Saturday Morning Cartoons: Baopu #6

Welcome to Saturday Morning Cartoons, a segment where four artists take turns delighting you with their whimsy, facts and punchlines on Saturday mornings! Our esteemed cartoon critters are Cameron GlavinAnna BongiovanniMegan Prazenica and Yao Xiao. Today’s cartoon is by Yao!


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Yao Xiao

Yao Xiao is a China-born illustrator based in New York City. Yao Xiao creates artwork depicting a poetic visual world where complex concepts and human emotions are examined, amplified, and given physical form. Her work has helped people all over the globe connect at unique moments, from the celebration of the 20 Year Anniversary of the SXSW Interactive Festival, to the grand release of pop singer Katy Perry's single 'Dark Horse.' She has created deeply emotional and beautiful graphics for editorial print publications, pop music record covers, concert posters and book covers. Yao Xiao's serialized comic Baopu currently runs monthly on Autostraddle. It is an original comic exploring the nuances in searching for identities, connections and friendships through the fictional life of a young, queer emigrant. Baopu stands for 'holding simplicity,' a Taoist ideal of wishing to return to a simpler state. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Etsy or her website.

Yao has written 131 articles for us.


  1. This feeling is terribly familiar. I think in the last few years of living in the UK, it’s gotten less intense, but it still grabs me from time to time. Strange things set it off-when people tease me about my accent, when they scold me for not knowing the children’s shows they grew up with, when I discover another unexpected language gap (there’s no rubbing alcohol here; it’s surgical spirit).

      • I’m glad the feeling resonates, it’s definitely an experience of a lifetime to be living in a different country. :) I don’t try to dwell on it all the time but once in a while I wanted to read something that I can relate to and there were very little out there to be found. After the initial shock of cultural difference and getting used to living somewhere after so many years, it’s just the subtle things that occasionally don’t match up with what I consider homeliness.

  2. This is so, so true
    Neil Diamond feels the same way in I am I said
    “L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home
    New York’s home,
    But it ain’t mine no more”

  3. I know Yao’s story is about a far deeper experience than mine right now, but this was just what I needed to read this morning.

    I just moved to a new city, and then set off on a three month couch-surf of the U.S. In many ways it’s awesome and great fun, meeting so many wonderful strangers and being a guest in their home, but there are these moments of complete rootlessness where I have no idea how to ground myself. And when I think of home I’m not sure what that is either – I’m not ‘part of’ my new city yet…and the town I left to move there, I had lived for 10 years. I thought I had roots there, yet shocked myself by quietly leaving without a word. I have no idea what ‘home’ means right now (I’m not sure I ever really have.)

    • Thank you, Beth! :) I think anyone who has relocated many times in one way or another can always understand one another. Even sometimes it’s not a physical experience, but an emotional relocation, a feeling of rootlessness just emerges after you have been intimate with so many places and then decidedly left them behind. I was writing from a foreigner’s point of view, but it was also that I’ve moved from city to city in the US for a bunch of years before I lived in New York. I think our experiences are more similar than it might look. :)

  4. One thing we talk about in our dance practice, is the concept of body as home. This question comes back to me often: “Do you think of your body, your self, as your home?” I know it’s not the same, exactly, but I winder about it often.

    • I know! I wish we could have Scout and Andy every week, they may be dysfunctional but at least they’re not naval gazing and depressing.

        • right for sure I like both! I meant that more as a like “:(” and less as like “I want some other thing, I do not want this thing.” I feel like comics in particular have a specific brevity that invokes grief/wistfulness/angst/memory in this way that has a deeper emotional resonance for me, and it isn’t bad, I’m just like, fuck, those are some sads I feel.

          If all their work was in one hard copy thing I would probably power through it and have a lot of sads and then read a bunch of interviews by them about their complex feelings about place/self/other/themes! and then have a unified theory of their work, but I haven’t done that yet.

