Icon Feb 14, 2010

The Mongolian Octopus – His Grip on Australia (1886)

Artist Phillip May, Published in The Bulletin on the 21st August 1886. The arms labelled: “Customs Robbery”, “Fan-Tan“, “Opium”, “Small-Pox”, “Immorality”, “Pak Ah-Pu“, “Cheap Labour”

This cartoon was apparently reworked to demonstrate demonisation of ethnic groups in modern cartoons:

Geoff Pryor, editorial cartoonist for the Canberra Times has recently (6 September 2001) used the racism of nineteenth-century cartoonists as a vehicle for critique of current racial politics. Under the title ‘Recycling’, he reproduced the famous ‘Mongolian octopus’ cartoon by Phil May, first published in the Bulletin in 1886. Pryor annotated the cartoon, suggesting the addition of a turban and other features to turn the Chinese menace into an Islamic one.1


  1. Sawer, M. (2001) “Cartoons for the Cause: Cartooning for Equality in Australia”, EJournalist, http://ejournalist.com.au/v1n2/SAWER.pdf, Accessed: 21st May 2009 []
  2. Image source: “The Mongolian Octopus” Multicultural Research Library, General Reference Library, State library of NSW. (Accessed: 21st May 2009)