We’re half way through a very busy month, of conventions, appearances and traveling. A month that started off with a fantastic weekend at Auto Assembly. Europe’s largest Transformers convention. We were made to feel so welcome, that I had to write something for my new friends and followers.
Let me tell you a bit about Transformers in China.
I have wanted to write this article for a while, and this seemed like the perfect moment. I’ve loved Transformers ever since I was a child growing up in China. It was there that I first glimpsed those beautiful ‘bots from the G1 cartoons in the 1980s, and Guangzhou, my hometown, is the home of China’s international toy industry. So it may be considered as much the birthplace of most transformers, as Cybertron, or Wheeljack’s workshop. It is also very closely connected with the fate of TF Club China.
The China TF Club, or 变盟 (“bian meng”) for short, provides the most comprehensive Chinese archive of Transformers related information, the largest collection of original works by Chinese fans, a group of translators who bring fans the latest in comics, a long-standing website and forum, and helps organise conventions and meet-ups. Back in 2002, TF Club China had 100 members. Now, Transformers is huge in China, and Chinese fans are very much courted by Hasbro, with yearly Chinese zodiac themed releases, exclusive redecos, and massive product placements in the upcoming fourth live action movie. A lot of this new interest was due to the effort and work of one man, Feng Ming.
Shortly after his birth in the southern city of Guangzhou in the 1970s, Feng Ming was diagnosed with Wilms Tumour, which meant most of his kidneys had to be cut out, and he had to undergo dialysis several times a week for the rest of his life. Despite life’s hardship, Feng Ming dedicated all his energy into the love of his life – Transformers. Unable to finish further education at school due to his illness, Feng taught himself, gaining a role as Media Editor for a company’s website, experience which came in very useful when he became the chairman of TF Club China’s headquarters in Guangzhou in 2002.
For the next five years, Feng Ming worked tirelessly, helping to bring about a Renaissance in Transformers fandom in China, which, had been pretty much dead since the end of G2, in the early 90s. He developed China’s most influential website focusing on Transformers, provided motivation, drive and authoritative reviews for action figures sites such as AC Toys, spearheaded the promotion of Transformers literature and video merchandise within China, and organized successful Transformers conventions in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Over these five years, membership grew from a mere hundred to several thousand.
Feng had no idea that these five years were going to be his last. At the end of 2006 his condition grew critical, but continued to strive through it with the support of fans and the media such as CCTV, GDTV, continuing to lead the collectors’ club through the launch of the first Transformers live action film, and into mainstream culture. On Christmas Day, 2007, his spark finally extinguished, but his work, and legacy continue.
I only found out about Feng Ming and his work earlier this year, when paying our customary visit to Guangzhou’s Comic City, a large youth culture complex containing everything from Spiderman statues, manga bookshops and anime toys stalls to gothic Lolita fashion stores. We were delighted to find a small stall in a corner of the basement with a trove of Transformers on its very limited shelf space.
The shop’s owner, Ah-U, had all but forgotten Transformers, before he met Feng Ming. who convinced him to go to meet-ups with other Cantonese Transformers fans at their regular monthly meal (a very Chinese way to celebrate a fandom!). Although Ah-U has scarcely seen beyond G1, he is stocking a good range from the TFP line. Feng Ming’s dedication has also rubbed off on him. After hearing how much we liked Roadbuster, who only appeared as a character in the UK comics, he walked over to his meticulously arranged display shelf, unlocked the well-polished glass cabinet, took out Roadbuster and carefully handed him to us, pointing out that he knew we would take good care of the toy. International friendship as expressed through Transformers.
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate Feng’s impact is for me to leave you with a translation of the dedication to Feng from Bravsea, a member of the TF Club China forum, three year’s after his death.During his lifetime Feng Ming grew to be known by his net name, 星星叫 (“xing xing jiao”), or “Calling For the Stars”, a literal translation of Starscream。
“Cherishing the memory of our most respected and beloved leader and comrade, Xing Xing Jiao, who has never left our side.
All your life you were a warrior who used up every spark of your life in completing your great works and racing against time,
Your fate was not a choice, and on this most sacred day, when you went to heaven, your legend will be fervently engraved in our memory.”
First published on Xanga, August 2013
Posted in Culture and tagged china, Chinese, Guangzhou, pop culture, toys, Transformers