          • Thank you so much for sharing what you think, Teerexington! Doing serialized comics on a public platform is new to me. I’ve been working as a professional illustrator/artist for years, but most of the work I put out there has been purely graphic and/or commercial, and (surprisingly, in this context) super uplifting! I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity on Autostraddle to share the personal side of my work. I held back on making anything this personal for a really long time because whenever I write them, I’m like ‘oh god they are so sad!’ But over time, it occurred to me that it’s a part of me that I can work on with professional discipline and hopefully craft in an artistic way that fill in some gaps for other people who carry the same feelings out there.
            So far all the Baopu’s are here on Autostraddle, and they are all newly made every month. :) Eventually I’d love to reach out to other platforms and talk about the process of making them.
            I’m sorry they are so sad! I hope you still enjoyed them. :)

      • I love Baopu’s cartoons.
        There was an awful time in American sitcom’s that were imported into New Zealand (my country), in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, (when I was a child), where American sitcom’s had to have an “upbeat” and “Look on the bright side” “the cup is half Full!” ending.

        So literally, when the show ended, it ended on a laugh. More often than not, forced canned laughter and unfunny jokes and fake smiles. (This was not the quality of comedy writing found on say Parks and Recreation, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Open all hours, Modern Family, Seinfeld, Married with Children, The Simpsons, Southpark, M.A.S.H, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, It ain’t half hot Mum, The Office, Family Guy, Red Dwarf, Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy).

        So if you are offering me a real joke with honesty and truth in the same package, I’ll accept it.

        If you are offering me a choice between a cartoon featuring a bad joke that is not funny, has no truth or honesty and a cartoon which is sometimes funny, sometimes not funny, frequently melancholic and observatory, but is always honest, I’ll take what is honest and truthful, over what is neither honest nor funny.

        We are all different. Different strokes.

        • Thank you, annalou– I LOVE good comedy, and it’s actually mostly what I watch and learn from. I felt very lucky that I decided to make Baopu, and make it public. I know it’s not the most uplifting thing to read, but when I wrote them, there were no other words that could describe how I felt, and then I thought it was probably the truth–that these were not happy stories. When it comes to all the ‘sads’ I think I would just love to have the space to live in it till I work it out, without the rush I often used to give myself to get over it right away. There is a certain sense of safety to it that I believe is productive.
          I’m so happy to be reading everyone’s feedback on Baopu, I’m learning a lot too.

          • Yao Xiao, I love your stuff. What I like most is that you are giving space and your audience the opportunity to sit with the feelings you offer, and the choice to validate your offerings to the audience. I can mostly validate your stuff, and I love it.

            There is a sympathy/compassion/inclusiveness that I get from your cartoons. I love your truths and the way you express them. Keep doing it and express yourself how you want. I know I am not the only one who is grateful for what you do and that you are doing it. <3 Baopu.

          • I love love love these comics. Please don’t apologise, your work is magnificent! Please just continue and never censor anything because it feels “not uplifting enough” to you/to somebody. That is not what art is about (sure, sometimes, but not only). This resonated with me to the point where I cried (in a beautiful way), even though I have lived in the same city most of my life. You touched something deeply human, something about time and change and how nothing and everything stays the same. Thank you.

          • Yao- for sure! I totally enjoy your work. Also, sorry, I didn’t intend for my response to be any kind of commentary about the value of your work or to be providing any kind of really thoughtful reflection, which people seem to be responding to as if it were set up that way, so, I certainly didn’t intend it as such, I was just having a reaction that I then documented, in that internet-comment sort of way.

            Don’t stop making sad comics! Obviously you are creating a thing that results in emotional resonance for people, and some people it feels like recognition/validation, and for me it resonates like a dull grief that is painful to recall, but also, that’s just art, causing people to have feelings.

  5. This comic is strikingly well timed for me, I left my parents home a couple of days ago, because I was scared for my mental health, and I don’t know when I’ll go back, if ever, if they let me back.
    And now I’m just drifting from one place to another, with a suitcase and nowhere to go really. It’s quite lonely.

  6. The Baopu series always makes me feel so many things, especially foreboding and a strange sort of peace. I haven’t yet left, but I know that when I do leave home in a year and a half I will never really return. I’m excited and know it’s what I have to do, but it’s good to have this art to prepare me to accept the sad parts.

  7. I like to think I have many homes, but then sometimes I feel like I will never feel entirely at home. Thank you so much, your work is so beautiful.

  8. Ugh. My heart. You say so much in just a few panels. Thank you for sharing Baopu with us. <3

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