrated its official grand opening on Monday in the presence of diplomats from Belgium and France and fans.

The ceremony was attended by Zhang Yifei, the 67-year-old daughter of Chang Chong-chen, also known as Zhang Chongren, who collaborated on The Blue Lotus. Set in Shanghai, it was the fifth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comic series that Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, also known by his pen name Herge, created in 1929.

Zhang Yifei presented a historical archive capturing the days when The Blue Lotus was created in 1934.

The comic series depicts the adventures of Tintin, a heroic reporter, around the world. But since Herge had never been to Shanghai, he turned to Zhang Chongren, a Shanghai architectural student in Belgium, for help in creating the story. As a token of gratitude, he was included in the story.

“The original documents have never been displayed before. The reason for me to bring them back was that Shanghai was the birthplace of The Blue Lotus as well as a witness to the two artists’ friendship,” Zhang Yifei said.

“As a descendant of Zhang Chongren who has been promoting the world created by Herge for over 30 years, I felt it was my duty to help the people of Shanghai realise that the friendship between my father and Herge was real. It’s not a movie but a true story,” Zhang Yifei added.

She said that before Tintin had his adventure in Shanghai, Herge did not have reliable information on China, given that Western media were writing incomplete accounts. His acquaintance with Zhang Chongren enabled the two artists to have in-depth conversations about China on philosophy, history and education, which inspired Herge and also turned him into a porcelain collector.

“It is another tie between Belgium and China,” said Paul Lambert, the consul general of Belgium in Shanghai, citing a planned Smurfs theme park in the city. It is made more meaningful by the cartoon character Tintin’s 90th anniversary this year, Lambert said.

As one of the best known and admired cartoon characters of the 20th century, Tintin generated hundreds of millions of fans across the world. The store has been welcomed by its Chinese fans spanning several generations. The 100-square-metre loft style store, on Chang’an Road in Shanghai’s Jing’an district, sells over 1,000 different products with the iconic figure.

“The first two months of our opening caused excitement among people not only from across the nation but also the world who wanted to visit,” said Wang Yue, a representative in China for Moulinsart, intellectual property owner of The Adventures of Tintin.

The company is considering an official online Tintin shop and a Beijing store, and a Tintin exhibition in China is also being prepared, Wang said.

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