143 Shanghai Book / Publication / Landmark Writing


Name143 Shanghai
Writer(s)Yixuan Zhu
Type of TextZine


143 Shanghai is a personal narrative zine by Tāmaki Makaurau-based animator and illustrator, Yixuan Zhu. Drawing on the accordion binding style (also known as “butterfly binding” or “經摺裝”) of traditional Chinese publications, Zhu uses line art illustrations and epistolary writing to explore the concept of home as an immigrant.

143 Shanghai began as a series of personal drawings. Zhu refers to the illustrations as simply sketches done “on the train, waiting for friends, or on weekend outings” from the past 2023 year. Her sketches are instinctive and observational, bordering on notebook doodles. Drawings of food, foliage and architectural spaces are a common visual motif in the zine and Zhu draws attention to quaint, often overlooked moments or places. A sense of longing is pervasive in 143 Shanghai, heightened by the minimalist illustrations and sparse use of space on the page. The zine uses a diaristic writing style to express the nostalgia, loneliness and confusion of diasporic experiences. When reflecting on the writing, Zhu comments that she had kept a diary since primary school, but “after moving to New Zealand in 2016, the theme [of her writing was] around ‘home’ or ‘belonging’ a lot”.

Zhu’s immigrant experiences deeply inspire the narrative of the zine. In personal communication, Zhu discusses her personal reconciliation with these questions of home: “Where is a better place that I can call home? My answer kept changing as I experienced ups and downs in my life, and I kind of came to the conclusion that the things we are longing for, we pursue, we are in search for, we might actually already have them/we might not need them in the end”.

The unique bind of the zine was a deliberate choice, intending to reflect the publication style of traditional Chinese texts. Zhu tested many different formats for the zine, including an early version in the style of a landscape scroll. However, she concluded that it was a confusing reading experience and disrupted the narrative order, referred to as “a vital part of this zine”. In testing a more conventional Western publication style, Zhu felt that the “pace of reading [was] repetitive and constricted by the page flipping”. The final zine exists as two A3-length pieces of paper folded into a vertical accordion style booklet. A tracing paper sleeve is used to keep the zine ordered after reading. However, Zhu mentions that “I can't control the printing on the tracing paper to be a bit smudged sometimes, but it looks like the effect in the Chinese watercolour painting/Sumi-e. That is a funny accident I quite like during making this zine”.

143 Shanghai won Best Mini Zine at both the 2023 Auckland Zinefest and the Ōtautahi Zinefest. Auckland Zinefest judge Camila Araos Elevancini commented: “[Zhu’s] zine is a precious collection of moments that make a place feel like home. 143 Shanghai is Illustrated with delicate sketches, bilingual notes, and a format that makes it feel like you are looking out a window or into the artist's sketchbook”. Zhu refers to the zine as a rewarding experience, both in the way readers have resonated with it and the opportunities it has led to.


Key awards

2023 — Auckland Zinefest Best of the Fest: Best Mini Zine

2023 — Ōtautahi Zinefest Best of the Fest: Best Mini Zine

Last updated: 29 February 2024 Suggest an Edit


Yixuan Zhu, first version of 'Shanghai 143' zine, 2023

Yixuan Zhu, final version of 'Shanghai 143' zine, 2023

A folded paper zine in accordion binding.

Accordion binding inspiration sample, 2023

Photo courtesy of Yixuan Zhu

A photograph showcasing two zine pages with detailed black and white illustrations and story text.

Yixuan Zhu, second version of 143 Shanghai, 2023

Photo by Yixuan Zhu

A photograph showcasing two zine pages with detailed black and white illustrations and story text.

Yixuan Zhu, second version of 143 Shanghai, 2023

Photo by Yixuan Zhu

A hand holding a sketchbook with a detailed drawing of a building.

Yixuan Zhu, sketch in Shanghai, 2023

Photo by Yixuan Zhu

A white folded piece of paper with black text in both Chinese and English characters saying "143 Shanghai"

Yixuan Zhu, 143 Shanghai PDF, 2023

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Text praising the zine with a series of photos from the inside of the zine.

Facebook post of Ōtautahi Zinefest announcing 143 Shanghai as Best Mini Zine, 2023